Tag Archives: #ManBooker

Ten Books that sum up 2015

It’s been another big and eventful year in publishing, as the wide array of year-end “Best of” lists reminds us (Publishers Weekly magazine alone offers 15 different Top 10 lists!)  Here at Booko, we have enjoyed so many wonderful, varied, worthy, thought-provoking books that we can’t decide on ten “best” books.  Instead, we present to you 10 books that we feel represent the year that was 2015…

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman is probably the most highly anticipated book of 2015.  Billed as a recently-discovered companion to To Kill a Mockingbird – one of the best-loved and most respected novels in English – its mere existence seems astonishing and adds to its mystique.  As more details emerge ahead of publication, controversy grows – about the quality of the writing, the surprisingly racist attitudes within, and about whether it should have been published at all. Go Set a Watchman is now considered an earlier version of To Kill a Mockingbird rather than a sequel, offering fascinating glimpses of the development process for To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as Harper Lee’s emerging talent.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Perhaps it’s the ongoing popularity of minimalist home decor; or perhaps it’s the promise of orderliness and calm in an increasingly messed-up world – whatever the reason, Marie Kondo’s guide to tidying-up and decluttering really hit a nerve with readers worldwide.  What makes her philosophy so alluring is the idea that we should only keep items that “spark joy” – and that sparking joy is a criterion applicable to other aspects of our lives.




The Official A Game of Thrones Colouring Book by George R. R. Martin

Adult colouring books are arguably THE publishing phenomenon of 2015.  Since Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden brought adult colouring into the mainstream, the genre has evolved and diversified. There are now, coming full-circle, mindful colouring for children, and even a colouring parody.  This Game of Thrones Colouring Book exemplifies new wave colouring-in that entices customers with pop cultural themes, including Harry Potter and Star Wars.


The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

2015 was a bittersweet year for Sir Terry Pratchett’s fans – he died, too soon, in March this year; but he also left one last treat – a manuscript, now published as The Shepherd’s Crown.  This 41st and final book in the Discworld series follows young Tiffany Aching (first appearing in The Wee Free Men) when she has to step-up and take on the big responsibility of defending her homeland.  The Shepherd’s Crown is a gentle novel, with underlying themes of kindness and tolerance, and has been highly praised as a “magnificent sign-off”.




A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Marlon James became the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker Prize, when A Brief History of Seven Killings was the unexpected but apparently unanimous choice amongst the Booker’s judges.  A visceral and ambitious work, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional history about the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976, seen through the eyes of a large cast – gangsters, journalists, politicians, the CIA.  Marlon James’ win is a perfect example of the value of perseverance and self-belief, as he almost gave up writing after his first novel was rejected 78 times before eventual publication.




Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

Another beloved author that we lost this year was Oliver Sacks, the neurologist best known for his collections of case studies including Awakenings  and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.  Gratitude is a posthumous book that brings together four essays first published in the New York Times.  In these bittersweet but ultimately uplifting essays, Oliver Sacks reflects upon old age, gratitude, his enduring sense of wonder about the natural world, and his impending death.  A fitting commemoration of a life well lived.



The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott by Andrew P Street

In September, Australia gained worldwide notoriety as the “Coup capital of the democratic world”.  With five prime ministers in as many years (three ousted by their own parties), it’s a case of “with colleagues like these, who needs enemies”.  Andrew P Street has documented the litany of gaffes, goofs and questionable captain’s calls that characterised the leadership of Australia’s most recent ex-prime minister, Tony Abbott.  It is funny, irreverent, and even a tad insightful about this turbulent time in Australian politics.



Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward

Deliciously Ella is zeitgeist-y on many fronts – it originates from a highly popular blog, it focusses on clean eating (plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, no refined sugars), and it has recipes featuring “superfoods” such as kale, coconut oil and quinoa.  What makes Ella Woodward’s book approachable is her enthusiastic, chatty tone, the simplicity of her recipes (she could barely cook when she started her blog three years ago), and how her philosophy arises from her experience in using dietary changes to manage a rare illness.  See for yourself why this book made history as the fastest-selling debut cookbook of all time in the UK.



After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross

After Tomorrow is from 2013, but I have included it to illustrate the difficulties faced by Syrian refugees.  In After Tomorrow, award-winning author Gillian Cross weaves alternate history with dystopic themes into a frighteningly-real scenario.  Five major banks crash on “Armageddon Monday”, destroying the British economy.  Society quickly disintegrates, with food shortages and breakdown of law and order.  As teenage Matt’s family falls apart, his mother smuggles him, his brother and stepfather into France, where they are interned as refugees.  The fiction form of After Tomorrow encourages us to empathise with the plight of refugees by seeing their challenges through our eyes.



Trans by Juliet Jacques

Transgender awareness has been a hot topic of mainstream media this year, particularly surrounding Caitlyn Jenner’s coming-out as a trans woman.  Trans is one of several recent memoirs documenting the transgender experience.  It traces Juliet Jacques’ journey from her teenage and university years, to her social, medical and surgical transitions to become female in later adulthood.  Trans also offers cultural critique as Juliet Jacques considers her experience within the context of how the media portrays transgender narratives.  An honest, thoughtful and insightful book.

