Booker Prize Longlist Thoughts and Reading Plan

Yesterday the 2022 Booker Prize longlist was announced.

It’s an intriguing selection that for the most part avoids the usual suspects – although a few of these authors have previously been shortlisted, they’re not from the standard crop of staid white men. The website is making much of two pieces of trivia: that the longlist includes the youngest and oldest authors ever (Leila Mottley at 20 and Alan Garner at 87); and that Small Things Like These is the shortest book to be nominated.

I happen to have read two from the longlist so far, and I’m surprised by how many of the rest I want to read. I’ll go through each of the ‘Booker Dozen’ of 13 below (the brief summaries are from the Booker Prize announcement e-mail):

 

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

“This energetic and exhilarating joyride … is the story of an uprising, told by a vivid chorus of animal voices that help us see our human world more clearly.”

  • Zimbabwean author Bulawayo was shortlisted for her debut novel, We Need New Names, in 2013. I’ve never been drawn to read that one, and have to wonder why we needed an extended Animal Farm remake…

 

Trust by Hernan Diaz

“A literary puzzle about money, power, and intimacy, Trust challenges the myths shrouding wealth, and the fictions that often pass for history.”

  • I’m looking forward to this one after all the buzz from its U.S. release, and have a copy on the way to me from Picador.

 

The Trees by Percival Everett

“A violent history refuses to be buried in … Everett’s striking novel, which combines an unnerving murder mystery with a powerful condemnation of racism and police violence.”

  • Susan is a fan of Everett’s. He’s known for his satirical fiction, whereas the only book of his that I happen to have read was poetry – not representative of his work. I’d happily read this if given the chance, but Everett’s stuff is hard to find over here.

 

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

“Fowler’s epic novel about an ill-fated family of thespians, drinkers and dreamers, whose most infamous son is destined to commit a terrible and violent act.”

  • I reviewed this for BookBrowse earlier in the year. (It’s Fowler’s second nomination, after We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, a very different novel.) The present-tense narration helps it be less of a dull group biography, and there are two female point-of-view characters. The issues of racial equality, political divisions and mistrust of the government are just as important in our own day. However, the foreshadowing is sometimes heavy-handed, the extended timeline means there is some skating over of long periods, and the novel as a whole is low on scenes and dialogue, with Fowler conveying a lot of information through exposition. I gave it a tepid .

 

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

“This latest fiction from a remarkable and enduring talent brilliantly illuminates an introspective young mind trying to make sense of the world around him.”

  • Garner is a beloved fantasy writer in the UK. Though I didn’t care for The Owl Service when I read it in 2019, given that this is just over 150 pages, there would be no harm in taking a chance on it.

 

Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

“Karunatilaka’s rip-roaring epic is a searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war.”

  • This is the sort of Commonwealth novel I’m wary of, fearing Rushdie-like indulgence. My library system tends to order all the Booker nominees, so I would gladly borrow this and try the early pages to see how I get on.

 

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

“Keegan’s tender tale of hope and quiet heroism is both a celebration of compassion and a stern rebuke of the sins committed in the name of religion.”

  • I read and reviewed this late last year and appreciated it as a spare and heartwarming yuletide fable. A coal merchant in 1980s Ireland comes to value his quiet family life all the more when he sees how difficult existence is for the teen mothers sent to work in the local convent’s laundry service. I was familiar with the Magdalene Laundries from the movie The Magdalene Sisters and found this a fairly predictable narrative, with the nuns cartoonishly villainous. So I’m not as enthusiastic as many others have been, but feel like a Scrooge for saying so.

 

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

“Graeme Macrae Burnet offers a dazzlingly inventive – and often wickedly humorous – meditation on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself.”

  • Macrae Burnet was a dark horse in the 2016 Booker race for the terrific His Bloody Project. This new novel was one of Clare’s top picks for the longlist and sounds like a clever and playful book about a psychoanalyst and his patient; again the author blends fact and fiction and relies on ‘found documents’. I have it on request from the library.

