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2017 Man Booker Longlist thoughts

We’ve reached the end of our longlist reviews and are ready to make our shortlist predictions! Before we make our predictions we’d like to share some of our favorites and least favorites. Similar to last year, each of our panelists responded to a list of 20 questions about the longlist books. We asked about favorite writing, favorite plot, best title, favorite cover, and more. Keep reading to see what each judge selected as their top books for various categories. 

  • How have you found the process of reading through the longlist? A slog? Fun? Interesting?
    Jen: Loved it. This is my favorite blog activity of the year.
    Book Worm: I have really enjoyed it and like Nicole, it has increased my reading pace. Although I have fallen behind at the last hurdle.
    Nicole:  So great!  I definitely read books I wouldn’t have and for the most part loved the ones I read.  I also got into a really good pace of reading which has been missing for a while.  I hope I can maintain it.  I loved the diversity in the list.
    Lisa: I loved it. It made me think more carefully about the books as I read them – What specifically did I like and not like about the books. I also liked comparing my reactions to Jen’s on Thursdays.
    Anita: Personally, I loved reading the long list and only wish I was a faster reader so I could have finished all of them before the shortlist deadline. Based on the reviews of others, I fear I missed some of the best ones. I hope to get to all of them this year!
  • How many books have you read and overall what have you thought about the books you have read?
    Jen: I read all of them. I had read 5 prior to the longlist announcement. I found it to be a really strong list this year. I usually dislike about half the books on the longlist. This year I liked most of them, loved at least half, and didn’t hate any of them.
    Book Worm: I have read 12 of them and I am a quarter of the way through my last one 4321. I have enjoyed all of them and am glad I read them, some I don’t feel merited a place on the list but they were still good reads.
    Nicole: 
    9 of 13. There’s not a single one I regret reading and my eyes are opened to new authors. Of the ones I didn’t read, I plan to at least attempt 4321 and Solar Bones. Swing Time I skipped because I’m not a fan of Smith, and Ministry I skipped because of the reviews and lack of time, though I may give it a go in the future. We’ll see. I loved the God of all Things. 
    Lisa: 8 books including two I had already read. I love the way the books are so different in style, scope, setting, even length. What the books do all have in common is modern politics and/or issues of race or  sexual identity.
    Anita:
    So far I have read 8. Of the eight, I thought that two were brilliant, that another three really didn’t deserve their long list spots, and the remainder I really thought were very good, and I was happy I read them.
  • Which book was your favorite in terms of writing style?
    Jen: This is practically an impossible task since the writing this year was outstanding. If I had to pick I’d say Days without End and Reservoir 13 were the ones I thought of as best written.
    Book Worm: Autumn – this was the book that had the most magical writing. Closely followed by Reservoir 13.
    Nicole: 
    Autumn and History of Wolves, I have to call it a tie because there’s no comparison but the writing in both was stellar.
  • Lisa: Lincoln in the Bardo & Exit West
  • Anita: Tough one. For me, History of Wolves was probably the most fun to read. I loved how she crafts her sentences. That being said, I admired others more . . .Solar Bones is probably the one I would characterize as the best.
  • Which book was the most original/creative?
    Jen: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Book Worm: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Nicole:
    Lincoln in the Bardo 
    Lisa: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Anita:
    Lincoln in the Bardo
  • Which book had your favorite plot?
    Jen: Home Fire
    Book Worm: Reservoir 13 I loved the idea of time moving on after a dramatic event, the way the season change and key events in village life keep getting replayed.
    Nicole:
    Exit West
    Lisa: Exit West. I liked the clean, clear arc of the plot – of people adapting to their situation and growing apart. 
    Anita: Another hard one. History of Wolves’ plot intrigued me the most, but it also was one of the most flawed. But the word favorite implies something different than the word “best”, so I’m going with History of Wolves, flaws and all.
  • Which book had the best character development? 
    Jen: 4-3-2-1
    Book Worm: This is a hard one as a lot of the books didn’t really develop character I am going with Autumn.
    Nicole:  
    I don’t know about development, but my favorite characters were Daniel and Cathy from Elmet.
    Lisa: Exit Wes
    Anita: 4-3-2-1
  • Which book did you enjoy reading the most?
    Jen: Autumn but truthfully, I really enjoyed reading almost all of them.
    Book Worm: Autumn and Reservoir 13
    Nicole: History of Wolves or Autumn
    Lisa: Lincoln in the Bardo & Autumn
    Anita: Solar Bones
  • Which book did you enjoy reading the least?
    Jen: Elmet. I liked the first 2/3rd but the last third killed my enjoyment.
    Book Worm: I know I am alone in this but for me it has to be Exit West.
