BookendsTop Ten Tuesday

In review: Ten winners of the Booker Prize


The first book I ever reviewed was so dreadful that I have obliterated its title from my memory.

It was by Maeve Binchey and though I know she is extremely popular among some readers, I vowed never to read anything by her again. Ever. I only got to the end because it formed part of a book review column that was being introduced on the newspaper where I was a rather junior reporter.

Maybe it was that experience that destroyed my interest in reviewing. It wasn’t until I started this blog that I began in earnest. I’m re-interpreting the brief for  this week’s Top 10 topic.

Instead of listing the first 10 reviews to appear on this blog (which would be dull) I’m opting for the first 10 reviews of Booker Prize winners. It is after all my project to read all the prize winners that prompted me to begin the blog in 2012.

Here’s my list. All links take you to my review

  1. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens. The very first review to appear on this blog, was this 1970 winner. It’s embarrassing to look back at this review – I clearly had a lot to learn…
  2. Something to Answer For by P H Newby. This review appeared in April 2012. My attempt was slightly – but only slightly – better than the first effort.
  3. Saville by David Storey. This appeared in the same month as the Newby review. Not a book I cared for at all as my review indicates all too clearly.
  4. Staying On by Paul Scott. This is a follow up to his superb series called The Raj Quartet. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this book, I’m also happier with the quality of the review.
  5. White Tiger by Arvind Adiga  I remember enjoying this novel which won the 2008 Booker Prize but I see from my review that I wasn’t that keen on the ending.
  6. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. A wonderful book and one of my favourite Booker winners.
  7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Definitely not one of my favourite Booker winners. Though I admired the technical virtuosity and the brilliance of the imagination, I struggled to finish the book – and also, I seem to remember, struggled to write a review.
  8. Possession by A S Byatt. These reviews do seem to be getting more coherent (at last)
  9. The Sea by John Banville  My review from 2013 may not have done full justice to this book but at least it’s no longer embarrassing to read after all these years.
  10. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. And so we reach July 2013 and a novel that was a re-read.

It’s been interesting to look back at these blog posts and to see the progress I made in just over a year of writing reviews. When I decided to begin blogging I had no concerns about my ability to write: I had after all trained as a journalist and had worked for years in a communications role. But it didn’t take long for me to appreciate that writing reviews of books is an art that requires a completely different skill set.

There is still a long, long way to go before I reach the point where I find it easier to write these reviews and am more satisfied with the result. I wonder if I ever will reach that day or whether I’m too too much of a perfectionist to ever be satisfied….

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. .


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

26 thoughts on “In review: Ten winners of the Booker Prize

  • An interesting top 10 Karen and I think your reframing it to suit your purpose is fine! I’ve read nos. 5-10 of the books.

    Oh, and I know what you mean about writing reviews. I’m looking forward to the day when I feel I’ve nailed it too. It’s a really stressful business. I’d say I’m happy with about one in 20 of those I write or perhaps even less. They niggle and niggle and niggle at me.

    • I came across a blog plug in today which said it would ‘take the pain out of writing reviews’. Well yes but only if you want to write to a formula . I’m afraid there are no short cuts with this kind of enterprise….

      • No I agree Brona! And who wants formulaic reviews? We probably all have it own little formulas but they are our own idiosyncratic ones not someone’s view of how they should be.

        • I suspect they would work for someone who doesn’t give much thought to their reviews 🙂

  • Oh, I shudder to think of what my first reviews would read like now! I read stuff from only a year ago and I cringe, I think it’s taking me much longer to improve my reviewing skills, and I still have a ways to go. I write reviews for a provincial magazine here in Alberta every once in a while, but I find it so challenging! I love the way blogging allows you to work on your writing one post a time…

    • The good news is that when we look back and then compare the early attempts with the current ones, we do see an improvement…

  • Judy Krueger

    You know, I like to read debut novels of both writers I love and new writers, because it is so fascinating to see how they develop. The same goes for bloggers. I reviewed for (small) pay for some web-based review outlets for a while. I have been an avid reader of “professional” book reviews for years and I also judge in my mind the reviewers, their skills, their quirks. I much prefer blogging to being a book reviewer who has to answer to an editor or pretend to shill books I don’t really love. That said, there are some bloggers who would do well to use a bit more polish in their posts. I think you do a good job and I enjoy your reviews immensely. That is why I am here!

    • I’m impressed you actually got payment – however small for reviews. What do you think makes for a good review Judy?

  • I’ve just had a look at my first ten posts, from 2015, and was surprised to find they mostly weren’t book reviews at all. The first author I reviewed was Eve Langley and the second, was the Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries – which I didn’t like. I don’t mind my early reviews but golly they’re short.

    • I had the same reaction – a lot of my early posts weren’t reviews but when they were, yep they were short…. I didn’t go a bundle on the Catton either.

  • I prefer not to revisit my early reviews – too embarrassing! But we’re always all learning, aren’t we?? 🙂

    • I think I’ll just park them at the back of my brain and pretend I never wrote them

  • Reinforcement for me of why I don’t write ‘reviews’ – I write about my responses to a book which is quite different (and very much easier). But those of you who do labour over review writing should know there are plenty of us who appreciate your efforts 🙂

    • I’m enjoying reading what you call your responses Sandra….

  • Ha, yes, I find my earliest reviews embarrassing too! I think my first was a book called Snatch by Rennie Airth which I reviewed on Amazon for the simple reason that I loved it and it had no reviews.

    • Another Rennie Airth fan, hurrah. He doesn’t get anything like the attention he deserves. Do you know there is a new one due later in the year?

      • Oh. no, I didn’t! Thanks – I shall look out for it. 🙂

    • the problem with the internet of course is that nothing can be permanently erased….

  • Oh yes, early days, I don’t need to revisit my first ten to know how lame they were!

      • Oh yes, and worse than that, dissing books because I was too ignorant to know what the author was on about.

  • This prompted me to look back on my first ten – Cormac Macarthy, Judy Blume, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ayelet Waldman, Jonathan Tropper and a couple by lesser-known Australian writers. Oddly, I’m reading something by Waldman at the moment and recently finished one by Eugenides!

    • I’ve never read even one by Eugenides – keep thinking of doing so but always find something else instead

      • I’m done with him… loved Virgin Suicides but not the others.


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