Meet our Man Booker Shadow Panel
This week we will start posting our panel reviews and rankings for the 2017 Man Booker longlist. Before we do so, however, we wanted to introduce our panel of judges. Book Worm and I have done this shadow panel for a few years. Last year we were joined by a few contributors including Andrew and Nicole and this year we added two new panelists: Lisa and Anita. Keep reading to find out more about each one of us and to see what types of books we generally like or dislike.
Jen (me): I have an unhealthy obsession with the Man Booker list. The longlist announcement date is perhaps one of my favorite days of the year because I get to find out which books I’ll be reading for August. That said, I often end up disliking half the list each year, but I still love the process of reading the list.
Most of you know me and my tastes fairly well since I’ve been running this blog for several years. But for those of you new to the blog, I will say a few things about me. I started this blog almost 3 years ago and Book Worm joined me from the beginning. I am a fast reader and I read A LOT. I like a lot of genres but literary fiction is my favorite. I will also read fantasy and YA as escapist reads and to break up the heavier stuff I read but I consider these “filler” books. Mostly I like books that make me think, that open me up to new feelings and experiences, and that require some effort to digest rather than books where the author lays everything out for you. I especially love quirky books. My favorite authors are David Mitchell (my official author crush), Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Adichie, Jeanette Winterson, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter. I appreciate books with strong female characters and international or multicultural themes.
My least favorite genre is romance, followed by Westerns. I also typically dislike books that are predominantly about, or featuring, straight white men. I like diversity in my protagonists and am not too interested in reading about the plights and experiences of white male characters (thus my aversion to Westerns). There’s nothing wrong with these sorts of books, they’re just simply not the sort of books toward which I gravitate. Literary Pet Peeves: I hate love triangles, books that try to be shocking for shock value alone, the overuse of metaphors, deus ex machina tropes, and preachy books. I also don’t love very graphically violent books although I really liked North Water last year so go figure.
Book Worm (co-blogger): I love lists and that applies to my reading as well. If a book is on a list, the chances are, I will read it eventually. For the last few years my reading has been largely taken up by working my way through the 1001 books to read before you die list, this list has introduced me to some of my favourite books as well as a fair number that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
When reading solely for pleasure I tend to pick thrillers and post apocalyptic/ dystopia fiction although I love any narrative that plays around with time and what we think we know. My favourite authors include David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood. My least favourite kind of reading is short stories. Yes, some are good, but on the whole this genre just doesn’t work for me. At the risk of sounding like my mother, I also really dislike gratuitous violence and sex in books. If the plot calls for it fine, but don’t drag it out for more than a page.
Andrew (contributor, 2nd year): Slow and steady wins the race. It also describes my reading style. Having two young kids and trying to get a business off the ground tends to limit my available reading time, but I put in at least thirty minutes every evening. Given that I read at the pace of a drunken mollusk, I don’t read more than a book month. Don’t judge me. I truly enjoyed participating in last year’s Man Booker shadow panel. While once again my slow reading will inhibit my ability to read all of the long-list, I hope to make it through at least 3 or 4… which already sounds too ambitious. I’m most excited to read “Lincoln in the Bardo” and “Reservoir 13.”
I have widely eclectic tastes, but gravitate towards books that are plot-driven and cleanly written. I don’t need pages and pages of exposition or wandering thoughts. Steinbeck and Hemingway are my heroes. And I loathe authors who gussy up their work with unnecessary prose and try to show that they’re hot shit: looking at you John Irving. When thinking of past favorites these come to mind: Catch-22, Straight Man, Cutting for Stone, and The Tsar of Love and Techno. I hope to bring the perspective of an upper-middle class, white male to this panel. Because that voice just isn’t heard in America anymore.
Nicole: (contributor, 2nd year): Somebody once asked how I became a reader, and it was a really simple answer … I’ve just always read. The first book I remember loving was a book I got from the Library called The Root Children. Then Little House in the Big Woods, and I so wanted to try that Maple Sugar! After that The Chronicles of Narnia which I’ve read countless times and is still a favorite series to this day. I couldn’t WAIT to try Turkish Delight (I thought it would be more like caramel.) My next book memory was a laugh I will never forget, on page 107 of the paperback version of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish., what I now call “The biscuit story” and rest assured I wanted to try those biscuits.
Are you sensing a theme? I love every aspect of reading, but I particularly love to recreate experiences I’ve lived through books. I remember climbing the Tor of Glastonbury just after finishing The Mists of Avalon, and pulling into the train station near Dacau concentration camp while listening to that exact portion of the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Reading the Man Booker list exposes me to books I’d never read otherwise, and I love that!
I read a lot of different times of books, but I love dark books most of all. Some of my favorite books are Jitterbug Perfume, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff Christ’s Childhood Pal, The Bell Jar, Into the Forest, Franny and Zooey.
Lisa ( 1st time contributor): I have been an avid reader of fiction since I was very young. Growing up, I loved the Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L’engle and the Little House on the Prairie books. I would picture myself traveling back in time to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder. As demonstrated by my early tastes, I like high-quality science fiction/ fantasy and also historical novels. I like literary fiction. I really enjoy books that pull you into another world and may help to change your view of this world. Favorite authors include: Jane Austin, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, and Lev Grossman. Then, there are some books that I love even if I don’t like all the books by that author: On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. I have read both Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell multiple times throughout my life. For my commute, I like two mystery/ crime novelists: Tana French for Irish crimes and Louise Penney for Canadian crimes. I usually get bored with books that don’t include dynamic female characters, although A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was an exception. Other features of books that I don’t tend to like: really long paragraphs that extend for multiple pages, almost any description of a character’s dreams, and the sea as the major setting for a book. One of the proudest and happiest days of my life was the day that both my daughters could finally read chapter books and we could all sit in the same room and read.
Anita (1st time contributor): I probably know more about baseball than I do about books, but I’ve been absolutely in love with reading since the age of 3. Unfortunately, I’m also a slow reader so it takes me all year long to get in 50 books or so. My other literary passion is administering Play Book Tag, an online reading group that has been in existence since 2008. In terms of reading, I’m definitely a literary fiction girl, but love memoirs nearly as much. For reasons that are somewhat inexplicable to me, I love dark books – – so tend to gravitate more to specific titles (The Secret History, A Little Life, The Road, A Fine Balance are all up my alley) than to specific authors. However, if I was forced to name a favorite author, Elizabeth Strout gets my vote. Also a fan of Amor Towles, Anthony Marra, and Jhumpa Lahiri. While I read more fiction, I honestly like non-fiction almost as much . . .especially books about adventure (climbing Mt. Everest or hiking in the wilderness, anyone?). I’m completely petrified to actually do anything overtly dangerous (or even mildly uncomfortable), so these armchair adventures are as close it is going to get for me. Biggest book aversions? I despise magical realism beyond all reason. Seriously, I’ll take fantasy and sci fi any day over magical realism. Post modern literature? No thanks. But the biggest sin a book can commit is to be boring, and for me, if the language is overly simplistic, the characters shallowly drawn or I can predict every plot turn . . .that’s the worst. I’d rather struggle with a hard book than be bored by an easy one.