Anna Burns Wins Man Booker Prize for “Milkman”

I must admit that I was surprised this past Tuesday when I learned that Anna Burns won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her novel “Milkman.” Before you select it as a choice for your book clubs, please be advised that it is a difficult read. I struggled mightily getting into the flow of the narrative, finally becoming deeply engaged in the story about halfway through the book.
“Milkman” is the tale of a young woman embroiled in the intrigues of Belfast in The Troubles of the 1970s. It is told compellingly in her voice in a Kafkaesque narrative. Obscurity of place and name is intentional. The setting of the book, unmentioned Belfast, is a dark and confining place, a city of intrigue and perpetual conflict, where neutrality in the struggle is not an option for its residents.
Anna Burns becomes the first author from Northern Ireland to win the coveted Booker. “Milkman” will not be available in the States until December 11th.

Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist Announced

The Man Booker prize longlist was announced this evening. There are some very familiar literary names on the list, including Arundhati Roy, the Indian author win won the prize twenty years ago for The God of Small Things, as well two writers who have been shortlisted twice, the British novelist Ali Smith and the Irish author Sebastian Barry. Four Americans are longlisted, four British, two British-Pakistani, two Irish and one Indian. There are seven men and six women. Here is the 2017 longlist:
4321 by Paul Auster
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Autumn by Ali Smith
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Man Booker Literary Prize

man booker prize 2015 blurb

My class on the Man Booker Literary Prize will be starting January 10 at the Oakton Community College Emeritus program. There will be six sessions on Tuesday mornings. The final session is February 14. Here is the reading list:

In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Registration begins on November 14.You can register online at or by phone at 847-982-9888

2016 Man Booker Prize Longlist To Be Announced Tomorrow

man booker prize 2015 blurb

It’s that time of year again! The 2016 Man Booker Prize longlist will be announced tomorrow at noon London time. Those of you who have been reading this blog over the last five years know that I post frequently on the competition, including reviews of the selections. Those among you who wager, please take note that I have picked the last two winners, so following my blog might be advantageous to you. I’ll be up tomorrow morning at 6:00 am Chicago time posting the longlist.

Man Booker 2015 Longlist to be announced Wednesday, July 29

man booker prize 2015 blurb

Those of you who have been following my blog during the last four years know how keenly interested I am in the Man Booker Prize competition. The announcement of the 2015 longlist is July 29th, sometime between noon and 5 pm, London Time. Then on September 25th, the elimination process results in the selection of the shortlist. Finally the winner is declared on October 13th. Not all longlisted books will be available on July 29th. Obviously more in the UK than in the States. If not already, consider becoming a follower of my blog, and get Man Booker updates and book reviews throughout the selection process.


“J,” Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel, is being described as both Orwellian and dystopian. The book’s narrative is brilliantly and chillingly depicted sometime in the not too distant future. Jacobson, through hints and allusions, reveals the occurrence of a second Holocaust suffered by the Jewish people. Inconceivable, you say?
Yet, it is a fact that in today’s Europe, Jews have become marginalized once again. Jews are leaving France in droves due to the overt anti-Semitism there. Throughout Europe, observant Jews wearing conspicuous yarmulkes are often targets of verbal, and occasionally, physical abuse.
Jacobson utilizes a heavy dose of Swiftian and Rabelaisian satirical wit to make the inconceivable conceivable. Reading “J” requires patience. You will find yourself rereading passages as it is easy to miss cogent allusions as the story unfolds.
Once you finish the book, there is a sudden realization that you have read a masterpiece, subtly terrifying as it may be.

Man Booker 2013 Shortlist Announced

The Man Booker Prize 2013 Shortlist has just been announced. It includes:

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo   

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton 

Harvest  by Jim Crace

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

I have read four of the six, as the Lahiri and Catton books are not out in the States yet. I was frankly surprised that Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic  wasn’t shortlisted and Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary was, since the latter is essentially a novella, and it has been customary not to include such short works of fiction as finalists. I think that the Ozeki novel is the sleeper in the group, and let’s see if she or Catton will be the next Canadian to claim the Prize since Yann Martel for Life of Pi in 2002. And will NoViolet Bulawayo be the first Black woman to win a Man Booker?       