 

The Colony by Audrey Magee

“In … Magee’s lyrical and brooding fable, two outsiders visit a small island off the west coast of Ireland, with unforeseen and haunting consequences.”

  • One of Clare and Susan’s joint correct predictions (Susan’s review). On the face of it, it sounds too similar to one I read from last year’s longlist, An Island. I can’t say I’m particularly interested, though if this were to be shortlisted I might have a go.

 

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

“Under attack from within, Lia tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate. But time and bodies are porous, and unpredictable.”

  • This Desmond Elliott Prize winner was already on my TBR for its medical theme and is one of two nominees I’m most excited about. It potentially sounds long and challenging, but has been received well by my Goodreads friends. I’ll hope my library system acquires a copy soon.

 

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

“At once agonising and mesmerising, Nightcrawling presents a haunting vision of marginalised young people navigating the darkest corners of an adult world.”

  • Like many, I had this brought to my attention anew by Ruth Ozeki’s shout-out during her Women’s Prize acceptance speech (Mottley was her student). I’d already heard some chatter about it from its Oprah’s Book Club selection. The subject matter – sex workers in Oakland, California – will be tough, but I hope the prose and storytelling will make up for it. I have it on request from the library.

 

After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz

“A joyous reimagining of the lives of a brilliant group of feminists, sapphists, artists and writers from the past, as they battle for control over their lives, for liberation and for justice.”

  • The other novel I’m most excited about. It was totally new to me but sounds fantastic. It only came out this month, so I’ll see if Galley Beggar might be willing to send out a review copy.

 

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

“Strout returns to her beloved heroine Lucy Barton in a luminous novel about love, loss, and the family secrets that can erupt and bewilder us at any time.”

  • I DNFed this one after just 20 or so pages last year, finding Lucy too annoyingly scatter-brained this time around (I’d enjoyed My Name Is Lucy Barton but not read the sequel). But I’m willing to give it another try, so have placed a library hold.

 

There we have it: 2 read, 4 I have immediate plans to read, 3 I’m keen to read if I can find them, 4 I’m less likely to read – but, unlike in most years, there are no entries I’m completely uninterested in or averse to reading.

Earlier this year my book club took part in a Women’s Prize shadowing project run by the Reading Agency. They’re organizing a similar thing on behalf of the Booker Prize, but the six groups (for six shortlisted books) will be chosen by the Prize organizers this time, so we’ve been encouraged to apply again. It’s a better deal in that members of successful groups will be invited to attend the shortlist party and then the awards ceremony. I’ll meet up with my co-leader later this week to work on our application.

 

What have you read from the longlist? Which book(s) do you most want to find?

57 responses

  1. This is the first Booker longlist for a long time where I’ve read precisely zero of the longlisted titles 🙂 I was already planning to read Maps of Their Spectacular Bodies, and Nightcrawling and After Sappho also appeal. But I can’t say I’m keen on any of the rest.

    Of those authors I’ve read before, I thought Audrey Magee’s first novel, The Undertaking, was a bit schematic; hated Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, and this one sounds even worse; didn’t really get on with Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, which I found very forgettable; and not a fan of Karen Joy Fowler either! (I do love Alan Garner, but I’m keener to read all his older work before I try anything new by him.) I have to conclude the Booker is definitely not for me…

    In terms of omissions, I’m sad not to see Our Wives Under The Sea or To Paradise.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Fair enough! For the previous nominees and old guard of writers, it probably is a matter of whether you like them enough to begin with. It’s hard to see a clear winner or shortlist at this point. Those who decry the Americanization of the prize are sure to grumble about this set, but 8/13 women and 5 POC seems pretty good to me.

      I would have liked to see These Days by Lucy Caldwell, Groundskeeping by Lee Cole, How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, and/or French Braid by Anne Tyler nominated, but one never knows what the 169 novels considered were, or how close some personal favourites might have come.

