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2018 Man Booker longlist: Our predictions


It’s that time of year again! My personal favorite of time for our blog: Man Booker season!! The 2018 Man Booker longlist will be announced on July 24. Those of you who follow our blog know that we are obsessed with the Man Booker and for the last three years, BW and I have tried to read our way through the entire long list in order to make our predictions.

For those of you who don’t know, the Man Booker Prize is a major literary award that is awarded to “the best novel in the opinion of the judges.” The prize was created to “increase the reading quality of fiction” and “attract the intelligent general audience.” Each year the panel of 5 judges selects a longest of 12-13 books they consider to be the best books of the year. Books must be first published in English by a registered imprint in UK or Ireland and must have a publication date from October of the prior year through September of the current year.

Our shadow panel of judges returns this year and once again is comprised of BW and myself along with our four contributors: Nicole, Lisa, Anita, and Andrew (you can read more about them in our “about” section).  Book Worm and I will be attempting to read all the nominated books before the shortlist is announced and our four contributors will be helping out along the way.

Each panel member has made predictions for which books will make the longlist. Panelists were able to nominate up to 13 books for the list but some chose to nominate fewer. Here are our thoughts and predictions:Jen’s predictionsThere are so many wonderful books released this year that narrowing the list down to a mere 13 seems like an exercise in futility.   A lot of Man Booker favorites have eligible books including Julian Barnes, Ali Smith, Alan Hollinghurst, Richard Flanagan Michael Ondaatje, John Banville, Peter Carey, and Richard Powers. In addition there are many debuts that have received a lot of critical acclaim (e.g., Jessie Greenberg, Leni Zumas, Akwaeke Emezi, etc.).

With the impossibility of the task in mind, I created a list, which I then proceeded to rewrite about 5-6 times –each iteration with significantly different books. I did research on the judges, read all the major reviews of each book on my list (and each of the iterations of my list), and finally settled on 13 books that I think have a good shot of making the list.

Here’s my list in random order (click the title to read the description of the book on Amazon):

  1. Sight by Jessie Greengrass. While this book didn’t always work for me, one of the judges, Jacqueline Rose is known for her writing on feminism and psychoanalysis so I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t go for this book, which contains both.
  2. The Sparsholt Affair by Hollinghurst. I know this book has some conflicting reviews but I think it was too beautifully written not to make the longlist.
  3. Kudos by Rachel Cusk
  4. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
  5. Overstory by Richard Powers.
  6. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  7. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesymn Ward. This is one the books that I keep removing from my list then adding it back on. I’m conflicted about it. I think it will probably make the longlist but won’t be a contender for the final prize.
  8. The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil
  9. Happiness by Aminatta Forna. This might be a risky pick since her prior books didn’t make the list, but maybe this will finally be her year?
  10. The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton. There are many great Australian authors that have books out this year. I’m guessing there will be at least one Australian on this list and my bets are behind this one.
  11. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
  12. The Only Story by Julian Barnes. His books have been shortlisted 3 times and he won for Sense of an Ending
  13. Traveling in a Strange Land by David Park

Book Worm’s predictions:  So far this year life has been really hectic for me and my finger is not on the pulse of what is hot or not in the book world so my predictions are based solely on books I have heard of and/or want to read. As the news this year has largely been about women my list is skewed in favour of female authors or books with female lead characters. Here’s my list:

  1. Gnomon by Nick Harkaway – if this does make the list it will probably be my winner.
  2. Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  4. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  5. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
  6. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
  7. Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
  8. Peach by Emma Glass (this could be too controversial even for Man Booker)
  9. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  10. Now we Shall be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller
  11. Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph
  12. The Killing of Butterfly Joe by Rhidian Brook
  13. The Melody by Jim Crace

Nicole’s predictions: This is my 3rd Booker year, and while I generally love the reading I get out of it, I still can’t say I have any idea on the actual criteria.  I’ve been studying blog posts, and reading in groups, and based on that below (or above) is my roll of the dice. 

