I had been reading Bookers for years without even realizing it. One often picks up a book which is stamped with a golden circle and "Winner of the 19xx/20xx So-and-so prize". I hadn't really thought about it. A good book is a good book, with or without a stamp. My first Booker was probably Golding's Rites of Passage (1980) which I read sometime in the 80s (definitely time to read it again); then The God of Small Things (1997) around the time it was published; Heat and Dust (1975); Hotel Le Luc (1984), recommended and passed to me by my sister who has overflowing bookshelves with great treasures; and Life of Pi (2002) which I gave my eldest for a birthday gift quite a few years back.
I became aware of the Man Booker prize in the spring of 2010, about a year ago. My second son, who will be turning 16 next month, was deep into chemotherapy treatments – and I needed something good to read. He had been diagnosed with cancer late in October 2009 and after two initial chemo treatments, major surgery, more chemo and simultaneous radiation, he was reduced to a 90 pound weakling (43 kilos to be exact)– albeit with a radiant smile, his usual witty and delightful disposition and a soft, lustrous and truly beautiful bald head. It was a difficult time, but we managed. I really needed something good to read.
Lucky people have good book sources. Siblings (be they sisters with good taste, or professor of literature brother-in- laws) often have capacious bookshelves. I asked said brother-in-law to bring me something good to read, and he did. The Glass House by Simon Mawer and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee (both shortlisted in 2009). Thus started my romance with Bookers.
It is hard to feel accomplished when one spends about half of one's time in the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology ward. So I decided that I would accomplish something purely for me: I would read really good books, my own personal Booker challenge.