It’s arguably the most anticipated literary award every year, and the 2017 Man Booker Longlist is an offering of spellbinding, resonant, and mesmeric fiction – transporting readers through time, location, and space with the most declarative voices of our literary generation.
With Lincoln in the Bardo, the proliferate, highly acclaimed and experimental short fiction satirist, George Saunders, is now one of the most eminent working writers, both for his power to entertain readers and offer glimpses into the peculiarities of human existence. A worthy contender, indeed. (And you can check out our recent podcasts with George Saunders and fellow longlistee Colson Whitehead here.)
Arundhati Roy is back with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a book thirteen years in the making. It was long between drinks, but her second book rivals the miraculous beauty of The God of Small Things.
Postmodernist extraordinaire, Paul Auster’s latest 4321 is a book that will no doubt have writers hugging themselves with envy for decades to come.
4321 by Paul Auster: On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives.
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry: Twice Booker-shortlisted author Sebastian Barry returns with a sensational new novel set in mid-19th Century America, an intensely poignant story of two men and the lives they are dealt.
The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on.So when the perfect family – mother, father and their little boy, Paul – move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcomes, that she finally has a place to belong. But something isn’t right. Drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be?
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and he makes her smile. A few days later they go for dinner, and over time they share many more meals. They try not to notice the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack: Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. Solar Bones is the story of one such visit. Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one afternoon at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and then brought him home again.
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor: There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley: This year’s most enigmatic selection. Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Sally Rooney meets Sarah Perry, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. A great debut.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy: A richly moving new novel – the first since the author’s Booker-Prize winning, internationally celebrated debut, The God of Small Things, went on to become a beloved best seller and enduring classic. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness transports us across a subcontinent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety- in search of meaning, and of love.
Lincoln in the Bairdo by George Saunders: The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War. (To listen to our podcast with George Saunders click here)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles ‘ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.
Autumn by Ali Smith: Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. It is the first installment of her Seasonal quartet—four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are)—and it casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history making.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith: Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and true identity, how they shape us and how we can survive them. Moving from north-west London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent, wrenching, thrilling tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (Check out our podcast with Colson Whitehead here)