      Surely Armfield will have her day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Groundskeeping would have been great!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ooo Our Wives Under The Sea sounds good! Adding that to my TBR.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve read two (Case Study and Oh William!). I enjoyed the Strout but it was ‘very Strout’ – not that that makes it unworthy of a Booker but… but… Case Study was exciting – the structure clever and I was absolutely convinced by what I was reading.

    Not sure what else I will read from the list. I have Booth and am interested in Trust.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t imagine Strout will make the shortlist, but Case Study seems more likely.

      A shame no Australian writers were recognized this year!

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  3. Firm Garner fan here – loved Treacle Walker, the only one I’ve read so far. I have Keegan, Mottley, Macrae Burnett and Schwartz (I subscribe to Galley Beggars) in my pile, but am keen to read the Diaz and Everett. A limited geographical spread this year…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s too bad there were no authors from Australia, Canada, etc. Which will you read first?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Keegan I think – as it fits my ‘from last year’s TBR’ criteria for my 20 Books of Summer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s nice and short, too 😉

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      3. Maybe they felt they made up for lack of geographical diversity with the larger number of smaller publishers?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve not read anything yet from the longlist, but my TBR is always so ridiculously long, I can’t be doing with stressing about this too. Their day will come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think of it as an opportunity for discovery rather than an obligation! Are there any that appeal in particular?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think maybe the Selby Wynn Schwartz looks the most original?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m particularly interested in that one. I think it’s too niche to win, but might be shortlisted.

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  5. Thanks for the links, Rebecca. I’d recommend The Colony which is a very different take on the colonial theme. I was so pleased to see Percival Everett’s name on the list. Influx Press are doing an excellent job in making his work available here. He has quite a backlist to get through. Good luck with your shadowing application!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The university library only has one Everett novel, Erasure. Luckily, my public library system usually buys up the whole longlist for this and a few other prizes. It will just take a while to be able to access those copies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Faber might have published an edition of Erasure a long time ago plus a few others of his then gave up.

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  6. I would recommend The Colony Rebecca – it’s a very subtle and intelligent take on colonialism in Ireland. I read Case Study on holiday and really enjoyed it too. I’m interested in the Everett, but didn’t realise that Glory was a retread of Animal Farm. Think I’ll give that a miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, in that it’s a political satire with a cast of animals! I’m sure it’s different from the Orwell given that her take is based on the situation of Zimbabwe.

      If my library acquires The Colony and it’s shortlisted, I’d be happy to try it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You know, I really liked The Colony (and it’s the only longlister I’ve read.) Agree with Cathy above – subtle, intelligent, and deals with colonialism through language. I’d really love to read Percival Everett soon, and Nightcrawling sounds phenomenal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three votes for The Colony — I’ll have to eat my words!

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      1. Who knows, it may not be your cup of tea! But it’s worth a shot (and, from what I can tell, not having read her first novel, very different from it.)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t read any of them but do enjoy Strout and would like to read this. I’m thinking about the Everett and the Diaz.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those all seem like they would be up your alley.

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  9. I’ve read just one – the Claire Keegan which I enjoyed far more than you did.
    No we definitely don’t need a rehash of Animal Farm so I won’t be going for Bulawayo even though I enjoyed We Need New Names.
    I find it hard to summon any kind of enthusiasm for the other candidates beyond Case Study. Really disliked the last book I read by Fowler (same problem – too much exposition)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So these days you don’t force yourself to read every Booker nominee? That must be a relief! I think Case Study may be a standout from the list. I’ll look forward to reading it soon.

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      1. I used to rush to the library as soon as the longlist was announced but since they changed the rules, the prize has lost its appeal. So I read only what interests me now

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds like a good approach to any prize list. No point forcing oneself through things.

