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Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist


Bookcase looking a little bare? These are the new nominated novels worth reading

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

What makes a good book? That’s the impossible question put to the judging panel of the Man Booker Prize, a prestigious event that whittles down the year’s most impressive UK-published novels to a single, must-read winner.

The shortlisted authors receive £2,500, alongside a specially-bound edition of their book – though even this seems like small potatoes next to the winner’s £50,000 prize and the international fanfare that follows. (Last year’s winner, Paul Beatty, has since sold 360,000 copies worldwide).

But, what’s more important is the purpose of these novels: astonishing works that cross borders, generations, and lives, hoping to expand our minds and enrich our understanding of the world. One will be crowned victorious on October 17; until then, here are the literary gladiators laying their claim to greatness.

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

4 3 2 1, Paul Auster

The longest novel on offer, 4 3 2 1 is a staggering 866 pages that took the American author over three years, working six and a half days a week, to complete. (We assume it’s quicker to read). It follows four branching versions of one man’s life through the turbulent political upheaval of mid-20th century America. You’d be hard pressed to find a novel that delves deeper into the human psyche or the way it interacts with the world.

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund

One of three debut novels on the shortlist, taking a quiet look at the oft-neglected terrain of America’s Midwest, the power plays of an isolated family, and the intense personal struggles of a teenager struggling to belong. No doubt one for quiet reflection.

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

A prolific journalist and New York Times writer, Hamid last appeared on the shortlist back in 2007 with the international bestseller The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This time it’s a subtle, emotional take on the refugee crisis, straining to present a human story at the center of today’s catastrophic geopolitical conflicts.

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

Elmet, Fiona Mozley

A lyrical tale of one family clinging to their small fragment of rural England, told with a devastating innocence from the eyes of a young child. Another debut work – from a PhD student and medieval historian, no less – with the power and confidence of a author far beyond her years.

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is what happens when a highly-accomplished short-story writer takes on one of America’s most momentous historical figures. It charts a single night as Abraham Lincoln grieves over the passing of his 11-year-old son in a graveyard full of lingering spirits. With odds of 2/1 it’s the bookies’ favourite to win, but who can tell in matters of art?

Why you should be reading this year’s Man Booker shortlist

Autumn, Ali Smith

Smith proved herself a deft wordsmith with 2014’s How to be Both (also shortlisted), and here applies her fluid prose to Britain’s generational divides, infused with a nostalgia for lost times and the melancholy of Keats. As the first part in a planned quartet of novels (no clues for guessing the titles), now may be the time to jump on the wagon.

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