The names familiar to me from the longlist were the ones that made it to the shortlist of six. But I haven’t read any of these books:

  • Nina Bawden: The Birds on the Trees
  • J.G. Farrell: Troubles
  • Shirley Hazzard: The Bay of Noon
  • Patrick White: The Vivisector
  • Mary Renault: Fire from Heaven
  • Muriel Spark: The Driver’s Seat

When the Best of the Booker shortlist was announced I raced to read the ones I hadn’t yet read. I’d like to do the same this year, but I have so many other things to read right now — we’ll see!

It doesn’t appear that Bawden’s The Birds on the Trees is in print here in the U.S. The other five are, however, and, as it happens, they are still in print by some of my favorite publishers: New Directions, NYRB Classics, and Penguin Classics, Picador, and Vintage. I’m a bit wary of the Renault because I read and didn’t like in the least The Last of the Wine. To me it was like reading a bad translation. In its defense, it was required reading in a classical Greek class (professor’s attempt to show how the subject has been approached in more contemporary times); and of course every other book, play or poem we read was better.

Good luck if you join in the fun! If you have a favorite in this list, you can also join in the public vote. The vote closes on April 23, and the winner will be announced on May 19.

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By | 2016-06-08T18:43:51+00:00 March 25th, 2010|Categories: News|6 Comments


  1. kimbofo March 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I’m surprised to see I’ve read three of these: The Driver’s Seat, The Birds in the Trees, and The Vivisector. In my opinion, The Vivisector, one of *the* most challenging (but entertaining) books I’ve ever read should win hands down.

  2. Trevor March 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I wanted to pick up The Vivisector today, kimbofo. I went to the bookstore with my 40% off coupon plus $5 credit (yes, it was Borders) and pulled the book off the shelf. Unfortunately, I got a call at that point and the line was incredibly incredibly long (lunchtime). So I put the book back thinking I’d return later in the day when the line was shorter. I went back a few hours later and the line was gone — but so was the book! I ended up getting nothing. So I’m still 0-6 with the Lost Booker, though New Directions has kindly posted a copy of The Driver’s Seat.

    As far as should win hands down — I have never heard much mention of Hazzard’s novel. She gets so much attention for Transit of Venus and The Great Fire, but people who read those books might assume her novel here is the best without reading the others. For that reason I assume she or Spark will win because it is a popular pole. I’m not sure many people will take the time to get into White — though I certainly hope to.

  3. kimbofo March 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Shame about not getting your copy of the Vivisector! I bought mine from Abebooks years ago for about 2 pence! It was half falling apart and by the time I’d read it it was in two or three pieces — the spine broke! I keep meaning to update it with a pristine shop-fresh copy but never see it anywhere.

    I think you’re right: Murial Spark will win it. It’s a wonderful book and incredibly well plotted and written in such bare prose that not one word is wasted. But… but… I love White’s book because it’s so ambitious and so massive in scope and concept… peopled with such extraordinary characters. I still think about them, actually, and I read the book several years ago now. I think that’s always a sign you’ve read something special.

  4. Lee Monks March 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I agree – Muriel Spark will win. I can’t see any other result, really. And not having read many of the others I shouldn’t really comment – but I hope The Vivisector wins.

  5. Trevor March 27, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    I just got The Vivisector, but I think it will be a while before I get it read. It’s long! And apparently quite dense. But it looks great!

  6. Trevor April 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    This just in from the Man Booker forum: we commenters complained about the short deadline for readers and the administrators of the prize listened. The new deadline for voting is Friday, April 30. It’s only a week longer, but I think it’s much more reasonable.

    I just started Troubles, and it’s definitely worthy so far.

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