books, Reading

The Man Booker Prize 2017

This past July, the Man Booker Prize judges panel announced the longlist, a selection of 13 novels, written in English, which are eligible to win the coveted Man Booker Prize. As Baroness Lola Young, chair of the 2017 judges, said: ‘Only when we’d finally selected our 13 novels did we fully realise the huge energy, imagination and variety in them as a group.  The longlist showcases a diverse spectrum — not only of voices and literary styles but of protagonists too, in their culture, age and gender.  Nevertheless we found there was a spirit common to all these novels: though their subject matter might be turbulent, their power and range were life-affirming – a tonic for our times.’

September 19th’s announcement reduced this inspiring list from 13 to 6.


For more on the shortlist, click here.

In less than 24 hours – October 17, 2017 – this year’s winner will be announced. I have absolutely no luck nor gift at the predictions game, so instead I will simply offer here my votes. Having read 10 of the 13 longlistees (5 of 6 shortlistees), I have my eyes on “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, followed closely by “Exit West” by Moshin Hamid and “Autumn” by Ali Smith. All three of these works are boundary-busting, form-changing, and jaw-dropping. Click on any of the above to see my reviews.

Below is a complete list of the Longlist, with links to my reviews where available.

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) – Reviewed here
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) – Have not read
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) – Have not read
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) – Reviewed here
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) – Have not read
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) – Reviewed here
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) – Review forthcoming
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) – Reviewed here
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) – Reviewed here

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) – Reviewed here

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) – Reviewed here
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) – Reviewed here
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) – Reviewed here

Final thoughts: With an eye always to the celebration of women’s voices, I was favorably surprised that this year’s long and short lists featured 50% women writers.

From its inception, only Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014, however, this eligibility was widened to any English-language novel. Three short years after first being deemed eligible, US writers are well represented among the nominees, though their prominence may come at a cost. Where this and, sadly, most prize lists of this caliber continue to underrepresent and to beg for greater inclusion is in nationality and racial diversity. May next year’s list be ever-more inclusive and representative of the wide array of talented writers writing in English today.

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