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Which 'Bookers' have you read?


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Here is a list if all the past Booker Prize winners.

 

Which of them have you read?

Did you think they were a) worth reading and B) worthy prizewinners? If not, why not?

Do you remember thinking that a different book from that year's short list ought to have won? Which one? Why?

 

Have you read other books by the prize-winning authors, and have they lived up to your expectations? Maybe you thought they were better than the one that won their author the prize?

 

The Booker Prize Winners

The Booker Prize, judged in England, is awarded to the best novel written in English by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, Eire, Pakistan, or South Africa, and has been awarded since 1969.

 

YR TITLE AUTHOR

1969 Something To Answer For - P.H. Newby

1970 The Elected Member - Bernice Rubens

1971 In a Free State - V. S. Naipaul

1972 G - John Berger

1973 The Siege of Krishnapur - J. G. Farrell

1974 Holiday - Stanley Middleton

1974 The Conservationist - Nadine Gordimer

1975 Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

1976 Saville David Storey

1977 Staying On - Paul Scott

1978 The Sea The Sea - Iris Murdoch

1979 Offshore - Penelope Fitzgerald

1980 Rites of Passage - William Golding

1981 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

1982 Schindler's Ark - Thomas Keneally

1983 Life and Times of Michael K - J. M. Coetzee

1984 Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner

1985 The Bone People - Keri Hulme

1986 The Old Devils - Kingsley Amis

1987 Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively

1988 Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

1989 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

1990 Possession - A. S. Byatt

1991 The Famished Road - Ben Okri

1992 The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

1992 Sacred Hunger - Barry Unsworth

1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

1994 How Late It Was, How Late - James Kelman

1995 The Ghost Road - Pat Barker

1996 Last Orders - Graham Swift

1997 The God of Small Things - Arundati Roy

1998 Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

2000 The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

2001 True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

2002 The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

2003 Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

2004 The Line Of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst

edit:

2005 The Sea - John Banville

2006 The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai

 

Or are there any titles/authors on this list that you have never heard of?

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I have read...

 

1973 The Siege of Krishnapur - J. G. Farrell

1978 The Sea, The Sea (sic) - Iris Murdoch

1982 Schindler's Ark - Thomas Keneally

1984 Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner

1986 The Old Devils - Kingsley Amis

1987 Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively

1988 Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

1989 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

1990 Possession - A. S. Byatt

(good little run there)

1992 The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

1996 Last Orders - Graham Swift

1998 Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

 

I have started but failed to finish...

1980 Rites of Passage - William Golding

1981 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

1997 The God of Small Things - Arundati Roy

2003 Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

 

No time to analyse what I thought of all of them, but...a lot of them didn't seem to be worthy of the hype, and left me feeling underwhelmed. Often, the book chosen didn't seem to be the author's strongest work. Amsterdam I thought was insubstantial and not one of McEwan's best. Graham Swift's Waterland knocks Last Orders into a cocked hat. Penelope Lively has written better novels than Moon Tiger, and I loved Doyle's Barrytown trilogy but did not love Paddy Clarke. And what can I say about the old devil, Kingsley Amis? Late Amis was repetitive, misogynist and misanthropic, and not a patch on his early work.

 

I think - and I'm not the first to think this - that the award is sometimes given for previous works which weren't fully appreciated at the time.

 

My Booker of Bookers would probably go to The Sea, The Sea, although I did read it when I was young and impressionable. Or Schindler's Ark.

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I have read precisely none of them, but admit to having heard of 6.

 

I consider myself to be Mr Average when it comes to reading, but would have expected that your average man would have read at least some of these! What does this say about me or the Bookers? I suspect that is says more about the Bookers than it does about me, now I come to think of it!

 

It also got me thinking about something that I have never considered before - how important the title of a book can be, and how judemental I am of titles when it comes to deciding what to read. Most of the titles in that list were enough to put me off (which, I admit, is daft), but I wonder how many of you actually find the titles attractive?

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I have only read...

 

1991 The Famished Road - Ben Okri

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

2002 The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

 

All of which I think deserved the prize.

 

I plan to read...

 

1989 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

1981 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

1990 Possession - A. S. Byatt

1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

 

I started but didn't finish...

 

2003 Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

 

However I'm thinking of giving it another go because there has to be something behind those rave reviews... hasn't there?

