Next week sees the announcement of the winner of this years Man Booker Prize, an annual award that is presented to authors who have produced an outstanding and original piece of fiction. Contenders have already been narrowed down to a shortlist of six authors, who are each hoping to walk away with the prestigious prize and pave the way for international success.
Never before has there been such a diverse range of authors and works of fiction competing against each other. When the competition first started, in 1969, entries were restricted to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Nowadays it has been opened up to include works that have been written by any nationality, so long as they are still written in English and published in the UK and this is reflected more so than ever in this years shortlist. Amongst the six there is the Booker’s first Jamaican shortlistee, two British writers (one of whom has Indian ancestry), two American writers (one of whom has Hawaiian ancestry) and one Nigerian writer. The outcome is that not only is there a vast range of ethnicity, but the style of writing and voices we hear in the text is incredibly varied and all the more difficult to judge.
Here is our look at the six shortlisted authors and their works, to help you make your mind up about who you think should win this year’s Man Booker Prize:
This is Jamaican writer Marlon James’s third novel and it uses the backdrop of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 to tell the story of Jamaica over the course of three decades. The New York Times described this novel “Like a Tarantino remake of The Harder They Come but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner”, which we think is an absolutely perfect synopsis. The story is told through the eyes of the characters who are involved and affected by the saga; the seven teenage gunmen, the CIA, reggae groupies and the big ghetto bosses in charge of the assassination plot, and as such there is a fantastic spectrum of voices, which combine to create gripping storytelling at it’s best.
Anne Tyler has a history of writing about family, in fact she has written 20 novels on the theme, and ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ shows Tyler off for what she does best. Telling the story of the Whitshanks family over the course of four generations, Tyler creates a jovial novel that is both heartwarming and nostalgic. Like a spool of thread, the story unwinds more and more as we are told about certain events, key moments and hidden secrets. Occasionally becoming knotted and tangled but ultimately entwined in a closeness that can only come from family, the leading character of Abby Whitshank tells the story of how she and Red first fell in love. Each story is told from the porch of the house; a place of comfort and familiarity, which offers the readers and characters a chance to reflect about the passing of time and indeed life itself.
This is Nigerian author, Chigozie Obioma’s first novel and is almost certainly guaranteed to set him up as one of the best new talents to emerge from modern African literature. He manages to combine both an older, traditional storytelling style, with its similarities to the story of Cain and Abel, with a more contemporary moral and purpose that readers of today can relate to. The story is told from the viewpoint of nine-year-old Benjamin, who is the youngest of the four Agwu brothers. Set in 1990s Nigeria, we follow the brothers as they take advantage of the extra freedom they have now that their strict father is working further from home. Deciding to skip school one day, the brothers instead choose to go fishing, where they meet a madman who predicts that the older bother will be killed by one of the others. Will they live up to the prophecy or try to change the course of fate?
The Daily Telegraph describes McCarthy as “A Kafka for the Google Age” and where we saw glimpses of it in McCarthy’s last novel, ‘C’, here we see it with much greater ambition. The novel’s main protagonist is a man called U, a corporate anthropologist who runs his own high class consultancy and for whom his staff have come to rely on to translate and control the world around them. He is an unlikely authority figure, who wastes his time looking at the finer details and events in an endless bid to discover the true meaning of life and to share his findings in the greatest book known to man.
Sanjeev Sahota’s second novel explores the lives of Indian migrants working in Sheffield. Focusing specifically on three men; Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, the secretive Avtar and the unpredictable Randeep, we discover their rich histories and the very different paths that led them to England. The narrative switches between India and England and takes us back through time to childhood, then back again to present day in a completely effortless manner that helps create a simply unforgettable novel.
