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Our Man Booker 2016 Longlist Musings

Those of you who have been following our blog know that we’ve been doing a shadow panel for the Man Booker longlist books. Our 5 judges (myself included) have been reading through the longlist and tomorrow we will be making our predictions for which books we think will make the shortlist. However, before we get to the shortlist, we wanted to share some of our thoughts about the longlist books. Want to know which author we’d like to have dinner with, which cover we liked best, which book gave us nightmares? Keep reading to find out.

Jen’s Thoughts:

  1. How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting? Trying to read 13 “heavy” literary books in the span of about 1.5 months has been stressful to say the least. I’ve had fun reading most of them but will need something light and mindless to read as a break. While these types of books are my typical reading, trying to speed through them all is not the most pleasant way to read. That said, reading through the longlist is my favorite yearly activity!
  2. How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read? I read all of them. I think it’s a  strong list this year and overall have been very impressed by the quality of the nominees. Usually I like about half the list on an average year but this year I’ve liked about 70%.
  3. Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style? Hot Milk
  4. Which book was the most original/creative? Hystopia
  5. Which book had your favorite plot? Do Not Say We Have Nothing
  6. Which book had the best character development? Eileen. I didn’t love it but I thought it was a very strong character study.
  7. Which book did you enjoy reading the most? Hot Milk
  8. Which book did you enjoy reading the least? All That Man Is
  9. Which book had the best title? His Bloody Project
  10. Which book had the best cover? Hystopia. I had the US cover of The North Water which wasn’t so great but the UK cover would have won best cover had I received that version.
  11. Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why? Wyl Menmuir because I would like to ask him a million questions about his book.
  12. Which book will likely give you nightmares? The North Water. The imagery has been seared into my brain. 
  13. Which book(s) made you cry? My Name is Lucy Barton and Do Not Say We Have Nothing
  14. Which book(s) made you laugh? The Sellout made me laugh the most throughout the book. There were a few moments in Serious Sweet when I had tears of laughter but it wasn’t as consistently funny.
  15. Which book would you most want to reread? The Many.
  16. Did you fall asleep reading any of the books? Yes. I fell asleep multiple times reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing and once while reading His Bloody Project. Probably neither of them merited me falling asleep and I should learn not to read in bed.
  17. Which book surprised you the most? Work Like Any Other. The synopsis sounded rather boring to me but I found it really engaging.
  18. If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask? Coetzee: Can you please explain the meaning of dance school’s philosophy about dancing the numbers?
  19. Do you think one of the books you read will be the winner? If you’ve read all of them, do you think you can predict which book will win it all? I have read them all and am feeling pretty confident about which one will win. I will keep that to myself until time for our winner predictions. Let’s just say that I called it last year too 🙂

Kate’s Thoughts:

  1. How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting? I haven’t challenged myself to read all of them, therefore I’ve been able to pick and choose and enjoy myself.  It’s been fascinating, and there has been only one, Serious Sweet that I would not necessarily chosen to finish if not for this blog.
  2. How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read? I hope to read as many  as ten and so far I would recommend any of them to friends, just not all of them to the same friends as there is a world of difference between My Name is Lucy Barton and The North Water.  In other words, some of my friends are squeamish. On second thought though there is a scene in Lucy Barton that would send a certain ophidiophobic friend of mine to the hospital.  They probably all contain the power to shock or offend some segment of society.
  3. Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style? The North Water
  4. Which book was the most original/creative? The Many
  5. Which book had your favorite plot? The Sellout
  6. Which book had the best character development? My Name is Lucy Barton
  7. Which book did you enjoy reading the most? The Sellout
  8. Which book did you enjoy reading the least?  Hystopia
  9. Which book had the best title? His Bloody Project, worst title Hot Milk
  10. Which book had the best cover? The Many
  11. Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why? Paul Beatty becausue I believe he would be the most fun
  12. Which book will likely give you nightmares? The North Water
  13. Which book(s) made you cry? My Name is Lucy Barton
  14. Which book(s) made you laugh? The Sellout
  15. Which book would you most want to reread? The Many so perhaps I could understand it better.
  16. Did you fall asleep reading any of the books? No but I did let some of the funnier passages of The Sellout replay as I was falling asleep.
  17. Which book surprised you the most? Hot Milk
  18. If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask? Wyl Menmuir “What on earth was going on in that village?”
  19. Do you think one of the books you read will be the winner? If you’ve read all of them, do you think you can predict which book will win it all? I hope that The Sellout wins but I understand that a few of those that I have not yet read are strong contenders.

