If I Gave the Award

Cover for How to Be BothSince I’ve just posted my last review of books on the shortlist for the 2014 Booker Prize, it’s time for my feature, If I Gave the Award. In my opinion, many of the books on the 2014 shortlist are overrated. The winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, is sidetracked by a deeply uninteresting illicit love affair, while J by Howard Jacobson is overwhelmed by its obfuscation and sly jokiness and a deeply uninteresting licit love affair. Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others is more powerful than either one of those novels.

Cover for We Are Completely Beside OurselvesHowever, my preference goes to one of the other two novels. How to Be Both by Ali Smith is more inventive than the other novels in its structure and more subtle in its message. But for its ability to keep me glued to the page, I have to say that over all the others, I preferred We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Advertisements

Classics Club Spin #16

Cover for The ShuttleI have finished my first Classics Club list, although I have not yet reviewed all of the books. I’ll be reviewing the last one sometime this month, at which time I’ll post my second Classics Club list.

For a Classics Club spin, we post 20 books from our list and then a number is chosen, which determines the book we will read for the spin. Since I’ve finished my list, I will have to make up my spin list from my second, unposted list. So, here are my selections for the next spin, for which I will post a review by December 31.

  1. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  2. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  4. Letters from Egypt by Lucie Duff-Gordon
  5. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  6. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  7. The Lark by E. Nesbit (This is sort of cheating, because I have already read and reviewed this book, just not before I made up my second Classics Club list in June.)
  8. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  9. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  10. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  11. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  12. The Viscount de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  13. The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow by Mrs. Oliphant
  14. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  15. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  16. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  17. The Priory by Dorothy Whipple
  18. Consequences by E. M. Delafield
  19. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  20. Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne du Maurier

 

A New Project, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize Shortlist

In the most recent Tea or Books? podcast, Simon and Rachel discussed whether they were less or more likely to read a book because it had won a literary prize. This was an interesting topic to me, because as you may know, I am working on two projects to read the shortlists of the Man Booker prize and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction starting in 2010. Although I never used to read a book because it won a prize, I personally have found, despite some disappointments, that reading the shortlisted books has helped me by raising the quality of the books I read in general. I agree with Simon and Rachel, though, that the book winning the prize is not necessarily the best one in the shortlist.

During the course of this conversation, Simon mentioned the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, which is one of the oldest literary prizes in Britain and is given by the University of Edinburgh. (I hadn’t heard of it.) He said that he felt as if the books chosen for that shortlist more adequately represented what people were actually reading. That led me to take a look at the shortlist for that prize, and I decided that, nuts as it may seem, I would add the shortlist for that prize, just the fiction portion of it, to my projects, beginning in 2010 as I have done with the others.

So, here are the books that I have challenged myself to read. The winners are indicated in red (or purple, if there is a link to my review). It helps that I have already read half a dozen of them. I will transfer this information to a page where I can keep track of my progress. (Note that, depending on where you look for a list, there is some difference of opinion on the numbering of the years. I have chosen to follow the numbering that the prize itself uses.)

Cover for Wolf Hall2010

Strangers by Anita Brookner
The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Selected Works of T. S. Spivett by Reif Larsen
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Cover for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
La Rochelle by Michael Nath
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

2012

Solace by Belinda McKeon
Snowdrops by A. D. Miller
You and I by Padgett Powell
There But For The by Ali Smith

2013

The Panopticon by Jenny Fagan
The Big Music by Kirsty Gun
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
The Deadman’s Pedal by Alan Warren

Cover for Harvest2014

Harvest by Jim Crace
Benediction by Kent Haruf
The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Cover for We Are Not Ourselves2015

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

2016

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits

2017

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimer McBridge
The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

R.I.P.

logo for RIPI haven’t ever participated in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril before, but I saw a post about it on Helen’s She Reads Novels page, so I took a look at my future posts. The object of the challenge is for people to read books in the following genres during September and October:

  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Supernatural

It looks like I have plenty of mysteries on my schedule, and I may be able to come up with something in the other genres as well, so I think it will be fun to participate. You can look at the pages of the hosts, Estella’s Revenge and My Capricious Life for more information if you are planning to participate.

I think I’ll be participating at the Peril the First level, which means I must read four books from these genres in the next two months. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that will not be a problem for me. I will be reading at least four of the following novels:

  • The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart (suspense)
  • The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb (mystery)
  • Consider the Lilies and Death Among Friends by Elizabeth Cadell (suspense)
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (mystery)
  • The Victorian Chaise Lounge by Marghanita Laski (gothic and supernatural)
  • My Darling Detective by Howard Norman (mystery)