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General Chatter, Secret Librarian

The Man Booker Prize | Confessions of a Secret Librarian

Confessions of a Secret Librarian

By Admin

I consider myself a reader, I read all sorts of modern contemporary fiction along with the classics and being a school librarian, I also read a great many Young Adult titles. Apart from admitting ‘crime’ is my ‘guilty pleasure’ I have no particular favourite genre.

In recent years I have been looking at the Man Booker Long-list and trying to predict the shortlist – I confess I never usually get it right, in fact, I am lucky if I get one right.

Why is this? I enjoy reading, I don’t mind being challenged in my reading either – so why can I not find myself on the same page as the judges?

Take for instance, last year’s winner – ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ by Marlon James, when I read the blurb I thought ‘yes finally a book that had my name on it’. I was a child of the 70’s, I love Bob Marley and have some glorious memories of the Caribbean. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Book of Night Women’ also by Marlon James, which was harrowing and uncomfortable at times but a truly amazing read.

I tried and I tried to enjoy it, but sadly I gave up and let me tell you, that is so unlike me! I usually battle my way through to the end regardless. I managed about a third of the way and had to admit defeat, I could not get on with the many literary styles and found it most confusing trying to recall all of the characters. After a while, I didn’t really care who died and if I could recall them or not – which is not a good sign! However, it could just be my age, maybe it is of a style that suits a less mature reader?

I know it received many wonderful reviews from the critics but you only have to look on Amazon to see I was not alone in my struggle – sixty-nine people gave it only one star, with most quoting it was very ‘difficult to read’.


So how does a book that is difficult to read, win one of the most prestigious literary awards? And is it wrong of me to want the occasional easy read or popular author to occasionally get a sniff at the hallowed long-list? Imagine how outraged the establishment would get and also how enthusiastic many other readers would be to see a Lee Child on the longlist? I am not holding my breath on that one!

There have been some outstanding winners in the recent past ‘The Luminaries’, ‘A Sense of an Ending’ and ‘Wolf Hall’ to name but a few, and I have just started reading ‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet, the only one that really appealed to me from this year’s shortlist. (It’s a crime thriller, so I am very hopeful for this one). You never know, it may also be a tale that appeals to the many of us out there, who still just read for pleasure and escapism?

What do you think? Are the awards a little too “out-of-reach” for your every day reader?

If you’ve enjoyed this article, keep an eye on our blog for more confessions from our secret librarian! And don’t forget to stock up with our fantastic selection of second-hand books. Get your hands on bestsellers, award-winners and classics from just £2.59

General Chatter

The first ever Man Booker prize winner

The Man Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize

The winner 2011’s Man Booker Prize was announced this week as Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending. For all of its controversies (click here to read the article) the Man Booker is still one of the book industry’s most important awards, and just making the long-list can see a book’s sales sky-rocket.

If you fancy settling down with some Booker Prize winners of the past we can recommend loads. Try out the weird and wonderful Life of Piwhich follows the story of Pi, a shipwreck survivor and his Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The English Patient is brilliant too, and worth a look even if you have already seen the award-winning film. Comedy fans might like Kingsley Amis’ 1986 winner The Old Devils while if you’re looking for something a little more obscure and complex, give How Late It Was, How Late a go.

PH Newby

PH Newby

But over at World of Rare Bookswe are interested in the older titles. In our quiet little corner of the business we only deal with books from before the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was introduced, which happened in 1970. So because the Man Booker Prize was first awarded in 1969, that means only one book falls under our jurisdiction. P.H. Newby’s 17th novel Something to Answer For won the first ever Man Booker Prize.

It’s a hectic, confusing and fascinating tale with brilliant writing that hasn’t aged at all. Newby’s novel is currently out of print, and a first edition will set you back upwards of £200. If we ever find one we’ll let you know on our rare books twitter and Facebook.

– David Wells