Man Booker Prize Longlist (Part 2)

Rounding out the last 7 titles of the Man Booker Prize Longlist are stories centred on family, loss, haunted histories and re-imagined futures.  Enjoy.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:illuminationsAndrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations

How much do we keep from the people we love? Why is the truth so often buried in secrets? Can we learn from the past or must we forget it? The Illuminations, Andrew O’Hagan’s fifth novel, is a beautiful, deeply charged story about love and memory, about modern war and the complications of fact. Standing one evening at the window of her house by the sea, Anne Quirk sees a rabbit disappearing in the snow. Nobody remembers her now, but this elderly woman was in her youth a pioneer of British documentary photography. Her beloved grandson, Luke, now a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers, is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, part of a convoy taking equipment to the electricity plant at Kajaki. Only when Luke returns home to Scotland does Anne’s secret story begin to emerge, along with his, and they set out for an old guest house in Blackpool where she once kept a room.



Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila

Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church – the only available shelter from the rain – and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and widower, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the days of suffering that preceded her newfound security.


Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter

A train stops at a railway station. A young woman jumps off. She has wild hair, sloppy clothes, and a distracted air. She looks Indian, yet she is somehow not. The sudden violence of what happens next leaves the other passengers gasping. The train terminates at Jarmuli, a temple town by the sea. Here, among pilgrims, priests and ashrams, three old women disembark only to encounter the girl once again. What is someone like her doing in this remote corner, which attracts only worshippers? Over the next five days, the old women live out their long-planned dream of a holiday together; their temple guide finds ecstasy in forbidden love; and the girl is joined by a photographer battling his own demons. The full force of the evil and violence beneath the serene surface of the town becomes evident when their lives overlap and collide. Unexpected connections are revealed between devotion and violence, friendship and fear, as Jarmuli is revealed as a place with a long, dark past that transforms all who encounter it. This is a stark and unflinching novel by a spellbinding storyteller, about religion, love, and violence in the modern world.

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways

The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the chaotic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call. Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, this generous, unforgettable novel is – as with Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance – a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed. In the absence of both memory and writing is music. In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphamy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread

‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.’ This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They’ve all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself. From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out our own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions of families – the essential nature of family life.

Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life

Moving to New York to pursue creative ambitions, four former classmates share decades marked by love, loss, addiction and haunting elements from a brutal childhood.

Man Booker Prize 2015 Longlist (Part 1)

The Man Booker prize is focused on promoting the best writing in fiction. In 2013 the rules for submission to the Man Booker Prize changed to allow any novel written in English to compete (previously only UK publishers could submit manuscripts). This year there are 13 novels in contention from countries as diverse as Jamaica, Nigeria, Ireland and India. 5 of the 13 novels on the longlist are from US authors and only 3 from the UK.

Here are 6 of the longlist finalists:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:familyBill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family

This book of dark secrets opens with a blaze. On the morning of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s house goes up in flames, destroying her entire family – her present, her past and her future. Fleeing from the carnage, stricken and alone, June finds herself in a motel room by the ocean, hundreds of miles from her Connecticut home, held captive by memories and the mistakes she has made with her only child, Lolly, and her partner, Luke.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:greenAnne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road

A darkly glinting novel set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them. The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.




https-::covers.booko.info:300:sevenkillingsMarlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James combines masterful storytelling with his unrivaled skill at characterization and his meticulous eye for detail to forge a novel of dazzling ambition and scope.






Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account

Inspired by a true story, tells how Moroccan slave Estebanico barely survives his expedition to become the New World’s first explorer of African descent, dealing with storms, disease, and hostile natives.





https-::covers.booko.info:300:satinTom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island

Meet U. — a talented and uneasy figure currently pimping his skills to an elite consultancy in contemporary London. His employers advise everyone from big businesses to governments, and, to this end, expect their ‘corporate anthropologist’ to help decode and manipulate the world around them — all the more so now that a giant, epoch-defining project is in the offing. Instead, U. spends his days procrastinating, meandering through endless buffer-zones of information and becoming obsessed by the images with which the world bombards him on a daily basis: oil spills, African traffic jams, roller-blade processions, zombie parades. Is there, U. wonders, a secret logic holding all these images together — a codex that, once cracked, will unlock the master-meaning of our age? Might it have something to do with South Pacific Cargo Cults, or the dead parachutists in the news? Perhaps; perhaps not. As U. oscillates between the visionary and the vague, brilliance and bullshit, Satin Island emerges, an impassioned and exquisite novel for our disjointed times.



Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen

In a small town in western Nigeria, four young brothers – the youngest is nine, the oldest fifteen – use their strict father’s absence from home to go fishing at a forbidden local river. They encounter a dangerous local madman who predicts that the oldest brother will be killed by another. This prophecy breaks their strong bond, and unleashes a tragic chain of events of almost mythic proportions. Passionate and bold, The Fishermen is a breathtakingly beautiful novel, firmly rooted in the best of African storytelling. With this powerful debut, Chigozie Obioma emerges as one of the most original new voices in world literature.