Man Booker winner: must-read item?

I’m a fan of the Booker Prize. It tends toward my personal taste and I have read and enjoyed many past winners, not to mention runners up. With my TBR pile teetering as high as it is I’m unlikely to rush out and buy this year’s winner, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen, but I will probably read it eventually.

All of which has got me thinking about book-buying habits. Would you buy a book just because it won a particular prize – e.g. the Orange Prize or the Hugo Award? Do you tend to buy books on a whim, maybe based on a combination of title, cover and synopsis? Do you only ever follow recommendations or stick to known authors? Do you possibly even read book reviews with the actual purpose of finding out about books you might like?

Personally I do all of the above, hence my TBR. None of them is guaranteed to lead to a great reading experience. My favourite books have come from all sorts of sources but I have also had recommendations, prizewinners and promising bookshop finds turn out to be a bit rubbish. Or at least, not to my taste.

6 thoughts on “Man Booker winner: must-read item?

  1. Marie October 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I have always tended to stick to buying and reading ‘the classics’ (Fitzgerald, Woolf, the Brontes, Faulkner etc.) or other well known authors.

    I suppose I’m reluctant to buy into the hype surrounding a lot of the contemporary stuff (Steig Larsson, for example), and assume other books are either trashy or won’t live up to my expectations.

    I think its an after-effect of studying literature at uni, BUT, in the past couple of weeks I’ve decided to change my ways 🙂 I’m currently embracing Jodi Picoult, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in the post. (I will most probably order the Mon Booker winner too!)

  2. lloyd October 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Yo, Kate.
    Im a bit like you with the Man Booker…it often seems to throw up some titles that appeal to me, be it from the short or long lists (“Vernon God Little”, “Mr.Pip”, “Me, Cheeta”) I think its good for literature as it gives a platform and creates a bit of a buzz around (non blockbuster) books for a few weeks (kind of like the Mercury does for music). Its about the only literary event (other than a Harry Potter launch or the nobel prize) that makes news outside of literary press. While I wouldnt buy a book BECAUSE it won an award there are a couple of awards that I notice crop up on a few books Ive read and may sway me to read them; for example the “pen/faulkner” and “oh, henry” both have a history of excellent books (and short stories in the case of the “oh, henry”).
    On the subject of this years booker; I recently read the Damon Galgut book “In a strange room” which was fantastic. I know you have a large TBR list but this is made up of 3 short stories and is well worth a look if you’d like to borrow it.

    Marie (and Kate!): Its strange to hear that an after-effect of studying literature at Uni is only reading certain types of books. People who Ive met that have studied literature to a higher level seem to share that view and be less receptive to genres/writers outside their sphere. I would have thought that a deeper appreciation of writing/literature would allow you to see merit in various types of books? Or is it that you feel very attatched to a certain genre?

  3. Nose in a book October 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Marie I have read and either not enjoyed or struggled with enough classics to conclude that longevity is not the same as ticking my boxes. One of the great joys of reading, for me, is discovering new authors and telling others about them.

    Having studied English lit may be why I still have a liberal sprinkling of classics in my reading pile, but overall I think my taste is pretty eclectic and, as you say Lloyd, if anything studying literature made me see value in genres I hadn’t tried before. For instance, I did a course in children’s lit, which ranged from E Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet to The Snowman to Harry Potter. I went to the first few seminars and lectures wondering what on earth could be said about such titles and was stunned to discover they could yield as much (and as literary) discussion as Henry James or Wordsworth.

    Lloyd I like your response about prizes. That’s a good way of looking at it.

  4. mari (bookwormwithaview) October 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I also enjoy the Booker and usually read them. I’m passing on this years winner for the time being too.

    Have you read Brooklyn: a novel? Shortlisted last year. I really enjoyed this book. My parents grew up in Brooklyn which probably helped, the stories were similar.

    Have a great week!

  5. Nose in a book October 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Mari No, I’ve not read Brooklyn but then I’ve only ever travelled through there on my way to Manhattan so maybe it wouldn’t hit me the same way! I definitely plan to read all the winners eventually.

  6. matthew self December 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    belated comment, accept my apologies, I was distracted the first time i read this entry. I just wanted to add that I tried to read Redback by jacobson and had to give up after a hundred pages. It was supposedly a comic novel, but it seemed to lack any wit, which seems something of a drawback in a comic literary work.

    Also, doesn’t the booker annoy you as well as stoke interest? I’ve read a lot of booker winners, and yet i find myself annoyed at the trends they seem to follow. For instance, books about former colonial teritories are very popular with the judges, Rushdie being the classic example. The choice of Jacobson seems to follow their latest trend, selecting authors that have been around and ‘unerrated’ for a good while. Last year it was Hilary Mantel, and this year, take a bow Howard your time has come! He’ll have to stop moaning about missing out now, and I think, secretly he preferred doing that that giving acceptance speaches.

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