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I would agree with Bill, as I've posted elsewhere, that Amsterdam is far from McEwan's best. It has some interesting ideas at its heart but they are never properly explored or developed. It felt to me as though McEwan was simply bored of it and rattled on to the end as quickly as he could. Ironically, Atonement made it to the shortlist the following year and that is unquestionably the greatest of all his books, but he was never likely to win it two years running. A sort of ironic inversion of Bill's theory of recognising work long after it was written!

 

I think Moon Tiger is superb - an extremely clever and engaging novel that explored a great many ideas. The central character of Claudia probably isn't everybody's cup of tea, but I think it's testament to Lively's skill that we are not alienated by her caustic nature and instead are drawn into its causes. The concept of merging her History of the World with her own personal history I thought worked very well.

 

I was blown away by The God of Small Things and I'm surprised you couldn't finish it, Bill. Obviously it runs over the same ground for much of its journey, but in a way that deepens our understanding and engagement quite profoundly and movingly. I found Roy's written style dazzlingly original and extraordinarily compelling. I would thoroughly recommend it.

 

There are better Goldings than Rites of Passage and I am sure that was awarded as late recognition of his achievements. That said, though, it is still an excellent read and spoiled only for me by Golding's return to the unfinished voyage some years later to turn it into a trilogy, which was never the plan at the outset. Close Quarters and Fire Down Below aren't a patch on the original and were really only an attempt to become commercial again after he'd become a little too esoteric for general tastes. I started a Golding thread a while ago if you're interested.

 

The Remains of the Day is simply superb - the most skilful writing - and the creation of Stevens, revealed so intimately and poignantly through his subtle first person narrative is writing at its best.

 

There are still a lot of these I haven't read and quite clearly the award does suffer from 'agendas', which is a shame but probably inevitable given the nature of the literary world. I'm not sure what it says about you, MFJ, that you haven't read any. If you are a heavy genre reader then it's to be expected, but maybe a little surprising if you read widely.

 

The title aspect never struck me before! I guess you have a point; they're not awfully prepossessing, are they? A few must raise some curiosity, though: Moon Tiger, The God of Small Things, The Blind Assassin - you'd at least pick those up to see what they were about. The Elected Member, The Conservationist and Saville? No, they'd languish on the shelf.

 

Do you think you suffer from subconscious ABS, MFJ? (Anti-Booker Syndrome). Have you read other work by the nominated authors but just find yourself being steered away from their Booker novels without quite knowing why?

 

I wouldn't worry. ABS is surprisingly common and rarely fatal.

;)

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And normally to be found in cars!

 

For McEwan, I was thinking of Enduring Love, which preceded Amsterdam, although I agree Atonement is his best novel (and appeared in my Top 10 a while back).

 

Failing to finish was more about me than the author, as I remember. I realised the other week that in the last year, I have failed to finish more books than I have completed. I'd explain why, but I'd only break off halfway through and go and do something else that requires less concentration.

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I have read:

 

1998 Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

 

but have heard of most "modern" winners, due no doubt to the increased hype by the publishers of their short (or even long) listed novels.

 

In my innocence I really used to think the "best" books made it to the shortlist and the best one won. Now that I am older, wiser and infinitely more cynical I realise that, like Oscars, the awards don't always work like that.

 

Now I look who's on the judging panel, and I read Private Eye, and now a Booker winner has to try extra harder to get my TBR pile.

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David - I don't think it's ABS, as I haven't read books by any of the winning authors. I don't think I'm a heavy genre reader (and certainly, since BGO arrived, I have tried a lot of books from genres that I wouldn't previously have tried), although I do like a spot of sci-fi and fantasy. Predominantly, I read to be entertained, not educated, and I think I probably steer away from books that I think are going to educate me. This, I think, is something that has its roots in my childhood, when my Dad would often encourage me to read books that would teach me something useful. I'm not put off my size, having tackled a number of 3,000+ page sagas, and am about to embark on J N Stroyar's "Children's War" as soon as I've seen Keith Moon off. I rarely start a book and fail to finish it.

 

I cannot, therefore, think of any reason why I have managed to avoid every single Booker winner, and promise that I will add at least one to my TBR pile shortly! My choice will probably one recommended by Tess, whose Top 10 books list seemed on similar lines to mine.

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MFJ, the one I'd recommend from Tess's list would be Disgrace. Also, I agree with other that Atonement is the best Ian McEwan, and certainly beter than Amsterdam (though even that's worth a read).