This 700 page epic novel has already made a star of American author, Hanya Yanagihara with The New Yorker informing us the novel will “drive you mad, consume you, and take over your life”. Critics have raved about the disturbing, yet beautiful prose on a subject that is still considered by many to be very much taboo. Set in New York, ‘A Little Life’ reveals the damning effects that childhood abuse has had on Jude, a recent graduate who throughout the novel becomes more and more broken and haunted by his traumatic past. An immensely powerful and heart-wrenching novel about the power of love and friendships that culminates in acts of self discovery, human endurance and the definition of life itself. This is the critics favourite to win the coveted prize, but regardless of whether Yanagihara wins or not, she has made a name for herself purely through the depth and emotion of her classic, contemporary fiction.
So, there you have all six, and what a choice there is!
The 2015 winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London’s Guildhall and the presentation will be broadcast by the BBC. Each shortlisted author will receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book, with the winner receiving a further £50,000 along with international recognition.
Let us know who you think should win the prize and why not send us your thoughts about each book.
Little Free Libraries is a registered charity that promotes reading and art whilst bringing the community together by increasing access to books for readers of all ages and abilities.
But what on earth does that have to do with the TARDIS I hear you cry?
Well, Little Free Libraries have come up with the brilliant and rather charming notion of installing free libraries across the UK. However, these libraries are not your average brick and glass buildings and as the name would suggest, yes they are indeed ‘little’. Ranging from beach huts and bird houses to hollowed out tree stumps and robots, these miniature model village-esque structures contain books that can be borrowed under the proviso that you leave a book in return.
The idea was the brainchild of Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, who in 2009 built a replica schoolhouse, filled it with books and attached it to a post in his front garden along with a sign that said ‘FREE BOOKS.’ Over time the library became so popular that Bol went on to build more and now there are thousands of Little Free Libraries across the world.
Anyone can build a Little Free Library, in fact you only have to Google it or search for it on Pinterest and there are literally thousands of ideas and inspiration to help get you started on a design. There are no rules as to what your library must look like, but it is recommended that you register it with littlefreelibrary.org in order for it to appear on their world map and records.
Last Sunday morning saw the arrival of the Little TARDIS Library to Brighton beach, where it is set to embark on a tour around the UK. As we all know, the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside and the same can be said of the Little TARDIS Library, which is jam-packed full of hundreds of classic books just waiting to be shared with children and young adults. Some of the books hidden away in the TARDIS include:
Nick Cheshire, Director of the charity explains, “The TARDIS is an iconic and engaging piece of sci-fi art that will help engage children and young people to pick up a book and inspire a love of reading.” The Little TARDIS Library is currently time-warping it’s way through the schools and libraries of London, however future locations are announced on Twitter (@TARDIS_LFL) where you can also discover more about its time traveling adventures and see photos of some of the people that have experienced the shared joy of reading.
We’d love to hear from you, whether it’s your own experiences of the Little TARDIS Library or to hear your ideas for your own Little Free Library, so contact us or leave us a comment and we’ll make a page of all the best photos 🙂
Losing yourself in a good book is one of life’s simple pleasures, but did you know that reading is also hugely beneficial to your health? Neurological researchers at Emory University have spent years studying how reading affects the brain and have identified that there is a direct link between reading a good book and enhanced cognitive ability. The study, entitled ‘Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain’, has been published in the journal Brain Connectivity and has shown that the way the brain responds to reading is very similar to the way muscle memory is formed in sport.
I’m sure you don’t really need much of an excuse to find more time to read, but take a look at these incredible reasons as to why reading is so good for your health:
According to a study from the University of Sussex, reading for just 6 minutes a day can reduce stress levels by up to 68%! Cognitive neuropsychologist, Dr David Lewis, explain, “By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” When a person reads their heart rate slows down and the whole body relaxes. Researchers have concluded that this is more effective at lowering stress levels than other so-called relaxing activities, such as listening to music or sitting down with a cup of tea. Neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield says, “Reading novels and magazines can offer a brief respite from the stresses and strains of everyday life. Traditionally reading was associated with learning, and in this way it is good for personal development, but reading a magazine or even cook book can be very comforting. Our brains are constantly bombarded with information, more so now than ever before, and reading is a good way to wind down.”
