I only started blogging about my predictions for literary award longlists relatively recently. Three of my Man Booker Prize predictions last year made it on to the longlist of 13 titles, and two of them also made the final six, which I thought was a pretty good success rate considering the vast number of eligible books.
This year’s longlist is due to be announced on Thursday 27th July and I have once again been thinking about predictions in terms of likely possibilities and my personal preferences. I have read some brilliant books over the past year which I believe very much deserve to be recognised but I think other titles may have a better chance of being longlisted. Some of the possibilities are books I haven’t read yet and as ever, I also have no knowledge of which books have actually been submitted for consideration.
The Nix by Nathan Hill and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney are my two stand-out debut novels so far this year but I think Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is more likely to appear on the longlist even though I personally didn’t love it. Given that the chorus of voices challenges traditional conceptions about the form, scope and structure of a novel, a place on the longlist would be a very bold choice indeed and it would reveal a lot about the tastes of the judges.
The Man Booker Prize often has some overlap with the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist and this year’s winner The Power by Naomi Alderman could be among those listed again. Other more experimental titles have recently gained recognition through literary awards and I think Solar Bones by Mike McCormack which won the Goldsmiths Prize last year or The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride which was shortlisted for the same award could be in with a chance too.
Recent novels by authors who have previously been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize include Autumn by Ali Smith and Swing Time by Zadie Smith and I would be pleased to see either of these on the longlist. However, I think Days Without End by Sebastian Barry is more likely to enjoy further success following its Costa Book of the Year win in January. Described as a “post-post-apocalyptic novel” H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker is also eligible as is The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy which is the Man Booker Prize-winning author’s long-awaited follow-up to The God of Small Things and has received strong reviews.
Books published up until 30th September 2017 in the UK are eligible for this year’s prize meaning that some titles are not yet available to buy. I have just finished reading a review copy of The Burning Girl by Claire Messud which is as compelling and astutely written as her previous novel The Woman Upstairs and will be published at the end of August.
The possibility of discovering brilliant new books and authors is why I continue to follow literary award longlists with interest, so predictions of popular bestsellers aside, I hope there are plenty of little-known gems from small independent presses on the longlist such as His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet which ended up being one of my favourite books of 2016. All eyes will inevitably be on the recent offerings of Oneworld Publications following its two successive wins for Marlon James and Paul Beatty and I think Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, a dark debut novel set in Jamaica, could be this year’s one to watch.
Do you agree with my predictions? Which books would you like to see on the Man Booker Prize longlist this year?