 

I'd certainly give one Booker a try. Like you, I'm here to prompt me to read other genres that normally I wouldn't touch. I've even read some Isaac Asimov :)

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I've read

 

Midnight's children

 

Hotel du Lac

 

Line of Beauty

 

Life of Pi

 

The Blind Assassin

 

and possibly Moon Tiger will have to check my shelves

Having read other comments on the site Possession is one I intend to read. Of those I have read I enjoyed Blind Assassin the most.

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I've read

 

1978 The Sea - Iris Murdoch

1984 Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner

1987 Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively

1989 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

1990 Possession - A. S. Byatt

1991 The Famished Road - Ben Okri

1992 The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

1996 Last Orders - Graham Swift

1997 The God of Small Things - Arundati Roy

1998 Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

2001 True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

2002 The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

2003 Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

2004 The Line Of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst

 

which surprises me! I have to confess that most of them I read because they were winners and I wouldn't put any of them in my top 20 list. I did enjoy 'Possession' but confess to having skipped the poetry that was in it (*blushes in shame*). I read 'The Sea, The Sea' last year, my first attempt at an Iris Murdoch book and was very pleased not only finish it, but also enjoy it!

 

The Life of Pi and Vernon God Little were both very over-rated, I thought. And Hollinghurst veered a bit too much into the gay porn genre for me. It made me wonder how many great-aunt's got the generic 'Booker Winner' Christmas present and a bit of a shock!

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The first Booker prizewinner I ever read was 'Midnights Children'. After years of reading 'genre' books it was the first 'modern novel' I had read, and the first book I'd ever had to 'work' at. I found it a totally satisfying experience, and it transformed my taste in books.

Since then I have read:

 

Schindlers Ark, again a book that made a deep impression on me, and one I would heartily recommend

 

Hotel du Lac which, according to my reading diary, I enjoyed, but can no longer recall

 

The Bone People, another which made a great impression on me, but it was a controversial winner, causing outrage at what was perceived as condoning physical abuse of a child.

 

Moon Tiger, another one which I thought was good at the time but can no longer remember

 

The Remains of The Day Just beautifully written, the characters are so well drawn that you ache for them.

 

The English Patient A complicated plot that needed a lot of concentration, but worth the effort.. I don't know how they managed to make a film of it.

 

Last OrdersQuite good, better than I expected. Reminded me of 'The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis, but less 'Bloke-ish'

 

The God Of Small Things This one was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, tragic, poetic,and funny.

 

The True History of The Kelly Gang Firstly, the criticism levelled at this book about the lack of punctuation wasn't really justified, as it did not interfere with the readers understanding. The story was very interesting, but the level of anti-English feeling among the Irish Catholic transportees in Australia was very disconcerting

 

The Life of Pi a bit of a curates egg, this one. Much of it I really enjoyed, but there was a huge chunk I could not swallow, however hard I tried to suspend my disbelief.

 

That's it so far!

There are Booker authors whose non-Booker works I've read, so I may be back with comments about them later.

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This sort of listing challenges the memory a bit, going back a few years for some of these - I really should start a reading diary, but I love lists, so I thought I'd join in!

 

2004 - The line of Beauty, I read a few chapters of this at a friends house and didn't actually feel compelled to go out and buy it to finish reading it or even ask to borrow it, can't explain why, not my sort of thing I suppose. I preferred Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and The Master by Colm Toibin from last years list.

 

2003 - DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little - I thought this was interesting but try as I might I didn't enjoy it. I really struggled to like anything about the characters. I preferred Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller from that year (interested to hear they are currently filming it with Judy Dench in one of the leads and Cate Blanchett in the other, fab!!)

 

2002 - Yann Martel, Life of Pi, I enjoyed this, loved the prose and the unfolding story but still didn't see the religious allegories until someone pointed it out. So must have missed the point somewhat.

 

2000 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin. I really like Atwoods writing and I felt that this was definately a better winner than her most recently nominated Oxy and Crake. It was a great story but I preferred both Ishiguro's When we were orphans from this year as well as loving English Passengers by Matthew Kneale which I thought was really well written, funny and tragic with a bit of history thrown in too.

 

1997 - Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. This was beautiful but I did feel it was hard to connect to the lead character because she seemed so disconnected from her own life and what was happening to her.

 

1995 - Pat Barker, The Ghost Road. I love the whole Regenration trilogy of Barker's. They all brought the first world war to life for me in a poetic and moving way.

