Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Laura's Complete Booker Retrospective

On Sunday, October 10, I finished reading Something to Answer For, and thereby achieved a long-term goal to read all winners of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. I'm pretty happy about that, and have reflected on this journey, most of which took place over the past three years.
I first discovered the Booker Prize about 10 years ago. As I mentioned in a blog post earlier this year,
I’d just moved from the US to the UK, and found myself in unfamiliar territory where contemporary literature was concerned. I’d been feeding myself a fairly steady diet of New York Times bestsellers and Oprah’s Book Club picks, both of which were in short supply in my new home. But it was Booker Prize season, and the media was giving the prize considerable coverage. “What’s all this then?” I asked myself. And my new “tbr pile” was born. I didn’t read every nominee — far from it — but I discovered many new authors including Margaret Atwood, Trezza Azzopardi, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Monica Ali, and ZoĆ« Heller.
When I became a blogger in 2007 and discovered reading challenges, I decided to turn my interest in the Booker Prize into a long-term project and invite others to join. The Complete Booker was born. At that point I'd only read 7 prize winners, but I've made steady progress over the past three years (for reviews, see my Complete List of Booker Winners Read). And while some of these books have been great, some have done nothing for me whatsoever !
I know Salman Rushdie's Midnights' Children was chosen as the Best of the Booker in 2008, but my picks for the "Best of Booker" are:
And then there are those at the bottom of the heap, the worst of which I just couldn't finish (marked DNF):
The remaining winners are fairly well-distributed across the ratings scale, with an average rating of 3.3 (just about average!)
Now don't go raining all over my parade by telling me I haven't really read all of the winners, since the 2010 Booker Prize winner was announced yesterday. Having achieved my goal, albeit only for the space of a few days, I feel compelled to maintain it. It feels better to say, "I've read all of the Booker Prize winners" than, "I've read all the Booker Prize winners except for ..." So I plan to read The Finkler Question next month, and will continue to read each year's winner. But I'd also like to take my Booker reading in some new directions. For one thing, there's a wealth of great literature on past shortlists. On the other hand, my relentless focus on past winners caused me to miss out on the annual "Bookerthon," a rush to read the longlist or shortlist before the prize announcement. On the other hand (what? three hands?), current nominees are often not available in the US, or they are expensive. What's a Booker fanatic to do? At this point I'm not sure, but I'm positive the Booker Prize will continue to play a major role in my reading.

Do you enjoy reading Booker Prize winners?
How do you feel about the 2010 winner, The Finkler Question?


  1. Congrats Laura! Very impressive achievement! As for The Finkler Question, I loved it! From your ratings of the other books, though, I'm not sure where you'll land. I don't think you'll enjoy it as much as I did. There! Hopefully my pessimism will lower your expectations and you'll be able to enjoy it even more!

  2. Thanks Trevor! I agree that our tastes in Booker winners differ, but then there are other books you've loved that I did, too (Your review of Revolutionary Road inspired me to read it, and I loved it). I share your interest in the theme of religion in contemporary society. So who knows? A copy is winding its way to me now I'll read it in November, and post my review as usual!

  3. I actually hadn't heard the news yet, so thanks for posting the Booker Prize! I absolutely love reading Booker winners, but will admit to not being able to read them back to back to back. I haven't done well on my prize winning reads lately, so your awesome list has me thinking I need to hop to!

  4. That's great, Becky. Hopefully you will find some great reads on the winners list.