Andrew’s Thoughts:

  1. How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting?  Let’s be honest here: I only made it through four books.  But for me (a notoriously slow reader who easily casts aside books he finds uninteresting), this was a minor victory.  I enjoyed three of the four books I read and have developed a renewed commitment to reading on a consistent basis.
  2. How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read?  I made it through four (as noted above) and found all the books to be well-written.  While not all of them appealed to me personally, there was something to appreciate about the four I read.
  3. Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style? I’m usually fan of sparse, declarative writing (think Hemingway and Steinbeck), but I really liked Paul Beatty’s dense and witty style. While The Sellout was not the easiest book to read, I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of unpacking Beatty’s meaty paragraphs.
  4. Which book was the most original/creative? The Many. I’m still not sure how I’d categorize this book (dystopian? thriller? fever dream?), but I thought it was an original take on dealing with loss.
  5. Which book had your favorite plot? The Sellout. I enjoyed the conceit of re-segregating a town in Los Angeles county.
  6. Which book had the best character development? Of the four I read, The North Water.
  7. Which book did you enjoy reading the most? The Sellout. Loved the humor, satire, and wit.
  8. Which book did you enjoy reading the least? All That Man Is. A myopic, and in my opinion inaccurate, depiction of what it means to be a man.
  9. Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why? Paul Beatty. We’d have a beer and discuss race, society, and what it means to be an American.
  10. Which book will likely give you nightmares? None. The Many would come the closest. The sense of malaise and claustrophobia was palpable and hard to shake.
  11. Which book(s) made you cry? All That Man Is. I thought I was almost done and then burst into tears when I realized I still had 100 pages to read.
  12. Which book(s) made you laugh? The Sellout
  13. Which book would you most want to reread? The Sellout and The Many. The latter so I could figure out what the hell was actually going on.
  14. Did you fall asleep reading any of the books? No.
  15. Which book surprised you the most? The Many. I was about 2/3 of the way through when I realized that my understanding of what was happening was completely inaccurate. It was jarring but also really enjoyable. 
  16. If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask? Wyl Menmuir. “What was the significance of the woman in the grey coat? And what’s the deal with that scene underground with the sheep?” I realize that’s two questions. But I have so many regarding that book.
  17. Do you think one of the books you read will be the winner? If you’ve read all of them, do you think you can predict which book will win it all?  I have no idea. This is my first experience with the Man Booker and looking at previous winners, I don’t have a sense of what the committee looks for.  Of the four I read, I thought The Sellout was the strongest candidate.

Book Worm’s Thoughts:

  1. How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting? I really enjoyed reading the list although the last few days have been stressful finishing the last books in time.
  2. How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read?  I have read the entire list and overall this is a great selection of books. I love the way the judges chose non -mainstream books as I would never have discovered some of these if they weren’t on the list.
  3. Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style? Do Not Say We Have Nothing I found this to be a completely magical book.
  4. Which book was the most original/creative?  Hystopia
  5. Which book had your favorite plot? Do Not Say We Have Nothing and Work Like Any Other.
  6. Which book had the best character development? This is a tough question for me I am going to say Lucy Barton although I keep changing my mind.
  7. Which book did you enjoy reading the most? Work Like Any Other closely followed by Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
  8. 8. Which book did you enjoy reading the least? All That Man Is. I dislike short stories and it was a real slog.
  9. Which book had the best title? Ironically I think that All That Man Is was the best title.
  10. Which book had the best cover? I read all my books on the Kindle so I didn’t really see covers however I do like the little bird on Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
  11. Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why?  Coetzee I would ply him with drink to find out if there is another book coming (there must be) and what the heck actually happened in the first 2 books.
  12. Which book will likely give you nightmares? All That Man Is!
  13. Which book(s) made you cry? Lucy Barton, Hot Milk, Work Like Any Other and Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
  14. Which book(s) made you laugh? The Sellout.
  15. Which book would you most want to reread? If I didn’t have a self  imposed reread ban I would read The Many to see if it made any more sense.
  16. Did you fall asleep reading any of the books? All of them and that is a reflection on me and not them.
  17. Which book surprised you the most? Hot Milk from the description I didn’t expect to enjoy it.
  18. If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask? David Means please explain your book.
  19. Do you think one of the books you read will be the winner? If you’ve read all of them, do you think you can predict which book will win it all?  I have read them all so one I have read will definitely win! My choice would be Do Not Say We Have Nothing but I think the judge’s could go with Hystopia or The Sellout.

