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Which Booker winner to read next? The experts have weighed in…

Earlier in the week I asked for help in working out which of the remaining 8 Booker titles from my list I should read next. And also was there a standout novel with which to end.

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on this. As I expected, opinions were divided, proof if ever any were needed that reading is a highly personal experience.

Some clear trends did emerge however.

GG.  the 1972 winner by J Berger got zero votes of confidence which is not surprising since it had been read by only one person: Susan at A Life in Books. Only one other person seemed to be aware of Berger’s work: Kelly at Kellysbookishramblings has G on her TBR shelves..


the conservationistAlso not universally recommended is the 1974 winner The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer. Lisa of ANZitlovers gave it a resounding vote of confidence calling it a brave book written by a brave woman who exposed the day to day reality of apartheid to the international stage” and Bookbii described it as an “excellent, if challenging book.” Countering this however is Alison, a blogger from South Africa who commented : Nadine Gordimer is a Sacred Icon in South African literature, but I’ve always found her books very heavy going.” 

how late it wasLocal connections certainly played a part in reactions to James Kelman’s 1994 winner How Late It Was, How Late “Don’t be put off Kelman,” said Weezelle at BooksandLeaves. My (Scottish) husband says that the criticism aimed at him comes from certain parts of the British Isles who were educated in certain institutions that may or may not have a particular elitist view of the world. Even for me as a non-Scot, I loved this book.” Col, a Glaswegian, loved the book but admitted to maybe a little bias since it is set in her home city and the language is thus very familiar.

Vernon_god_littleThe jury delivered  a minority verdict on Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. Some of you  really enjoyed it, calling variously “a riot’ and “bonkers” but others declared they hated it and Paul Fulcher thought it “lightweight and completely unworthy of the prize.”



What did you recommend?

Top of the poll was Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the 1993 winner by Roddy Doyle with nine paddy clarkevotes in favour and no negative reactions. Kim at Reading Matters described it as “one of my all time favourites. ” Many of you commented on  its readability – a description that would have pleased the judges of the 2011 prize but was dismissed by many of the literary great and the good asa sign of dumbing down of the prize. But what’s wrong with saying a book is readable? I’m more than confident that people reading this blog don’t mean these are “simple” books or superficial. Maybe we mean they are less challenging in form or subject but still require engagement of the brain.

Also described as an easy and very readable book is The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst which won the Booker Prize in 2004. It attracted 6 votes, a draw with The True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

seven killingsThe novel that had me most curious to hear your reactions was the most recent winner on my list: the 2015 winner  A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Although it attracted only 4 votes in its favour there were none against which surprised me because I’ve seen many other reviews commenting on how complex a novel this is structurally and how tough it can be to tune into the Jamaican dialect.  Yet one commenter said it was “An astonishingly good book, that stays with you long after you’ve read it. Yes, there is extreme violence, some of the dialect is hard to understand, and the politics can be confusing. It is not an easy read – but worth the effort.

Where does this take me?

I’m going to save The Line of Beauty and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha until the end since they were so highly recommended. It would be tempting to leave one of the least favourite novels to the end but I  really do not want to mark the completion of this project by reading something I don’t enjoy. I’m going to make The True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey by next choice given it has had a positive reaction. After that I’m going to let my mood dictate what I choose, trying to space out the more challenging reads where I can.

Thanks for all your help.


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

21 thoughts on “Which Booker winner to read next? The experts have weighed in…

  • Pingback: 10 (or more) books on the horizon | BookerTalk

  • I’ve read ‘G’ too. I think the reason that it isn’t well known is that it has dated badly. I wouldn’t recommend reading it now, unless you’re Booker a completest! At least it’s only short.

    • Indeed Jackie, I’m only going to read this for the sake of completing the project. Good to know its not a lengthy one….

  • Sorry I missed adding my recommendation! Am still catching up after my trip away. But I heartily approve of True history. I’ll be interested though to see what you make of it, that is, what you as a non-Aussie makes of it.

    • I started it last night – too early to judge yet but I thought the style was fresh and engaging

      • Well that’s a good start, Karen, because getting the style is one of the challenges.

  • Saving the best for last, I’m not sure I’d have the willpower :-). I hope they’ll make a perfect finish in completing your Booker challenge! Happy reading!

    • That part is easy – I don’t have copies of them yet so can’t get tempted

  • I already can’t remember which one I wanted you to read (the Gordimer perhaps) but whatever it was, I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of Ned Kelly since it sounds intriguing. Good plan to leave a couple of the ‘good’ ones to the end – give you something to anticipate if some of the others are heavy going…

  • Thanks for the link. I’m surprised Paddy Clarke was viewed as dumbed down given it’s full of dialogue with no punctuation marks!

  • I think it’s idiotic when “readability” is used as a derogatory term. Obscurity is not a requirement of literary worth! I do hope you enjoy your last books and end your project on a high note.

  • Good luck, I liked Paddy Clarke, Line of Beauty and Vernon God Little but I wasn’t fond of The History of the Kelly Gang. I have given up my Booker reading (with something like 9 to go) because the last two or three winners haven’t appealed neither did the James Kelman, but I still want to read that Gordimer.

    • It’s a shame you got so close to the finish line but didn’t feel you wanted to read what remained

  • You’re correct to save Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha and The Line of Beauty to the end – they’re both beautifully written. I agree with the Vernon God Little descriptions – I did not enjoy it at all. I don’t know whether it or The Finkler Question annoyed me more, probably VGL.

    • Well now I’m nervous that I could be heading for a third DNF if VGL was as annoying as Mr Finkler

      • Haahaa – well the good part is that I feel like because of how it was written it was a VERY quick read.

  • inthemistandrain

    Wise decisions!

  • Well, I don’t know about ‘experts’. Actually, I have read other books by John Berger and I do like him. Just not familiar with that one. So perhaps a half-vote?

    • take the credit when it comes is my motto – it might not come again….


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