 

1992 - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient - Absolutely loved it! I agree megustaleer once you've read it you admire how they managed to make a film, they knew which bits to focus on to bring the story to the screen, but the book has so much more.

 

1990 - A S Byatt, Possession. I loved this too, I remember sitting down and reading it in a few days, finally surfacing and walking round with the characters in my head for ages afterwards.

 

1989 - Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day. This is just my fav of all Ishiguro's books. So much so I've read it a few times now and it just gets better every time, I see more and feel more for the main character Stevens each time - as I get older, reflecting back on life and memories change and its why I think Ishiguro's books last so well.

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The ones I've read were:

Possession - really love that book, and have posted quite a long gush about it in another thread! Or in several threads!

Life of Pi - the only one I read because it won the prize and got so much hype, which I don't think it lives up to, but it sets it self up for that in a way with the tag line 'this book will make you believe in god' which is quite a big ask!

The English Patient - loved it, but it was so painful I don't think I could rewatch it and have never been able to bring myself to watch the film.

The Sea, the Sea - didn't finish it, have liked lots of other Iris Murdoch novels but this one was so samey the whole way through, I got to not caring what happened to the characters.

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I have read:

 

Schindlers Ark - Very Good.

Hotel du Lac - Dull.

Oscar & Lucinda - Entertaining.

Remains of the Day - Beautiful writing.

Possession - Terrific, my favorite.

The Ghost Road - Good.

Amsterdam - Couldnt touch Atonment with a bargepole.

The Blind Assasin - Good, but not her best.

Life of Pi - Just did'nt get it.

 

Overall I would not use the Booker to judge the best books of the year any more. There are to many ommissions and the winners dont always seem to be for the right reasons.

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I have only read...

 

1991 The Famished Road - Ben Okri

1999 Disgrace - J. M. Coetzee

2002 The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

 

 

SNAP!

 

However, I can't agree with Tess and say I enjoyed them all. I can see why they are good books, but they are not really my taste. As has been said above they tend to be very depressing. I have now made a decision that if a book comes in with a Booker sticker on it, I will not take it home to read.

 

I did enjoy Brick Lane however, and that was on the Booker shortlist maybe I just support the underdogs!

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My impulse buy, whilst shopping in Tesco this weekend, was Life of Pi. It's now on the TBR pile, but when I got home I opened it at a couple of pages, and was slightly worried to note that the words that caught my eye were "Catholic" and (on another page) "Islam." I hope I'm not going to be preached at!

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Now that I've seen the full list of prozewinners, I've read fewer of them than I thought, only:

 

Rites of Passage - William Golding - the only Goldings I've read are this and "Lord of the Flies". Judging by previous posts, it looks like I've covered the best of Golding.

 

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - genius, no other word for it.

 

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan - read, as others have said "Enduring Love" or "Atonement" or my own personal favourite "The Cement Garden" would have been worthier winners from the McEwan canon.

 

Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre - over-rated rubbish

 

In my TBR mountain are:

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

The Bone People - Keri Hulme

Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

 

Curious about:

The Old Devils - Kingsley Amis - I like the K Amis I've read but haven't got this.

Last Orders - Graham Swift because I liked the film of "Waterland" with Jeremy Irons but have never read any of his books.

The God of Small Things - Arundati Roy

 

I don't know much about most of the '70s winners and so don't have an opinion on them.

 

In general, I've found the Whitbread panels have more often picked books that I have liked too, but at the end of the day it has to be borne in mind these are chosen on the basis of the opinions of a small number of meeja insiders, either critics, journalists or publishers. Are they the best qualified people to choose the year's supposed best Commonwealth novel? If it was left to the punters, would JK Rowling win every year?

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Not if I had any say in the matter!

 

But the point is, you wouldn't! If the awarding of prizes were left to the public, it would come down to the lowest common denominator. The choice of the chavs would win every time. Thank goodness we have a system where those who know best can dictate to the masses what is good for them. ;)

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I've read more short-listed books than actual winners , though few of either.

 

Of the winners I've listened to Possession and enjoyed it, though I wasn't overwhelmed by it and I've read a few chapters of Life of Pi but so disliked it that I had to put it down. In my opinion, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which was shortlisted the year Life of Pi won is a much, much better novel.

 

I've also enjoyed Oryx and Crake, A Handmaid's Tale, Notes on a Scandal and Brick Lane, all short-listed. And I have several still in my TBR pile.

 

Don't think I can form much of an opinion about the prize really as I haven't read enough of the winners to know if they are worthy.

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