Monday, August 24, 2009

Not the Booker

You've got to give the Guardian props for this one. After the Booker longlist was revealed, a blog post discussed how "the internet" always disagrees with the judges.

These criticisms fall into three main camps:

1) Your favourite book didn't win. This is the most egregious error the judges make, and they make it again and again. Worse still, instead of your favourite book, they select one that is at best mediocre and at worst thoroughly dull. What's wrong with them? 2) The books are always about post-colonial guilt, Irish poverty or English middle-class Islingtonians having Terribly Important Thoughts about their boring love lives … Where's the SF? Is that not literature? Where's the danger? Where's the challenge? Surely they are missing something. 3) The panel are unrepresentative. Who are these people? Who chooses them? Why should, say, James Naughtie be judging this year's prize? Are they really better judges than you or I?

The Guardian handed over nominations to the general public, compiled the list and invited all readers to judge by voting (and the only mention of possible voter fraud was to dismiss the idea, kudos!). And now, at long last, the shortlist, announced. Another list full of books I haven't read yet. Charming.

It's a nice idea. In fact, a really nice idea. Handing over a chunk of the responsibility to the masses, the folks who ultimately read these books. And so what if the Not the Booker prize lacks the prestige of the Booker and receives only a mug as a prize? It's a good way to find out what books people are reading... Hopefully next year the Guardian will also tackle something bigger - a reader driven prize looking at a different set of books. Perhaps books from non-Commonwealth English speaking countries (there's a big one across the pond, right?). Or perhaps a prize for books translated into English. Or maybe round up the year's self-published novels and see what gems lie there. But I suppose I should be satisfied for now and get reading.


  1. I suppose there are just too many books. I really haven't read many of those books even though I must get through 150 or so every year.

    I think the prize for books translated into English is a good one though - now how could we arrange that?

  2. Well, I don't know any books on that list. But I don't read a whole lot of contemporary fiction, which is why these prizes don't mean a whole lot to me.

  3. There are some great choices on here - including Gil Adamson's The Outlander, a lesser-known Canadian novel from 2008 that everyone should dip into. Regardless of who ultimately wins The Booker, I think the longlist always identifies some of the best commonwealth books/authors of that year. The internet should focus on that. Also, I found this year's longlist decidedly NOT representative of the "post-colonial guilt" or obsession with India that has permeated the group in years past.


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