The Man Booker prize was first awarded in 1969 and was initially limited to novels written by authors from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth nations. That changed in 2014 when the contest was opened to any novel written in English and published in Britain. The prize is awarded to “the best novel in the opinion of the judges.” There is also now an International Man Booker started in 2005 for novels that are written in any language so long as it is widely available in English.
While perusing the list of past winners and the books that were chosen as the short-list finalists, it occurred to me that the judges and I would never reach a unanimous verdict in a jury deliberation. I was surprised (maybe not so surprised) to see that of the hundreds of acclaimed books that were chosen, I have read maybe four of them. It just shows how tastes vary widely!
Having said that, there is something to be said of at least trying to read something that you normally would never have picked up. The 2017 winner, “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, is one that I plan on reading. Two days after the death of his son, Abraham Lincoln, shattered with grief, arrives at the cemetery to visit his son’s crypt. Willie, Lincoln’s deceased son, finds himself in a strange purgatory (the bardo) where ghosts argue, and enact bizarre acts of penance … and where a struggle erupts over his soul. It got terrific reviews and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
There are certainly great authors that I really love who have won the Man Booker. Even if you don’t read the novels that have won the prestigious prize, it’s worth reading their other work. Margaret Atwood is a favorite and Ian McEwan’s “Atonement” (which surprisingly did not win) is an amazing work of fiction. All the winners, and the short-list nominees are available through the library.
Caroline Badowski is a reference librarian at the Westerly Library.