Man Booker Prize 2013 Longlist Possibilities

I always enjoy the air of anticipation this time of year, less than a month away from the announcement of the 2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist in London on July 23. Obtaining the over one hundred eligible books is a challenge for the American reader, as many books are not as yet distributed in the States. However, because of several wonderful bookstores that I frequent and a great local public library, I have managed to find and read five of the eligible books so far. All five are excellent novels, and I recommend all of them to you.

English writer Jim Crace’s Harvest is set in an unnamed English village in the unspecified distant past. It’s a spellbinding mood piece, layered with plot twists and a fascinating array of characters that reflect the class and caste structure of the time. Crace’s pacing of the narrative is first rate, as is his lyrical writing style.

Colm Toibin, the outstanding Irish writer, has produced a short literary gem in The Testament of Mary. He chronicles the thoughts of Mary of Nazareth in her last years residing in Ephesus. Mary is depicted as a mournful mother, confused about the meaning and purpose of her son’s life and the turbulent aftermath of his death. Her ambiguity about the deity of Jesus is contrasted with the unquestioning faith of some of the Apostles who care for her.

The Pakistani author, Mohsin Hamid, dazzles us with his satiric novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.  The setting is an unspecified South Asian nation, but it is crystal clear that Hamid is dissecting the social and commercial fabric of his homeland, especially life in the big cities of Lahore and Karachi. The novel is fraught with ironies and contradictions, much like Pakistan itself. Although I found some superfluous bathos in the storyline and characters, in its entirety the book manages to be an entertaining and satisfying read.

Ghana Must Go is the debut novel of Taiye Selasi, a woman born in London, raised in the States, to parents born in Nigeria and Ghana. It’s a splendid depiction of both the psychological and emotional struggles of an immigrant family in the United States, as well as life in post-colonial West Africa. Selasi’s characters are nuanced, and she unrelentingly probes their minds until suppressed emotions and feelings are revealed.

Finally, Irish author Colum McCann covers 165 years of Irish and American history in his amazing novel TransAtlantic. The construct of the book is brilliant. He weaves actual historic events such as Frederick Douglass’ fundraising trip to Ireland at the onset of the Great Famine and former Senator George Mitchell brokering the Good Friday Accords into the fabric of his incredible fictionalized narrative. It is historical fiction at its best, allowing us to see how  troubled pasts can eventually lead to hopeful futures.                           

Booker Prize Winner Film Adaptations

The Life of Pi, nominated this year for an Oscar for Best Film, is the ninth Booker Prize winning novel to have been adapted to the cinema. Two adaptations have captured the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. These are The English Patient and Schindler’s List (the latter being based on Thomas Keneally’s novel, Schindler’s Ark). The other cinematic adaptations are Remains of the Day, Disgrace, Heat and Dust, Possession, Last Orders and Oscar and Lucinda.   





My Course on the Man Booker Prize

I will be teaching a course on the Man Booker Prize beginning Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at the Oakton Community College Emeritus program in Skokie. I decided on teaching this class at Oakton when twenty-two people attended my presentation on the “Man Booker Prize” in Retrospect” at The Book Stall in Winnetka last April. Interest in the Man Booker grows each year in the States, especially with the popularity of the last two winners, Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies and Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.

The Man Booker Prize is the top literary achievement in the English-speaking world outside of the United States. Novels by authors who are citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British commonwealth) and Ireland are selected annually for juried competition. Publishers submit novels to a Man Booker review committee each year and the judges are charged with reading about 120 novels in a six to seven time span. A long list of 12 novels is announced in July, and a shortlist of six is announced in September. The winning novel is selected in October at a ceremony in London that is growing so grand that is now getting to be known, in some circles, as the Literary Academy Awards.

I have read all the winners since competition began in 1969. And with just a handful of exceptions, I enjoyed these novels immensely. In reading many of these novels you get a literary perspective of the rise and fall of the British Empire, from the perspectives of both the colonizer and colonized.

If you have interest in taking my course, which meets from 10:00 am until 11:30 am on six consecutive Tuesdays, starting this coming January 22, please call the Oakton Emeritus office at 847-635-1414 or visit the Emeritus website at