The 2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist!

The Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced early this morning, whittling down what has been widely considered to be a strong longlist. Over at The Mookse and the Gripes Goodreads group, the discussion has been lively and, for the most part, appreciative. However, several of the groups favorites — Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, and Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, for example — did not make the shortlist. To add insult to injury, a few of the ones that did make it were those least liked by that group. Ah well! That’s how these things go! I hope you’ll let us know your thoughts here or over at the group, where the discussion lives strong!

The winner will be announced on October 17.

The Amazon links below are affiliate links, so a small cut of your purchase comes back to and helps support The Mookse and the Gripes.

4 3 2 1
by Paul Auster

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Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on.

As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written, yet with a passion for realism and a great tenderness and fierce attachment to history and to life itself that readers have never seen from Auster before. 4 3 2 1 is a marvelous and unforgettably affecting tour de force.

History of Wolves
by Emily Fridlund

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Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Linda is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Linda as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.

And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Linda finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand. Over the course of a few days, Linda makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Linda confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do—for the people they love.

Winner of the McGinnis-Ritchie award for its first chapter, Emily Fridlund’s propulsive and gorgeously written History of Wolves introduces a new writer of enormous range and talent.

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

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See Paul’s review here.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

by Fiona Mozley

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Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders

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See Lee’s review here.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo
 is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

by Ali Smith

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See Paul’s review here.

Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That’s what it felt like for Keats in 1819. How about Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.

Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. It is the first installment of her Seasonal quartet—four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are)—and it casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history making.

Here’s where we’re living. Here’s time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, a story about aging and time and love and stories themselves.

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By | 2017-09-13T12:09:18+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Categories: News|3 Comments


  1. David September 13, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    When it comes to literary prizes, people too often focus too much on the question of who wins. In most cases (including the Booker) the decision about what book to give the award to comes down to the judgement of a very small group of people, in this case I believe it is five. You could probably set up ten different committees of five people that all would look just as qualified and they might come up with ten different winners and ten different longlists. It is worth remembering the value of prizes is the exposure they give so many books. I probably never would have heard of Solar Bones had it not been on the longlist. Just being considered for the prize was enough to get me to notice it and read it. Among the books on the shortlist, I read History of Wolves (excellent book) and plan to read 4 3 2 1 whether it wins or not. Just making the longlist made that happen.
    I have mentioned this before, but in Canada the Giller Prize culminates in a one-hour, nationally televised, network program where all of the books and authors are honoured. The show ends with the winner announced, but the evening is really all about a celebration of all of the books and of writing more generally. Prizes get people talking about good books. That’s always a good thing.

  2. Trevor Berrett September 13, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    I do wish we did more overall honoring, David. A new prize was announced today that can only have been meant to be utilized as a longlist/highlighting prize given the breadth of its field:

    The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

    “For the best eligible work of fiction, poetry or literary non-fiction, or work of fiction for children or young adults that has been written by a woman, translated into English by a female or male translator, and published by a UK or Irish publisher in the period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. The £1,000 prize will be divided between the writer and her translator(s).”

    I like this approach, though I wonder how it will work when it goes down to a shortlist and then a winner.

  3. David September 13, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Trevor, it sounds like that prize might be one of the many smaller prizes that don’t get a lot of attention and so don’t do a lot to drive exposure, whether it’s the longlist, shortlist, or winner. But it can’t hurt, so it’s a welcome addition to the book prize world. Somehow with the Giller they have managed to make the shortlist a big thing. There is good media coverage of the final five and the five authors tour together to promote the prize before it is awarded. Winning still makes a difference in exposure and recognition, but the shortlist is still a pretty big deal.
    The 2017 Giller longlist comes out next week on Monday the 18th. The shortlist comes out two weeks later.

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