Skip to content

2016 Man Booker Shortlist: The Sellout by Paul Beatty

the sellout

With the date for the finalist looming (winner will be announced October 25), our panel of 5 judges has decided to feature each of the 6 finalists. In each of the 6 posts we’ll give our thoughts about the pros and cons of each book taking home the prize. We hope you chime in and let us know what you think of each book. First up is a book that all of us liked: The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Published: March 2015 (in US)
Find it/buy it here: The Sellout

Amazon synopsis: A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality―the black Chinese restaurant.

Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens―on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles―the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident―the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins―he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

We all read the book prior to the shortlist announcement and I believe that we all predicted it would move on to the shortlist. You can read all our mini reviews here.

Jen’s Thoughts
: I thought The Sellout was a brilliant book and I think it is a top contender to win it all. I didn’t personally enjoy every minute of the reading it because at times it felt like really hard work to read and understand but I appreciated the intelligence and importance of the book.
Why it could win: stellar writing, covers an important issue in modern day America, brilliantly intelligent.
Why it might not win: profane (although this didn’t stop Marlon James from winning last year). I said this in my review earlier but I think it may be too intellectual and at times reads like an academic text. I liked this but I’ve seen lots of reviews of people claiming they didn’t fully understand the book. It is a polarizing book. I’ve seen almost no middle of the road reviews. People seem to either love it or hate it.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Once it got going I really enjoyed this book it was amusing, serious and totally politically incorrect.
Why it could win: This is a brilliantly funny book about the serious issue of racism.
Why it might not win: Because there may be sensitivity about the way racism is treated and there is a lot of use of the N word.

Nicole’s Thoughts:   I loved this book.  I thought it was sophisticated, funny, clever and important.
Why it could win: Topical, funny, and brilliantly written.  This is an important book about race relations,  and the more we read about it, the more we can work towards eradicating racism.
Why it might not win: Possible sensitivity about racism and really “American.”

Kate’s Thoughts: Hands down the most enjoyable book on the list, and possibly the most relevant.
Why it could win: It’s witty, laugh out loud funny, edgy, and again I’d like to stress, relevant.
Why it might not win: The judges might like book about China better, but that would make me sad.

Andrew’s thoughts – Of the three short-listed books I read, this was the most entertaining, thought-provoking and enjoyable.  Beatty’s is an incredibly talented and intelligent writer; this novel deserves to be recognized.
Why it could win: Superb, creative, and intelligent writing combined with a creative plot focussing on one of the most (if not THE most) important topic in America.
Why it might not win: Could it be too profane for some judges?  Or perhaps the subject material “too controversial?”  It would be a shame if that were the case.

We want to hear from you. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it will win the 2016 Man Booker?

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anita Pomerantz #

    Why It could win: This whole panel of readers (most of whom I know and completely respect) loved it. The fact that it deals with race probably will give it extra consideration. I think the profanity is in the books favor because it is edgy, and I think awards panels like edgy.

    Why It Might Not Win: Polarizing beyond just the language. I not only didn’t find it particularly funny, I found much of it boring, and honestly I didn’t even really understand the larger point the author was trying to make. And I’m not a person who is living in a vacuum – – I read the news and plenty of books that address race – – so it is actually frustrating to me that I really couldn’t embrace this one.

    Verdict: Since this blogger panel and I assume the Man Booker prize evaluators are probably all more insightful than me and perhaps better understand what the author was going for, I’m going to peg the chances of winning at 70% even though it definitely wouldn’t be my choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2016
    • Thanks for your thought Anita. It’s not my top choice for the win but I think it has good odds.


      October 10, 2016
    • Anita Pomerantz #

      p.s. Did want to remark that I love this format you devised and these short succinct insights that each reader provided. So great blog post even though I didn’t like the book much.

      Liked by 2 people

      October 10, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    Until last week, I really thought this was the one that should win. Granted, I haven’t read the entire list, but I did love this book. I felt its satire was clever, and the issues raised are relevant, and will remain so for a long time (unfortunately). I’m not sure what the judges look for, but this one is certainly worth reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2016
  3. Still not sure about whether I wa t to read his one. Books labelled as comic are often a let down for me. If you don’t have the same sense of humour as the author they can be tough going.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 12, 2016
    • Its not one I would recommend to you since I don’t think you would like it but you never know


      October 12, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: