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The Best Of The Booker – Shortlist

Following on from the 25th Anniversary ‘Booker Of Bookers’ in 1993, comes the 40th Anniversary ‘Best Of The Booker’, in which a panel of judges have saved the public the bother of whittling down all forty-one eligible titles to a more manageable six. Or, to put it another way, ensured that Life Of Pi, which would likely top a proper public vote, can’t win.

The shortlist, then, is:

  • The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1995)
  • Oscar And Lucinda, Peter Carey (1988)
  • Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee (1999)
  • The Siege Of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell (1973)
  • The Conservationist, Nadine Gordimer (1974)
  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie (1981)

The panel of judges were the biographer, novelist and critic Victoria Glendinning, (chair); writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup; and John Mullan, Professor of English at University College, London.

In addition, Glendinning said:

‘It was a great experience, revisiting all the Booker and Man Booker Prize winners, and very tough arriving at the shortlist – but we really feel that the six novels we picked represent the best fiction-writing of the past forty years and that each one of them will stand the test of time. As to which of the six is the most important, and the most enjoyable, the Best of Booker – that is up to the readers to decide.’

While I’ve only read one of the titles listed, the list seems fair by all accounts, as all of the titles share a certain reknown that many other Booker winners don’t (Paul Scott’s Staying On anyone?) but I’m saddened to see that Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains Of The Day didn’t make the final cut. Perhaps this shows what we’ve known all along regarding Booker judging panels in that they are out of touch with the readers. But we all know that the most popular book isn’t always the best book otherwise Harry Potter books would have been regular candidates for the regular Booker. So public be damned. Although it will no doubt come to pass that Midnight’s Children, as it was in 1993, will continue to reign as the Best of the Booker.

One other thing: it is strange to see Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist listed as potentially the Best of the Booker since it couldn’t hold its own against Stanley Middleton’s Holiday, back in 1974, when both books scooped the prize. Middleton, where are you now?

May 12, 2008

3 responses to The Best Of The Booker – Shortlist

  1. Pingback: The Best Of The Booker - Shortlist : www.literaryagenda.com

  2. John Self said:

    The omission of The Remains of the Day is downright perverse. Anyone I know who has read it, rates it as a personal favourite, and I don’t think it’s pushing the boat out to call it one of the great novels of the second half of the 20th century.

    I’ve read three of the titles on the list – Disgrace, Midnight’s Children and Oscar and Lucinda – and I don’t begrudge any of them their place (but still like The Remains of the Day more!). I’m now reading The Siege of Krishnapur – see, these lists do provoke interest in the titles they come up with! – and might tackle The Conservationist too. The Ghost Road would have to wait until I’ve read the others in the Regeneration trilogy.

    I’m glad however that Life of Pi didn’t make the cut, even though I enjoyed the book. Its phenomenal popularity would have made the poll a pointless exercise.

    Will the voting site have comprehension questions to make sure voters have read all the books??

  3. Excellent insights here. While I always appreciate a good list (why else would I have read The Conservationist) it’s strange that if I’m voting for the Best of the Booker I can’t vote for what I would consider the Best of the Booker: The Remains of the Day (and Possession is close). Thank goodness for judges who have prevented me from tainting the vote with my silly opinion!
    (by the way, thanks for adding my blog to your blog role!)

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3 responses to The Best Of The Booker – Shortlist

  1. Pingback: The Best Of The Booker - Shortlist : www.literaryagenda.com

  2. John Self said:

    The omission of The Remains of the Day is downright perverse. Anyone I know who has read it, rates it as a personal favourite, and I don’t think it’s pushing the boat out to call it one of the great novels of the second half of the 20th century.

    I’ve read three of the titles on the list – Disgrace, Midnight’s Children and Oscar and Lucinda – and I don’t begrudge any of them their place (but still like The Remains of the Day more!). I’m now reading The Siege of Krishnapur – see, these lists do provoke interest in the titles they come up with! – and might tackle The Conservationist too. The Ghost Road would have to wait until I’ve read the others in the Regeneration trilogy.

    I’m glad however that Life of Pi didn’t make the cut, even though I enjoyed the book. Its phenomenal popularity would have made the poll a pointless exercise.

    Will the voting site have comprehension questions to make sure voters have read all the books??

  3. Excellent insights here. While I always appreciate a good list (why else would I have read The Conservationist) it’s strange that if I’m voting for the Best of the Booker I can’t vote for what I would consider the Best of the Booker: The Remains of the Day (and Possession is close). Thank goodness for judges who have prevented me from tainting the vote with my silly opinion!
    (by the way, thanks for adding my blog to your blog role!)

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