Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Booker Longlist and Shortlist

I had originally planned to pick my shortlist for the Man Booker Prize before it was announced, but I peeked and it's done, so now I will just ruminate on both.

The books making it to the shortlist this year, along with my thoughts:
  1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
    I read 100 pages of this mighty tome in an egalley, and just never went back to it.  I'm not sure I've given it a fair shot, but I have to admit that the subject matter (New Zealand gold rush) is just not very interesting to me.
  2. Harvest by Jim Crace
    I read 1/3 of this book and abandoned it, just nothing happening in all that time. This feels like a bad pattern.
  3. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
    I got to read this one early too, and thought it was trying to do too much at once.  The two parallel stories are interesting but the "Time Being" element didn't really work for me.  Unfortunately, it's central to the success of the novel!
  4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
    I'm just about halfway through the audio version of this book.  I like Lahiri, but this story is trying to span so much time that it isn't saying a lot to me.  It's too bad because some of the characters are compelling, and I'd like to spend more time with them, go deeper.  Instead it reads a bit shallow.
  5. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
    Haven't tracked down a copy of this one yet.
  6. The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
    I didn't connect with this one when I read it the first time, but it's a slim novel and sometimes it takes a few reads.  I'll get a copy of the audiobook version, read by Meryl Streep, and give it another try before the winner is announced.
Who do I think will win?  I think they want to award it to Tóibín since he hasn't won yet, but that book isn't very impressive to me.  I can't really pick until I've read the Bulawayo.

But wait, what about the books that were leftovers on the longlist?

I am SO disappointed the Tash Aw book didn't make the shortlist (read my review!).  Five Star Billionaire is one of the best books I've read this year.   The others include Almost English by Charlotte Mendelssohn (I just got a copy), The Kills by Richard House (I didn't care much for this crime novel), The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris (Haven't tracked this down yet), The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (a lovely sad novel), TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (I felt ambivalent about this one although I know a lot of readers who loved it!), and Unexploded by Alison MacLeod (just got a copy of this one too.)

Now I'll try out the few that didn't get chosen and perhaps honor them with a reading.  How about you, what were your impressions of the books on the shortlist?