If you imagine your brain as a muscle, then the act of reading is exercise for the brain. The more you read, the more the ‘brain muscle’ is being worked and will therefore get stronger and more efficient. Around 820,000 people suffer from some form of dementia in the UK and research has shown that people who do mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, have a slower rate of memory decline than those who don’t do these types of activity. Not only does reading improve memory, but it also helps the brain remain active in old age.
It’s not just children that benefit from learning new words and expanding their vocabulary when they read. There are approximately 1,025,109.8 words in the English language and this figure is continually increasing, so you can pretty much guarantee that there are words out there that you have never heard of, let alone know the meaning of. According to a Scholastic report it is estimated that we learn 5 to 15 % of all the words we know through reading, so even as adults there is something to be gained from regular reading.
Refines brain function
Reading fiction enables a reader to escape from the mundanity of day-to-day life and step into the shoes of an infinite number of different characters and scenarios. This escapism causes significant changes within the left temporal cortex of the brain, which is the part of the brain associated with language comprehension and a phenomenon known as “embodied cognition“. This brain function allows neurons to trick us into thinking we are doing something we are not, ergo – escapism. Professor Gregory S. Berns, explains “The act of reading puts the reader in the body of the protagonist and at a minimum, we can say that reading stories – especially those with strong narrative arcs – reconfigures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains”. The changes that reading makes to brain function is likely to expand a person’s emotional intelligence and encourages empathy, which they can then take back with them to the real world. Tied in with this empathy is the belief that reading can motivate and encourage people to achieve life goals, for example reading about someone who has worked hard, overcome obstacles and achieved their lifelong ambition may inspire the reader to do the same in their own life. In fact, the closer you identify with a character, whether you recognise similar traits or simply that you like them, the more likely you are to empathise with them and therefore are more likely to take action yourself. Evidence of this is shown in a recent survey by the National Year of Reading where 60% of those surveyed claimed reading had influenced them to change something in their lives with one in five respondents claiming to have taken action as a reaction to reading an influential article or book. Professor Louis Appleby CBE, National Director for Mental Health in England, agrees that reading is beneficial to our health and says, “When we hear that reading is ‘good for us’ we may assume that this is because it helps our education. But reading anything for pleasure can also raise your spirits, offer an escape from everyday stresses, help you empathise with other people AND keep the brain ticking over. Reaching for a favourite magazine or book could well be good for your health.”
Do you remember the first time you read Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’? I certainly do. I was 8, it was Easter and along with the mountain of chocolate eggs, I had been given a copy of the book. I remember racing upstairs, sitting under my red desk, cracking open a Smarties egg and peeling open the first page to what I can now describe as one of my all time favourite books. Being transported into a magical world where the imagination can run wild and anything is possible is something every child should be entitled to.
With a recent report showing that 72% of parents believe that bedtime reading is one of the most important bonding experiences they can have with their child and with 75 per cent putting on voices to bring their children’s favourite characters to life, it is obvious that enjoying books from a young age is not only a key part of a childs development, but also for their adult relationship with reading. With World Book Day coming up in a couple of weeks (Thursday 5th March), Sainsbury’s conducted a poll of 2000 readers, which found that six in ten parents choose to read stories to their children that their own parents once read to them. Nostalgia, it seems, is a powerful thing. Having recently read most of the Roald Dahl books to my six year old son, having already gone through the Enid Blyton ‘Faraway Tree’ and ‘Wishing Chair’ collection, I can empathise with this nostalgia wholeheartedly. Seeing the delight on his face as Mrs Twit served up worm spaghetti to Mr Twit is something that will stay with me forever and I can only hope that he will share the same joy with his own children when he is older.
