Well, I’ve done it. I’ve read the thirteen books that make up the Booker long list. And I’m glad I’ve done it. I’ve just taken a photo of the books that I’ve still got. As I usually do, with my books, I’ve been giving them away, finding them new homes as I’ve worked my way through. I love stories but am fairly casual about the vehicle that delivers them. Right now, that seems a bit foolhardy. I rather wish I could look at all thirteen in a pile, keep all thirteen on a special shelf to remember the year I read the longlist. Even add up the pages, that’s what I’d be tempted to do right now if I still had all the books. I’d quite like to be able to say just how many pages of literary fiction I’ve consumed in the last few weeks.
So, to the predictions.
I’m predicting my shortlist in order of love.
The Stranger’s Child – Alan Hollinghurst
On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry
The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt
Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan
A Cupboard Full of Coats – Yvette Edwards
I very much think of it as a top three and then the rest. I know that I’ve plumped for the established dudes, for the literary lions. I promise that nobody would have been happier than me if I’d thought that the best book was from a debut author and a tiny press but I just didn’t. Sorry! Hollinghurst, Barry, Barnes are very firmly on my podium, and a fair whack of distance from the rest of the field.
So, over the past few weeks I have seen the world through the eyes of a young boy and an old woman, and everyone in between. I’ve been in thrall to beautiful girls and dubious villains and have done all sorts of terrible things to survive. I’ve inhabited the past and feared the future. The only landscape I’d like to live in would be that in The Stranger’s Child, but I’d be happy to invite some of the other characters around for a drink. Jaffy Brown would be welcome to sleep on my sofa and I’d warily hang out with Eli Sisters and maybe even try to find him a nice girlfriend.
What I’ve most enjoyed about doing this is that it has lead me to read things that I wouldn’t have tried. Half Blood Blues and The Sisters Brothers are seriously good books that I would have dismissed as being not quite up my street. Even the books I was least keen on taught me something.
The downside of doing this challenge is that I love the randomness of reading. I like choosing. I always have a TBR pile but I don’t usually do it in order or at all.
So, I’m liberated, now. Free to decide for myself what to read.
Will I did this again next year? I might. If I do I’ll be keeping all the books.