Sunday 30 July 2017

The Long & Short of it.

I haven't been paying as much attention as usual to the various literary awards and their shortlists this year. Partly because I have wanted to read more classics this year and partly because I've dropped the ball in quite a few areas lately!

However, I have just started reading one of the shortlisted Miles Franklin books and yesterday's Man Booker Longlist announcement actually featured some books that I had read, or part read.

There were quite a few books on both lists that I had never heard of before - which is quite an accomplishment considering I work in an Indy bookshop with literary leanings.

Miles Franklin shortlist:

  • An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire (Pac Macmillan Australia)
I attempted to read this book when it was shortlisted for the Stella Prize earlier in the year, but I simply cannot do stories about the murder of a young girl in a country town, as discussed here.

I'm currently swirling along in a glorious puddle of Ada words and ideas.

  • Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill (Black Inc)

  • Waiting by Philip Salom (Puncher & Wattmann)

  • Extinctions by Josephine Wilson (UWA Publishing)

Man Booker Longlist:

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
My first DNF (did not finish) on this year's list.
It started with such promise, but sadly fell away, until I lost interest completely.

  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)

  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
One of my favourite reads of 2017 so far and one of my rare 5 star review on Goodreads.

  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)

  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)

  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)

  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Perhaps this was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time,
but it also ended up as a big, fat DNF for me.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)

  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)

  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

If I were to read only one more book from each of the above lists, which one should it be?

I'm leaning towards Swing Time for the Booker and Extinctions for the Miles. but I could be persuaded in another direction.


  1. Hi Brona, dropping the ball is perfectly fine this year I think (mine dropped quite some time ago.. so we're in good company). I haven't read any books from either list. I've bought two from the Miles Franklin, but rather stupidly lent out both before I've read them- An Isolated Incident and Their Brilliant Careers. I accidentally found Ryan O'Neill's book of short stories at Newcastle Writers Festival a few months ago- I loved it, he's clever and funny. It started me off on a real short story buying (but sadly no further reading) jag.

    As for the Man Booker, I do want to read a few of those too, I'd heard of most of them. At the moment I'm most keen on Lincoln in the Bardo, which is surprising because when it came out I dismissed it as Not For Me. But I've heard quite a bit about it on booktube now and am really quite intrigued to give it a go, and also even though it is quite thick because of the multiple voices it's rather spaced out and I think would be a quickish read. I've just started hearing about Elmet because of it's appearance on the list and it sounds good too (although I think may be a bit like An Isolated Incident for you). I'd like to give Exit West a go, just not sure when.

    1. Actually I got a bit muddled up, I meant Reservoir 13 not Elmet..

    2. I just read a review of Reservoir 13 on the blog "The Mooskie and the Gripes." I tend to trust their reviews. This one clarifies the scope of the book - it seems it's more about the village than it is about the crime.

    3. Thanks Louise and MG - Reservoir 13 has moved to the top of my wishlist. After reading Jon's review, it sounds exactly like my kind of thing.

    4. I have considered the O'Neill book Louise, but I'm already one fictionalised account of an Australian writer, so I thought I should diversify a little, even though it probably appeals the most of the 5.

  2. I haven't read any of the Miles Franklin shortlist titles. All but the first one sound good to me.
    As for the Man Booker, I've read three: 4321, Lincoln in the Bardo, and Swing Time.
    I liked 4321, but I can understand why other people don't care for it. I liked all that reliving of I period I also lived through (although I was in California, not New York, during those times).

    I found Lincoln in the Bardo absolutely dreadful, gimmicky, and trivial. I read the Kindle edition from my local library. It was a quick read as the format leaves a lot of white space.

    I loved Swing Time. It had a wonderful flow to it.

    1. I have a copy of Swing Time, so I will most likely get to it soon, but Reservoir 13 sounds fabulous too.

      I've heard that the audio book of Bardo is pretty darn good - something like 80 character voices including Saunders himself and people like Susan Sarandon and David Sedaris from memory.

      Thanks for the link to a new to me blog as well - I'm looking forward to exploring more of Jon's reviews.

    2. I'm going to take a chance on audio book of Bardo....
      I heard very good things about it. Sometimes voices just bring the book alive...more so than just reading it. I need a GREAT suggestion for non-ficton Aussie read....for November, Brona!

    3. One of the books I'm hoping to get to at some point is Dragon and Kangaroo: Australia and China’s Shared History from the Goldfields to the Present Day by Robert Macklin.

      Songlines and Fault Lines: Epic Walks of the Red Centre by Glenn Morrison also appeals to me.

      You could also check out The Vandemonian War by Nick Brodie (or 1787, his earlier book).

      I know you enjoyed an earlier bird book - so you might like this one too - The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future by Jim Robbins. Or this one - An Uncertain Future: Australian Birdlife in Danger by Geoffrey Maslen.

      Hope this helps Nancy :-)

    4. Thanks so much....I will look at these books tonight!

  3. The audio of Bardo is meant to be good although the book sounds awful. Husband struggled his way through 4321 but found it less than expected, as I think I've shared before. I'm most likely to read the Shamsie out of all of these. Dropping the ball is fine, by the way!

  4. Dragon and Kangaroo (Robert Macklin) and
    Songlines and Fault Lines (Glenn Morrison)appeal to me. I know nothing about China/Australia history!
    Now I need an Australian SF book. Perhaps you or somebody in the bookstore would know of a good writer?
    PS ...still have to read Thea Astley books this year. Have you read K. Lamb' bio of Astley yet? Don't...delay!


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