    Nicole: Reservoir 13 
    Lisa: Days without End
    Anita: Home Fire, but Underground Railroad was close.
  • Which book had the best title?
    Jen: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
    Book Worm:
    Reservoir 13 for the way it plays about with the readers mind once you are into the book.
    Nicole: Solar Bones 
    Lisa: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
    Anita: Exit West
  • Which book had the best cover? 
    Jen: I thought the US edition of Home Fire was the prettiest and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was the best.
    Book Worm: I have read most the list on the Kindle so I haven’t really noticed covers.
    Nicole: Days Without End? 
    Lisa: Reservoir 13
    Anita: Reservoir 13
  • Best first sentence:
    Jen: Exit West – “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.”
    Nicole:  
    No Brainer!  Autumn – It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
    Book Worm: With Nicole on this Autumn. 
    Lisa: Exit West – “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.”
    Anita: Solar Bones
  • Which author would you want to have drinks with/hang out with and why?
    Jen: Colson Whitehead. He seems cool and interesting. I met him at BEA last year and find him intriguing and I have many questions about several of his books. George Saunders next.
    Book Worm: Zadie Smith because Swing Time is my childhood.
    Nicole: Ali Smith because she’s hilarious 
    Lisa: George Saunders. His mind is just so amazing, far-ranging, creative, flexible. He is able to tell stories I never could have imagined. Although of course if I actually met him I would be totally intimidated. 
    Anita: George Saunders, hands down.
  • Which book will likely give you nightmares? 
    Jen: none, but if I had to pick Elmet would be most likely.
    Book Worm: Ministry of Utmost Happiness because things are real.
    Nicole: I’m almost nightmare proof 
    Lisa: Exit West. The refugee crisis is so real in our world
    Anita: Elmet
  • Which book(s) made you cry?
    Jen: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Book Worm: None that I remember.
    Nicole: none but felt great emotion at Autumn
    Lisa: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
    Anita: Lincoln in the Bardo
  • Which book(s) made you laugh? 
    Jen: Lincoln in the Bardo, Autumn, & Solar Bones.
    Book Worm: Autumn, Swing Time & Solar Bones there are some great one liners.
    Nicole: Autumn, Lincoln in the Bardo 
    Lisa: Autumn, Lincoln in the Bardo
    Anita: Solar Bones
  • Which book would you most want to reread? 
    Jen: Autumn
    Book Worm: Autumn.
    Nicole: already did Lincoln in the Bardo twice
    Lisa: Lincoln in the Bardo – I plan to listen to the full audiobook.
    Anita: Lincoln in the Bardo
  • Did you fall asleep reading any of the books?
    Jen: Yes, Solar Bones. Multiple  times until I got used to the style and then it become one of my favorites.
    Book Worm: All of them I read in bed before going to sleep.
    Nicole: All of them, I’m a napper. 
    Lisa: All of them. I read right before bed and then sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night.
    Anita: This is a notorious problem for me, so I’d say all of them at one point or another
  • Which book surprised you the most?
    Jen: Home Fire. I had forgotten about most of the plot details of Antigone so the ending was a bit of a shock. Solar Bones was surprising in that I enjoyed it so much and I usually hate stream of conscious.
    Book Worm: Reservoir 13 loved the musical quality of the writing.
    Nicole: Exit West 
    Lisa: Autumn. I was surprised by how much I liked the dream sequences.
    Anita: Solar Bones. The whole one sentence thing didn’t sound at all appealing, but I loved it.
  • If you could ask any of the authors a question, who would it be and what question would you ask?
    Jen: Paul Auster: How did you keep track of the various threads and details while writing?
    Book Worm: Jon McGregor what happened to the girl??
    Nicole: ”Hey do you know David Lynch?” (I just watched Twin Peaks, The Return episode 8 and any questions swirling in my brain right now are related to that!) 
    Lisa: Colson Whitehead: I’d like to ask him where he came up with the ideas for how his plot relates to actual historical events. I’d also like to understand more about how his plot relates to actual historical events.
    Anita: Emily Fridlund: What did the ending of your book really mean?
  • 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?
    Jen: Last year I was 90% sure that Do Not Say We Had Nothing would win and The Sellout was my second choice. Both stood out above and beyond the rest of the pack. This year I’m not so sure. No one book really stands out as the “must-win” option but rather there is a pretty solid group of 4-5 that I think would deserve the prize. I’ve read them all so, “yes, one of the books I read will be the winner.”
    Book Worm: Having read 12 of them statistically one of the books I have read should win.
    Nicole:  I do have a prediction 
    Lisa: Of the 8 I read, I would pick either Exit West or Autumn.
    Anita: Since I have not read all the books, I think it is impossible to say that one of them will win; however there are two, Lincoln in the Bardo and Solar Bones, that I would be very happy to see win and that I believe are both deserving. I think Solar Bones has a better chance of the two . . .

