The Lives of Others

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Here Come the Americans: The 2014 Booker Prize Longlist

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The Booker Prize has long been, arguably, the book prize with the most buzz, the one award that carries with it a raft of commentary and gossip. There has always been something provincial about the Booker; the award is closely watched by book lovers globally, but these readers may also roll their eyes a bit at the betting lines and fevered U.K. newspaper commentary that it comes with. That changes this year — we’ll see how much — as books from the U.S. are eligible for the first time. Previously, entries were limited to titles from the U.K. and Commonwealth countries (India, Australia and so on). Books published between October 2013 and September 2014 are eligible.

U.S. book prizes have never generated the same degree of interest in the U.S. that the Booker does in the U.K, and the Booker folks clearly saw an opportunity there. The motivation behind the wider Booker field seems to be to try to build the brand, as they say, and create a first truly global, annual book prize, a plan met with some consternation by those who appreciated that Prize’s ability to focus the book world’s attention on U.K. writers. The U.S. and U.K. book industries run on parallel tracks that also have plenty of crossover. Novels become hits on both sides of the Atlantic, but readers and the publishing establishments in each country also have distinct tastes (and not just in book cover design).

The experiment begins today, with Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt, and Richard Powers representing the first crop of Americans to be featured on a Booker Prize longlist. While the list has some global diversity, it is male-dominated, with only three women among the 13 authors on the longlist. The biggest surprise might be the appearance of Paul Kingsnorth, whose longlisted novel The Wake was released by a crowd-funded publisher, Unbound.

All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with bonus links where available):

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (excerpt, Ferris’s Year in Reading 2009)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Khaled Hosseini on Karen Joy Fowler)
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (our review)
J by Howard Jacobson
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (at Unbound)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Exclusive: David Mitchell’s Twitter Story “The Right Sort” Collected)
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
Us by David Nicholls
The Dog by Joseph O’Neill (O’Neill’s 2008 Year in Reading)
Orfeo by Richard Powers (our review)
How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith)
History of Rain by Niall Williams

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