In honour of World Book day, a list has been compiled of the top 50 books every child should read by the age of 16:
I have printed this list off for my son, who has very proudly ticked off 11 titles already and he’s only 6! We are now making it our mission to slowly work through them. I also worked out how many of these children’s classics I had read – 34. Not bad, but that leaves 16 to still read, which I intend to do, either by myself or with my son. Take a look through yourself and see how many you have read from the list. I would also really enjoy hearing about the books you enjoyed as a child – can you remember Bobby Brewster, Flossie Teacake or Superfudge? Send us your own top 20 childrens books and we will share them on here for others to enjoy.
Happy New Year!
I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by, it truly seems like only yesterday when I was posting about my New Years resolutions for 2014. But I am happy and admittedly somewhat surprised, that I have indeed managed to keep my resolution of reading and reviewing a book a month. I hope that in reading my reviews, it has not only prompted you to read the books but to also help motivate you to find more time to read. We all lead such busy lives, but we must always remember to find time for ourselves and reading is a perfect way to fill this time. Reading shouldn’t be considered an indulgence, it is an absolute necessity. It provides us with escapism from the norm, a chance to dream and imagine ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and along with everything else it keeps the old grey matter ticking along by educating us in the process.
So, having proved to myself that I can keep a resolution, I have decided not to make any this year. Instead, I want to think about starting up a book club on this site. Offering a forum for others to recommend their favourite books, in order to broaden our reading horizons. It’s all well and good me talking about the books I have enjoyed, but I am just one reader amongst many and I am keen to read other titles, some of which i may never have even heard of. So, I hereby officially invite YOU to join thegoodnovel book club.
There are simply loads of book clubs scattered around the country and I can guarantee that most will fit into one of two categories. Firstly, the group that take it completely seriously, with a very academic list of classic ‘must read’ novels combined with the hottest newly released titles and winners of the latest award. Don’t even think about attending a meeting without reading that month’s book. You must have a copy that includes pencil scribbled notes of reference, colour coded post-it notes pointing you to the important passages within the book and be prepared to have quotes to back up your arguments and if at all possible bring other sources of reference. This kind of approach is fine for some people but it’s not really my cup of tea. Which brings me nicely onto the second type of book club, and this is exactly the kind that I belong to with a group of my close friends. It would be wrong of me to say that it is merely an excuse for us all to meet up once a month. That is without doubt an overriding factor yes, but what is truly great about the book club which I belong to and indeed many other book clubs out there, boils down to the true, core purpose of a proper book club – to be exposed to books that you wouldn’t normal even think to look twice at.
We all have a genre that we prefer to read. I, myself like dystopian fiction, in fact it is what I chose to write my dissertation on when I was at university, but I am very aware that it is not a genre favoured by everybody. However, I am sure that it’s association with geeky science fiction, is enough to put some people off and if given a chance more people would actually find that they enjoy this type of book. I tend to always steer clear of crime and thrillers, not really sure why but they just don’t spark much excitement in me. Yet, I found Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code books absolutely unputdownable, proving you really can’t judge a book by it’s genre.
I’m not asking for you to join this book club, with a view to you following a set list of books that must be read month on month. No, what I do ask is for you to pass on your recommendations of books you have read and enjoyed so that you can pass that joy onto others. It would be great if we could all pass friendly comments about a book, maybe raising issues about a book that others may not have considered and sparking up lively debate about the characters and the themes explored within a book. I would also be interested in hearing some of your top ten lists. For example if you had to list your top ten classic novels what would they be? Or if you could only rescue 5 books from a burning library, what would they be? And what 5 books are you looking forward to Sharing with your children for the very first time?
I will of course be offering my own views and answers to these questions in the coming months and with each new article I invite you to add your own.
I will also be trying to keep abreast of any interesting news in the book world, eg new releases, publishing news and hot new authors to look out for.
Please do join in as without you this site will be far less interesting and ultimately I want us all to be reading as much new and varied things as possible to keep our love of reading thriving in a digital world where written pages are increasingly losing out to video games and cyber worlds.
Read on fellow bookworms, until we meet again…