  1. Sight – Jessie Greengrass (even though I want to DNF)
  2. Sing Unburied Sing
  3. Circe by Madeline Miller
  4. Happiness by Aminatta Forna 
  5. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  6. Kudos by Rachel Cusk 
  7. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
  8. The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton 
  9. Lucia by Alex Pheby
  10. The Orchid and the Wasp by Caolinn Hughes
  11. The Overstory by Richard Powers 
  12. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
  13. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Andrew’s predictions: Once again, I make my Man Booker predictions with no actual insight and based solely on the Goodreads reader list of who may be nominated. This year, after reading the short blurbs, I picked books that I wanted to read.  And why should I doubt my taste? I’ve picked two winners in the two years I’ve participated in the shadow panel.  Ok, ok, if we’re going to be literalists, I picked incorrectly the first year. BUT, the book I “wanted” to win ended up winning.  So there. 

Without further ado, and in no particular order, I submit my projected long list:

  1. Happiness – Aminatta Forna. We’re overdue for a British author to win this award. So why not this one? Also (along with many others listed here) this book has an international/immigrant thread which is topical (and was overlooked by judges last year with “Exit West” who many though should win).
  2. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman. I love the title. Shouldn’t that be enough? Also I like quirky characters which this book seems to have in spades. 
  3. Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward. Race and culture in America. Seems just a bit topical. 
  4. Winter – Ali Smith. I loved “Autumn” and considered it a strong contender for last year’s award. This is on my “to be read” list and hope it makes the long list so I have an excuse to read it post haste. 
  5. Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Premise sounds interesting and a debut author (who often get a long list nod if they do something unique). 
  6. The Overstory – Richard Powers. I’m a naturalist so anything involving trees and human connection with nature inevitably piques my interest.
  7. La Belle Sauvage – Phillip Pullman. There’s always a fantasy type book on the long list. And it’s got a sweet title (see the valuable insight I’m providing here?).
  8. Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi. A book set in Africa told through multiple voices/personalities? Sign. Me. Up.
  9. My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh. A hometown pick. She’s from Boston and she was shortlisted a few years back for “Eileen.” Maybe this book seals the deal?

That’s all I’ve got. Per usual, I promise better insight once I’ve actually read a few of the long listed books.

Lisa’s predictions:

  1. Winter by Ali Smith
  2. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  3. Circe by Madeline Miller
  4. La Bell Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  5. Census by Jesse Ball
  6. Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I read Sing, Unburied, Sing and even though (or because) it was painful at times, I also found that it haunted me afterward. I also read Census, and I though it quite beautiful and able to tackle some challenging topics – such as caring for a son with Down’s Syndrome – without being maudlin. I listened to Circe, and I wonder if it is too popular to be nominated, but I did really enjoy it. Finally, I have not read La Belle Sauvage, Transcription or Winter. However, I think Kate Atkinson gets better and better with each new book, and Philip Pullman has such a fantastic imagination. Last year, I also liked Autumn by Ali Smith much more than I thought I would.

 Anita’s predictions: You can see this is a very speculative exercise on my part. I haven’t actually read most of these and frankly I had to dig around quite a bit just to ascertain what was eligible. Based on last years’ results, predicting is clearly not my strong point. Hope I do a little better this year! Here are my predictions:

  1. Sight by Jessie Greengrass – Although it is a debut novel, it sounds very original and people are disagreeing with about its brilliance left and right, so sounds perfect as a Man booker longlist option. The fact that it was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction seals the deal for me.
  2. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesymn Ward – The “Underground Railroad” for 2018 in the sense that is has the buzz, the wide readership, and the social issues wrapped in a beautifully wrought package. Personally, I liked it more than UR and feel it is more deserving.
  3. Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rochman-Zecher – I don’t actually know anyone who has read this book, but it seems very “hot topic of the moment”, and I sense the Booker judges like that (last year’s Autumn with its Brexit theme).
  4. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas – It might be a long shot, but it was a 5-star read for me and not because it is so easy to imagine a US where abortion is banned, but because it is a very well written book focused on women and their societal roles, their hopes and their dreams. Hope it makes it!
  5. Country Dark by Chris Offit – Nicole gave it 5 stars. I completely respect Nicole’s opinion. Let’s be like Nicole.
  6. The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton – One friend wrote “Winton writes like an Australian Cormac McCarthy” — that’s enough of an endorsement for me. Plus it has over 4 stars on Goodreads so there’s got to be something worthwhile about it.
  7. Warlight by Michael Ondaatge – The English Patient by the same author just won the Golden Man Booker Prize. Hard for me to imagine this book doesn’t make the longlist given the Booker’s propensity to return to the same authors.

