Reading plans

Sample Sunday: from an award contender to an award winner

Moving slowly through my stack of owned-but-unread books, I’ve chosen three more candidates for Sample Sunday. They all have titles beginning with the letter S.

Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Described as a “dark, domestic noir”, Good Samaritans is the story of an insomniac who phones strangers at random. As a result of crossed wires he ends up talking to a suicidal woman who thinks she is on the line to The Samaritans. It marks the beginning of a relationship. Somewhere in this tale is a murder because the novel is billed as the first in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Pace.

The Verdict:  I’ve tried two other novels by Will Carver but failed with both of them. I thought Good Samaritans might be a better options because it was named as a book of the year by three UK national newspapers, was longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize (run by The Guardian newspaper) and shortlisted for the inaugural Amazon Publishing Awards’ Best Independent Voice. But reading some reviews on Goodreads I see that it contains graphic sex and violence. Neither hold any appeal for me so I’m letting this one go.

Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

I don’t remember buying this one but I suspect it was because of the setting which is seventeenth century Florence. It involves a young artist who is given a strange commission by a member of the powerful Medici family. The synopsis available on Goodreads is a bit garbled but seems to suggest the book is a murder mystery combined with a love story.

The Verdict: This box ticks two boxes for me: the Italian setting and the art-related character. But I’m not convinced, having read a few reviews, that I’ll enjoy the book as a whole. A few readers have commented that the characterisation is weak and clumsy handling of a good versus evil theme. Both of these I would find irritating. So off to the charity shop this can go.

The Sellout by Paul Beaty

This 2016 Booker Prize winner is a satire on the state of race relations in the United States. It focuses on a man who responds to the death of his father in a police shoot-out, with an attempt to bring back slavery and re-segregate the school in his hometown.

The Verdict: Paul Beatty was the first American writer to win the Booker Prize, following a change of rules. That change influenced my decision to make 2015 the final year in my Booker Prize project, suspecting that subsequent years would see less of an international flavour to the long/short lists. Even if The Sellout hadn’t won, I know it would have been hard to summon up much enthusiasm for reading it because books labelled humorous are often nothing of the kind.

This comment by Paul Fulcher on Goodreads (he reads every Booker listed book every year), doesn’t fill me with hope:

My least favourite Booker winner of all time was Vernon God Little. And my least favourite shortlisted book To Rise At A Decent Hour. Paul Beatty has managed to combine the crass satire of the first with the annoying “humour” and overly-culture-specific references of the second to produce a book that is memorable only in its sheer awfulness.

I’m going to give The Sellout a reprieve but if I haven’t read it by the end of the year, I’ll let it go to a new home.

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only books I do want to read. So what do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

20 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: from an award contender to an award winner

    • It’s opened up a few gaps on my shelves now – giving me some badly needed space

  • Awww The Sellout is on my to-read shelf too – I was kind of excited for it, but you make some good points… ah well, we’ll both just have to see how it goes!

    • I have a feeling it could be one of those books that either leave you completely cold or completely engaged!

  • I think I would have let all three go, but I don’t have as much patience with books as I once did. If it doesn’t really grab me in the first 50 or 60 pages off it goes to the Red Cross book center. 🌻🤠🌻

    • I’m also more inclined now to give up on books that I’m simply not enjoying.

      • I agree. The older I get the less tolerance I have for books that don’t get up and go!😃🌻

        • Yep me too – often they are contemporary best sellers

  • My husband DNFed The Sellout, so didn’t even want to try it. The “humorous” label actually makes want to run away in the first place!

    • I suspect it will end up being a DNF for me too – I find it hard to relate to books that are labelled as comic or humorous

  • I’ve read Secrecy and loved the Italian setting, but I would agree with the readers who say the characterisation is weak – I couldn’t connect with the characters at all and that spoiled the book for me.

    • That would spoil the book for me too Helen – no amount of atmosphere is going to make up for poorly drawn characters

  • We do something similar here at home; we go through the shelves and remove/donate books we’ve read and don’t wish to keep further so that we may have room for more books to be had when attending a book sale. Sorry if this does not mesh with plans for the right comments. Thank you for sharing.

    • I used to keep books that I thought I would like to re-read but a few years ago I decided it was highly unlikely I would in fact re-read most of them. So just like you, I ended up donating them

  • I remember enjoying Secrecy much to my surprise as I’m not a fan of historical fiction but I am of Rupert Thomson. I’m afraid I gave up The Sellout.

    • You didn’t have a problem with the characterisation in Secrecy I take it?

      • Not that I remember but I read it when it was first published which is ten years ago, much to my amazement.

        • I suspect I came across it because you mentioned it – maybe in a Six Degrees list

  • Well, I’m glad someone else failed with Vernon God Little, as I certainly did, quite comprehensively. As to the books you consider – I think I’m happy to go with your judgments and not read them – I don’t know any of these books. But I wonder why you reprieved Paul Beatty?

    • I think my decision was really based on curiosity Margaret – nothing stronger than that


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