Nicole’s Thoughts

  1. How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting? – I loved it.  I wish I could have gotten through the whole list, but I just had too much going on personally.  My favorite thing was reading the same book at the same time as the “panel” and reading everybody’s reviews.  I also read a bunch of books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  
  2. How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read? I found this to be a very solid list of books – unfortunately, I only read 8 and I think that I hit most of the contenders, the one I regret missing is Do Not Say We Have Nothing 
  3. Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style? Hot Milk
  4. Which book was the most original/creative? Hystopia 
  5. Which book had your favorite plot?  probably Hystopia 
  6. Which book had the best character development? I think all the books had a least a single strong character, but none had consistently strong characters 
  7. Which book did you enjoy reading the most? Hot Milk 
  8. Which book did you enjoy reading the least? The North Water (shudder)
  9. Which book had the best title? His Bloody Project
  10. Which book had the best cover? Hot Milk
  11. Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why? OMG, Deborah Levy.  But I’m scared that I would be disappointed.  Like maybe she’s obnoxious or super shy or (god forbid) pretentious.  
  12. Which book will likely give you nightmares?  Ugh, The North Water (puuuuuuus) 
  13. Which book(s) made you cry? My Name is Lucy Barton
  14. Which book(s) made you laugh? The Sellout 
  15. Which book would you most want to reread? The Many and Hystopia
  16. Did you fall asleep reading any of the books? I fall asleep.  In all circumstances.  No conditions apply.  
  17. Which book surprised you the most? Work Like Any Other 
  18. If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask? J.M. Coetzee and Wyl Menmuir – same question for both … “Dude … WTF?” 
  19. Do you think one of the books you read will be the winner? If you’ve read all of them, do you think you can predict which book will win it all? Without having read them all, i.e. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, it’s hard to say.  But, if I had to guess from the ones I’ve read I’d say Hystopia.  The list is very masculine and I have a feeling a masculine book is going to win and though this wasn’t my favorite, there are absolutely noteworthy elements.  

We want to hear from you! Which books have you read? Which were your favorites? Least favorites? General thoughts about the list?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Strangely the scene underground with the sheep never even struck me as odd, does this mean I’ve read too much Murakami?

    Liked by 2 people

    September 9, 2016
  2. I’ve read 3 titles (Moshfegh, Strout and Kennedy) and I want to read Thien soon too so it’s good to see that it is getting some positive feedback. I really liked Eileen but I can see why it wouldn’t appeal to everyone!

    Like

    September 9, 2016
  3. Scott #

    I’ve read 11 – excluding All That Man Is (because it isn’t available here – USA) and Hystopia.

    My shortlist predictions:

    Do Not Say We Have Nothing
    Hot Milk
    My Name is Lucy Barton
    The North Water
    The Sellout
    Work Like Any Other

    I chose “Lucy” based on Strout’s reputation, not on the book’s merit. If she’s excluded from the shortlist, I’d insert Serious Sweet.

    Liked by 2 people

    September 9, 2016
    • That is pretty close to what my predictions will look like minus one book

      Like

      September 9, 2016
      • Scott #

        Let me guess . . . The North Water?

        Liked by 1 person

        September 9, 2016
      • No. I’m predicting that will make it

        Like

        September 9, 2016
      • You can find out Monday 🙂

        Like

        September 9, 2016
  4. I’m looking forward to yiur shortlist predictions. I made a wish list of the books is like to see on the shortlist but that is rather different to what I think might actually make it. Had to laugh about th multiple co,,nets about wanting to ask both Mymuir and Coetzee what their message was. I’m reading the Coetzee at the moment and am baffled by the idea of dance pulling down numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 10, 2016
  5. Anita Pomerantz #

    We have to wait until Monday for your shortlist predictions, or will those be posted today (please be today)? Sigh. I love this whole series of posts . ..great job, reviewers/bloggers!!

    Can I nominate myself as a reviewer next year? I won’t have this huge volunteer commitment I’m doing now, and if I just watch three less baseball games a week, I am sure I can keep up. I mean that’s nine hours right there.

    Ok, that was pretty forward. Just ignore me . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    September 10, 2016
    • I’m sure we can arrange something but you’ll have to remind me again next year!

      Like

      September 10, 2016

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