Monday, January 29, 2018

2018: My year of reading the Booker Prize winners, post 1

Hello! My name is Stephanie. I teach French and sometimes English, and my biggest hobby is reading. I read over a hundred books a year. This year, I decided to set myself a challenge: read all the winners of the Man Booker Prize. The idea for the Booker Books reading project came out of a discussion with my husband Charles, and sloppy reading of a Wikipedia article. 

Like I said, I read a lot, so I’m always saying things like “That book was awesome!” or “This book just isn’t grabbing me.” So Charles asked me once, what makes a book great to you? I thought a bit and decided on originality. I love books that do something I haven’t seen before, an idea that I keep coming back to. For example, a book I keep thinking about years after finishing it is Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead. In this novel, all the dead go to a great city, where they continue to live -- as long as someone alive remembers them. Then, an epidemic wipes out almost everyone on Earth… Of course, originality is not the only thing that makes a book great, and I recognize that it’s very hard to do anything original; as a certain bard once said, there’s nothing new under the sun. 

Around the same time as that conversation, I went to our school’s “booktail” hour (books + cocktails = best. idea. EVER) where one of my colleagues talked about George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, the latest Booker prize winner. I had heard of the Booker prize, but didn’t really know exactly what it signified. So looked it up, and found it is awarded for “the best original novel written in the English language and published in the UK.” In my haste (I was probably on my phone) I saw “MOST original novel” and thought wow, that’s exactly what I want to read, the most original novels!  

It’s called the Man Booker prize, not, alas, after a booklover named Man Booker, but for two publishing houses. The prize was first awarded in 1969. In 1970, 1974, and 1992, two prizes were awarded, so there are 52 for me to read now, and there will be 53 by the end of the year. I had already read three of them: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992), Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000), and The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011). I once started Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002) but didn’t care to finish it. Looks like I’ll have to try again.

Next post: getting the books!

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