Booker Prize Short List

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The shortlist for the Man Booker Awards was announced this morning. Although U.S. writers are not eligible for this award, it has significant impact here. The Booker has made long-running U.S. best sellers of many titles, including Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.

Below are the 2013 titles, with links to reviews:

We Need NewNames, NoViolet Bulawayo, (Hachette/Little, Brown)  — Consumer review links

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, (Hachette/Little, Brown) — coming in Oct — no U.S. consumer reviews yet; no prepub reviews listed; UK reviews — Telegraph; The Observer

Harvest, Jim Crace, (RH/Doubleday/Nan A. Talese) —  Consumer review links

The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri, (RH/Knopf) — coming late Sept. — no consumer reviews yet, but it is on the majority of “most anticipated” lists for the fall

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozseki, (Penguin) — Consumer review links

The Testament of Mary, Colm Tóibín, (S&S/Scribner)  — Consumer review links

The Booker Awards traditionally engender controversy: they have been regarded as too British, too male, too popular, and, conversely, not readable enough.

This year’s list seem to have been crafted to answer all those criticisms. It includes authors from Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Canada (in today’s world, though, nationality is not as clear as it once was. Jumpa Lahiri, for instance, was born in London to Indian immigrants, moved with her family to the U.S. when she was two, now lives in Rome, but has said she considers herself American). Four of the six authors are women and although the list skews towards the literary, it also includes authors who have been best sellers.

The title that leads the list, according to British bookies, Harvest by Jim Crace, arriving at the end of this month here, has been ordered in minimal quantities by U.S. libraries. If  Crace wins, it would be a fitting end to a career; the author has claimed this will be his last book.

The book most widely represented in U.S. libraries is Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, to be published here in two weeks. Lahiri became a best seller as a result of another prize; she won the 2000 Pulitzer in fiction for her debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Both her first novel, The Namesake and her next collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, were best sellers.

The one debut on the list, NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, is also well represented in U.S. libraries, with most still showing significant holds.

The title that was ordered the most lightly by U.S. libraries is New Zealand author Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which will be published here at the end of October. This is her second novel; her first, published here in 2010 when she was just 23, The Rehearsal, received praise from the NYT Book Review

The winner  will be announced on October 15.

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