For those interested, here are the first sentences for each of the longlist books:

Autumn: It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times
Underground Railroad: The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.”
Elmet: “I cast no shadow.”
Days without End: The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake
History of Wolves: It’s not that I never think of Paul.
Exit West: In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.
Reservoir 13: They gathered at the car park in the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do.
Home Fire: Isma was going to miss her flight
4321: According to family legend, Ferguson’s grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, traveled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, then booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.
Solar Bones: the whole book is one sentence
Lincoln in the Bardo: On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
Ministry of Utmost Happiness: She lived in the graveyard like a tree.
Swing Time: It was the first day of my humiliation

We want to hear from you! Which were some of your favorites and least favorites from the longlist?

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paula #

    Great post! I’m currently reading Autumn and even though I’m not a fan of Ali Smith (didn’t really like How to be Both), I’m really enjoying this one! Definitely want to see Exit West and Solar Bones on the shortlist, loved both. And still have to read Lincoln in the Bardo but I have a good feeling about it because it’s Saunders and he’s great.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2017
    • Thanks! I’m glad to hear you are liking Autumn. I loved it.

      Like

      September 11, 2017
  2. Tracy S #

    I’ve read six so far, and all of them have been really good. Autumn is my favorite, but Lincoln in the Bardo and Exit West were both so good, too. I did love The Underground Railroad, but it’s already won so much, and it’s a lot like The Sellout in theme.
    From the sound of it, it’s anyone’s game!

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2017
    • Anita #

      I really must get to Autumn . . .!!

      Like

      September 11, 2017
  3. CURREY #

    Excellent summary of all that reading AND really helpful. I want to read at least 2 more on the list (I have only read 6 so far) and this list of questions helped me narrow down my TBR next up list.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2017
  4. Kristel #

    I love that you all struggle with falling asleep while reading, I thought I was the only one. Great job panelist. I’ve enjoyed this so much. Looking forward to your predictions and the announcement of the short list!

    Like

    September 12, 2017
  5. Judith #

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the reviews and ratings of the panel. Thanks for doing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 12, 2017
    • Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the reviews!

      Like

      September 12, 2017

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