First of all, I’m utterly disappointed that I didn’t get to read all 6 titles. Every year, one or more titles is not yet available in the United States, and this year it was Half Blood Blues, a book I really believe I would have enjoyed. I don’t read ebooks often, but if they could have made it available before the announcement, I would have purchased it for Kindle on PC (as I don’t have an actual Kindle yet). As it is now, I probably won’t read it unless it wins.
I follow the Man Booker Prize every year, but I don’t usually read much of the shortlist, though I love lurking on the Man Booker forum and reading blogs regarding the shortlist titles. This year, with all the controversy about the books being too lightweight and too ‘readable’ for most Booker devotees’ tastes, I thought to myself that I might actually enjoy reading the nominees. And I did.
First of all, let’s get into what ‘readable’ means. Does it mean a beach read? Not to me. Does it mean a Grisham or Dan Brown-like novel? Not to me. I’ve read Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Wharton, etc., and they’ve all been readable to me. More importantly, they were readable AND enjoyable. Even more important than that, they stood the test of TIME!! They are still read decades if not centuries past their initial publication dates. That to me is the mark of a great book, and one that I hope every book award jury is seeking to nominate for their respective prizes.
Sadly, it doesn’t happen often. For every Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Grapes of Wrath — classics by everyone’s standards — on the Pulitzer list, there are even more that no one cares about any more, or, even worse, recent and semi-recent titles that are just plain awful. The same goes with the Booker Prize. I have a goal to read all of the Pulitzers, Bookers, and Oranges; but my main goal in reading the most recent winners is in the hope that I’m going to find that masterpiece, that work of literature that will be a classic and stand the test of time and be read 50 years from now and beyond.
As to the current Booker shortlist, I am thrilled that this year I read 5 of the 6 nominees for the prize. To be honest, I LOVED three of them, was impressed by the writing of the Barnes, and was only disappointed by one. They were all ‘readable,’ but I’m not sure any one of them will be a true classic in the future. However, I had a fun and enjoyable time reading these titles. My ranking for which one should win is as follows:
Now you may notice that The Sense of an Ending was rated only 4 stars while Snowdrops and The Sisters Brothers were both 4 1/2 stars, but yet I put it ahead of the other two. This is due to my mixed feelings about a ‘genre’ book winning the Booker Prize. I still wouldn’t be disappointed if any of my top 4 won, but I’m rooting for Pigeon English. It was unique, the one that stayed with me the most after reading it, and the one I feel deserves it. Many people have panned this novel, but I disagree. I loved Harri’s voice in it and I hope others will read it and feel the same.
That said, are any of the shortlist titles future classics? I’m skeptical. But I do thank the judges for giving us an enjoyable list of books that I never would have read otherwise.
I’m very much looking forward to the announcement tomorrow.