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The 'also-rans'
December 30, 2014

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a very merry one last week! This Christmas, I settled down with my quilt, hot coffee and plum cake to look over the nominations for the recently awarded Booker. Before I go further, let me explain why I wanted to learn more about the Booker shortlist in the first place.

In the last two issues of the Book Lovers Club News, we took a closer look at the lucky authors who received an impetus to their art through the money and international acclaim of the Nobel and the Booker prizes. But what about those who came close to the prize yet did not win it? The ‘also-rans’? It would be reasonable to believe that the Booker shortlists would be quite as good in literary quality as the winner itself. Therefore, this issue is to gloss over those promising entries that were shortlisted for the prestigious award.

The Booker Shortlists for 2014

The Booker Prize We learnt in our last issue that the Booker Prize nominations were opened to American literature this year. The first American author to be shortlisted for the Booker was Joshua Ferris for his novel To Rise Again At A Decent Hour. The novel has been described by The Telegraph as a ‘genuinely funny, theological thriller’.

Neel Mukherjee, a Rhodes Scholar and an alumnus of Oxford University, was another hot favorite this year with his The Lives of Others. The novel is set in 1960-s Bengal in the tumultuous backdrop of the communist movement. The novel received rave reviews by A S Byatt in an article published by The Guardian.

Howard Jacobson, an ex-student of F.R.Leavis, was yet another runner up to the Booker. His novel J is a black satire on the collective callousness of a future-retro British society. Jacobson has won the Booker earlier in 2010 for his comic novel The Finkler Question.

Ali Smith’s How To Be Both is quite an intriguing novel shortlisted for the Booker this year. The novel has two intertwined stories and depending on which version you buy, you may be presented with either story first. The novel is about the various dualities of existence and identity.

Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves is the last of the Booker shortlists. The plot revolves around a psychologist’s botched up experimentation with his own family and its repercussions. Fowler is also the author of the novel that later got reproduced as a famous film, The Jane Austen Book Club.

Book Review Circle gossip

As is the case with all big awards, there has always been a lot of controversy surrounding the selection process for the Bookers. In the gossip section today, I wanted to narrate the story of contending authors William Golding(Rites of Passage) and Anthony Burgess(Earthly Powers) for the 1980 Booker. Burgess demanded that he would attend the ceremony only if he was assured of winning the prize. The Booker board did not comply and eventually awarded the prize to William Golding. This literary battle between the two authors received high media publicity at the time.

Book Review Circle suggested read:

Well, I have given you a brief description of all the 5 Booker shortlists above. Go, take your pick.

Test your Literary Quotient

See if you know answers to the following:
  1. Name the Russian version of the Booker Prize that was created in 1992
  2. Name the author among the Booker shortlists who is known for his Jewish humour
  3. Name the openly homosexual author whose Booker shortlist has homosexual overtones as well


  1. Booker-Open Russia Literary Prize
  2. Howard Jacobson
  3. Ali Smith
Do write in to me at with your comments, updates and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ok. I will leave you to munch on that.

Happy reading till we meet again.


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