Thanks, But I’d Rather Have a Booker

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury) got a boost on Amazon’s sales rankings after winning the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday, rising to #260.

But a book that received earlier recognition is having greater success with U.S. buyers.

Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, (Knopf) which won Britain’s Booker Award last month, is at #23, even though USA Today called it, “the longest, dreariest 163 pages in recent memory…pretentious philosophical musings masquerading as a novel.” The not-always-kind NYT critic Michiko Kakutani put it more diplomatically, saying it is “dense with philosophical ideas and more clever than emotionally satisfying.”

After winning the Booker (10/19), it rose to #5 and slowly drifted down, still remaining in the top 50 for the next few weeks. It got another bump from NPR on Saturday, moving up to #27. Library holds are also much heavier on it than on Salvage the Bones.

As described by Ron Charles in the Washington Post, Salvage the Bones is the more accessible title; “Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, [the author] evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy.” It is also about a specifically American experience, a family struggling and surviving through hurricane Katrina.

Both are in hardcover, are similar prices and both are short books. This year, it’s especially difficult to explain why Americans seem to say, “Make mine a Booker.”

One Response to “Thanks, But I’d Rather Have a Booker”

  1. Ann Perrigo Says:

    Salvage the Bones may not be as popular as Barnes’ work, but I would recommend it highly. Ward’s writing is beautiful, in spite of the terribly sad lives she describes. For me, it was very hard to read–in the middle of the book, I just had to put it down and read something else. Its unrelenting descriptions of the way Esch and her family live are gut wrenching. As an animal lover it was difficult to read about Esch’s brother who was training his beloved pit bull for the fighting ring. Final analysis? Not a comfortable read, but well worth the effort!