So who do you think has the best (aka most accurate) list? What books have been left out that you think might make the long list? Which books do you think we should have left off our prediction lists?


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anita #

    So it looks like we have chosen 35 unique titles (hope I’m counting that right) and that our collective leaders are:

    Sing, Unburied, Sing*
    The Shepherd’s Hut

    *On all of our lists

    Can’t wait to see what the judges select!

    Liked by 2 people

    July 20, 2018
    • Interesting that only one book made all our lists. It’s also a book that I didn’t want to include on my list but added it reluctantly


      July 20, 2018
  2. Tracy S #

    I listened to The Shepherd’s Hut recently, and I think it’s got a very good chance at the longlist. Anita would love it- it’s really dark. I loved Circe. Peach disgusted me- so it may make the list.
    I’ve actually heard of the books you’ve all chosen, which is a first!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 20, 2018
  3. Jo #

    I’v made my own list, amended it, added to and taken away from it, ripped the whole thing an up and started again so many times I’ve no idea what’s on it anymore! Looking forward to the announcement next week!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 20, 2018
  4. Anita #

    Thanks for letting me know! I will be sure to read the Shepherd’s Hut regardless of whether it makes the longlist or not . . .


    July 20, 2018
  5. Jen, I’m surprised not to see “There There” on your list, did you think it was “too” American.

    I haven’t heard of Peach, need to look that up.

    Anita – Sadly, I’m not sure Country Dark ended up being eligible, or I think I would have put it.

    I’m so excited to see the list!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 20, 2018
    • I had it in my list until 10 mins before I posted the blog post. Then replaced it with Shepherd’s hut.


      July 20, 2018
    • And yes, the reason I removed it was because I thought it would be a book that would appeal more for American awards. Although I feel the same way about Sing Unburied Sing and I kept that one on my list


      July 20, 2018
    • Anita #

      Leave it to me to be unable to figure out what was actually eligible and what was not. I still want to read Country Dark after your review though . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      July 21, 2018
  6. LisaU #

    I have been listening to The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott and I want to add it to my long list. I thought it was quite good prior to today, but this morning I listened to a scene that I thought was brilliant. In Brooklyn in the early 20th century, a nun and her protégé go to the home of a woman with an amputated leg to feed and bathe the woman. The scene captures the ambivalence that the woman feels toward her caregivers, her fear about being alone, and her anger at the incident that led to her leg being amputated. The nun, too, is a complex character. She is scrupulous about caring for the woman’s physical needs, yet seemingly unsympathetic to her emotional ones. As a psychologist who sometimes works with people with physical illnesses, I love the way this scene depicts the bundle of seemingly contradictory thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of both the giver and recipient of care.


    July 22, 2018
  7. LisaU #

    In contrast, I am reading the Sparsholt Affair, and am about a quarter of the way through it, and I’m still waiting for it to pick up speed.


    July 22, 2018
    • I Wouldn’t hold hold your breath because the speed won’t pick up


      July 22, 2018
  8. This is the first year in the last eight or so that I feel completely at a loss to predict what could be on the list. I don’t seem to have read many newly published works this year at all so while I’ve heard of a lot that you’ve all highlighted I don’t actually know any of them. Oh well, come Tuesday we’ll know the answer….


    July 22, 2018
  9. Sight, La Belle Sauvage and Winter are top of my wishlist!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 22, 2018
  10. Exciting, and so many interesting selections! I have not read that many recent releases that I think are eligible of the longlist, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Eleanor Oliphant and Sing Unburied Sing.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 23, 2018

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