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I'm working my way through the shortlist for the Melissa Nathan Awards for Romantic Comedy and am loving Barefoot in the Dark by Lynne Barrett-Lee. It's based in Cardiff and is a modern romance with plenty of humour.
I was being made to read the booker prize for the library reading group at work, and this was one of only two on the list that I actually felt able to read, and enjoy. I was hooked from the first page, and couldn't put it down.
I tend not to look at Booker prize books now because I hardly ever find a good read there, which is a shame because I am sure there are some really good books on the lists, but past experience puts me off anything with 'Booker' nominated on it. Its a real barrier to me picking a book up.
The Blind Assassin in 2000 by Margaret Atwood
The God of Small Things in 1997 by Arundhati Roy
Last Orders in 1996 by Graham Swift
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993 by Roddy Doyle
The Remains of the Day in 1989 by Kazuo Ishiguro
OK, I won't go further back. Yes, there were some disappointments: I struggled through The Inheritance of Loss, last year's winner, by Kiran Desai to name just one example.
And this year's Orange Prize winner, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I also had a slog with.
Prizes do introduce you to writers or genres you might not otherwise have tried.
Oh my goodness yes - Atonement and The Secret River - what fine reads they were. I expected the McEwan to be good but had no idea about Kate Grenville until I read The Secret River. Of this year's reads, that will certainly make my top five. (I read Atonement some time ago. I haven't got round to Night Watch yet but will do. (don't know why Touchstone though Terry Pratchett wrote it!)
I've set myself the challenge of reading at least 2 books from each year's Booker Prize shortlist, including the winner for each year. I've read some great books this way. I would never hae read Ian McEwan if not for his appearances on these lists and on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. I absolutely loved Atonement. It's one of my favourite books. Kazuo Ishiguro is another author who I found through the Booker Prize list. Never Let Me Go is one of the most powerful and enjoyable books I've read.
As for the diversity on the list...you can actually find some novels from genres you might not expect (at least, you can if you look at the shortlists rather than the winners). Both Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell have both sci-fi and dystopian elements.
hazelk> The reason it touchstoned Terry Pratchett is that he also wrote a book called Night Watch. If you click on the "(others)" link at the end of the touchstone, it will bring up other book and author options....though you may already know this seeing as you posted over 6 months ago.
This was last done in 1993, on the prize's 25th anniversary, when the prize went to Midnight's Children. This is my current read. I'm slightly more than a third of the way through it and the politest thing I can say about it is it is not my cup of tea.
Unlike the 1993 award, this time the public are being invited to participate, but only once a jury panel has whittled the list down to 6 options, after which there is to be an online vote. The jury is deliberating at the moment.
My own vote would go to 1989's winner, The Remains of the Day. What would other people vote for.
skoobdo, given that, in the UK alone, more than 200,000 new titles are published every year, readers, even avid ones like your average LTer, need some kind of guide through the maze.
Ideally, personal recommendations from other readers whose opinions you trust is the way to go. If you don't have bookworm friends, the internet provides numerous message boards and blogs where people post their own reviews.
The next best thing, to my mind, is prize shortlists. These books have clearly impressed a judging panel, and it is fun to see if your opinions of a book's merit matches theirs. I'll admit this is not ideal as there is a commercial agenda involved, since for prizes such as the Booker the nominations originate with publishers, whose hope is that sales will increase on the titles concerned if they are picked.
Your post also suggests that there is no merit in reading modern fiction, and that we should be delving back into the classics and looking for great lost books. I disagree. Good literature is good literature, regardless of whether it was published in 2008 or 1808. There are books that have things to say about the time they were published that would seem obscure just a few years later.
not stating that we should read only "classics" and "great books" only.