Booker Prize Short List Guesses

September 8, 2008 at 10:20 pm | Posted in Book Blather | Leave a comment

Tomorrow is the big day: the Booker Prize short list will be announced.

If you’d asked me last year, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you precisely what the Booker Prize was, or how it differed from the Man Booker Prize.  (Hint: they’re actually the same thing, we’re just more likely to refer to it by the shorter name here in the US).  Then I discovered by accident that I had already read the 2007 winner, The Gathering, without knowing it.  I looked at the list of past winners, saw that I’d liked all the winners I had read so far, and now I’m hooked.  I just have to know!

(I also bumbled into reading The Road and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the 2007 and 2008 Pulitzer winners, and Tree of Smoke, the 2008 National Book Award winner, all due to my obsessive reading of’s Significant Seven).

So far, 13 books are on the long list, including the fabulous Enchantress of Florence.  The short list will cut it down to five.  I find it quite charming that bookies actually take bets on who will be the ultimate winner, and they’ve assigned odds to each of the different titles.  With horse racing or boxing matches or the Olympics, I can see this happening.  But who in the gambling underworld is sitting around reading Amitav Ghosh?  “Shaddap, youse mugs, I gots tree chaptuhs left.”  Also, publishers submit titles to the judges, often before the book is actually on the market.  So now I have an image of cat burglars breaking into offices to steal unedited MSs.  Who says reading is down?

Okay, so here is the long list:

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold

The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry

From A to X – John Berger

The Lost Dog – Michelle de Kretser

Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh

The Clothes on Their Backs – Linda Grant

A Case of Exploding Mangoes – Mohammed Hanif

The Northern Clemency – Philip Hensher

Netherland – Joseph O’Neill

The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith

A Fraction of the Whole – Steve Toltz

My guesses for the short list:

The Enchantress of Florence

A Case of Exploding Mangoes


Sea of Poppies

The White Tiger

Now, I’ve only read one of these, and I read The Hungry Tide by Ghosh (always wanted to say that), so I’m not going by the actual content here.  I’m just going by how I interpret the fuss over each of these books and how many people are on the hold list at the library.  I have a 5/13 chance of getting at least one right, but the odds of correctly guessing all five are 1287 to 1.  Tomorrow morning, we’ll find out the real scoop.  (And you can all laugh at me if I get every single one wrong).


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