I’m one of those people who get excited over the Man Booker Prize. Almost every year, once the long list is announced, I head over the my local library to get as many of the nominated books as I can. Typically, there are a few not yet available in America, and there are a couple my library doesn’t have yet. So I check out two or three, reserve three or four more and head off the my local bookshop to buy one, just one, still in hardback.
Then I read.
This year I read five, loved three, and abandoned two. One I didn’t like. One didn’t make the short list which was announced before I could finish it.
Which is why the short list always wrecks my reading.
It’s always hard to finish reading a book when you know it’s not going to take home the big prize. Especially if it’s a difficult read in the first place, like Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones.
While I think Solar Bones is terrific writing, at least the forty or so pages I read were, it’s a tough book. A single novel length sentence is quite a feat, but I found it difficult to stay focused without end marks. I kept sort of going in and out of the action, like watching a movie when you’re on cold medication. When I was focused on the book, I found much to admire, but I kept losing focus.
So, since Solar Bones didn’t make the short list, it’s going back on my TBR shelf. Maybe I’ll give it another go in a few years.
Which is also what happens to the books I have on reserve at the library that didn’t make the short list.
This time around, two of the three I liked made the cut, which is actually better than average. Lincoln in the Bardo, one of my favorites for the year, by George Saunders and Ali Smith’s Autumn which I gave high praise to. I marked A History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund DNF, but the Booker judges liked it better than Sebastian Barry’s wonderful Days Without End which was my other favorite.
So I guess I’m rooting for Lincoln in the Bardo.
I’ve been a bit silent here the past couple of weeks but I haven’t stopped reading. I’ve got four books to review this week: Anton Chekov’s novella, My Life; Victor Lavalle’s The Ballad of Black Tom; Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck and one YA novel Mindblind by Jennifer Roy. I liked all four.
Later tonight, I’m off to Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s third published work as part of the Jane Austen Read All A-long which I am hosting. I’ll be honest, I’m approaching this one with a tiny sense of dread. I think most Janeites list Mansfield Park as their least favorite. I read it back in my undergraduate days which was such a long time ago now that all I recall from the experience is how difficult the book was.
Finally, some bookstore news.
Yesterday, C.J. and I visited Swan’s Fine Books in Walnut Creek, California before meeting up with my brother for a crepe lunch. Downtown Walnut Creek has become even more upscale over the years, upscale enough to support a high-end antiquarian bookstore like Swan’s Fine Books.
It’s a wonderful store. Cases and cases of terrific books, interesting titles in both literature and non-fiction. I think both C.J. and I will be making secret trips there between now and Dec. 24 to buy each other gifts. He doesn’t read my blog so I can tell you all that hell be getting the giant tome on ancient Egypt published in the 1850’s full of Victorian era drawings of Egyptian artifacts and ruins.
He’ll love it.
I made sure to point out the shelf of books about bookbinding. I learned not to be subtle when dropping hints about what you want for Christmas.