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  10. The only one I am remotely interested in reading is Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that seems like the one for you! Have you read all his older stuff?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t read any of his books yet. Good to see Influx Press on there too

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I have read three of these, Oh William!, Small Things Like These, and Booth. They were all excellent novels. It’ll be interesting to see what gets on the shortlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you typically read all the nominees for one of your prize projects?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just the shortlists.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I want to read Oh William but haven’t read the 2nd book in the series so I downloaded all three and will start with a re-read of the first one. lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. She’s got another Lucy Barton book coming out later this year. Lucy by the Sea. I have the ARC already.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was really surprised to hear about it! Four books about Lucy vs. just two about Olive.

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      2. Oh awesome! Thanks for letting me know!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the previous books. I’ve not read Anything Is Possible and plan to just skip ahead to Oh William.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I feel this is a strong list. I had read eight of the 13 prior to the announcement. Of those eight, the only one I didn’t care so much for was Glory; the other seven I found excellent or very good (The Colony, Trust, Small Things Like These, The Trees, Nightcrawling, Booth, and Oh, William!). I’d like to see Trust or The Colony win and I think both will be shortlisted. Of the four not published in the U.S. yet, I ordered three from Book Depository. Of those, I am most interested in reading Treacle Walker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem like a strong list this year. I’m impressed — 8 is by far the best showing I’ve heard of from a blogger/reader!

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      1. I look at Bookmarks Reviews regularly to find books of interest, as well as Kirkus, NYT, LAT, WashPo, etc. When I read something I particularly like and seems to fit the Booker brief, it goes on my Booker wishlist. I guessed five this year. At one point, Booth and Small Things Like These were on my list but I took them off and replaced with How High We Go in the Dark and Horse. Karen Joy Fowler is a local author, so I tend towards a fondness for her work. I love Booker season.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I totally loved Keegan’s book, and I’m pulling for it. I enjoyed the Strout and the Fowler, but Keegan’s book… that was special for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t sure it would be eligible because of its length — it wouldn’t have been considered for the Women’s Prize, for instance.

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  15. I definitely want to read the Garner, though I’ve at least two books of his I need to reread to review, including Boneland which I was impressed by but needed to let lie fallow before revisiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should try something else of his, maybe this one or another classic.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Good luck with your book club application! Like you, I’m open to reading the majority of the longlisted books. I picked up a copy of Booth from the library and I will be seeking out Trust and The Trees too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! They’re probably looking for groups that are more active on social media (there’s a space on the form for a TikTok account – ha!), but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I thought To Paradise by Yanagihara will be a almost “automatic” inclusion into this long-list, so it is very surprising not to see it on the list. I personally did not like the book (I prefer two of Yanagihara’s previous ones), but it is certainly no worse than a couple here on this long list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since she was previously shortlisted, it’s definitely a surprise that she wasn’t recognized this time around. It would have been a timely choice. Maybe the judges were sick of pandemic lit!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve only read the Diaz and Keegan nominees, and enjoyed both. I now have library reserves on Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies, The Trees (you can’t really go wrong with Everett), and The Colony (I loved her WWII novel). I also want to read Case Study. I don’t tend to read the longlist — typically I wait for the shortlist — but this year I’m tempted by the books. Finally, good luck with the book club application. That would be a great experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I envy you your library holdings! My library will likely acquire the complete longlist, but it might take a long time. Most years I find a few gems via the longlist and only read the remaining shortlistees if they appeal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. […] BIG week for prize news. First we had the Booker Prize longlist, about which I’ve already shared some thoughts. My next selection from it is Trust by Hernan Diaz, which I started reading last night. The […]

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  20. I want to read the Keegan and Garner but am trying to keep a lid on acquirings at the moment after horrifying myself with the realisation that my three shelves of TBR are all from within the last year! So I’ll let them come to me when they come to me. Impressed at the diversity on the list and lack of usual-suspects type stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least those two are novella length!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. […] four from the Booker Prize longlist (my initial reactions and excerpts from existing reviews are here), with one more coming up for me next […]

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