The results are in! We have argued and deliberated and made what compromises we had to, and it’s all over. Here is our (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel shortlist:
- Bill Clegg, Did You Ever Have a Family
- Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
- Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways
- Anuradha Roy, Sleeping on Jupiter
- Tom McCarthy, Satin Island
- Marilynne Robinson, Lila
If you compare this list to my personal shortlist, you’ll see that they are almost the same. The one change is that Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life isn’t there and Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter is. I would have liked to see A Little Life on our group shortlist, but Sleeping on Jupiter was my seventh choice and just barely didn’t make the cut, so at least there’s nothing on the group shortlist that I disliked. This isn’t true for everyone on the panel!
As for the absence of A Little Life, well, it’s a controversial book. My guess is that it will make it on the official shortlist and may have a chance at winning (although I don’t think it should win). But this whole exercise has shown just how personal reading is. Some readers bought into the world of the book and others didn’t, and that was true for just about every book on the list. I’m not implying that there aren’t solid, logical arguments to make about why one book is better than another, but inevitably there are arguments to be made on both sides — or several sides — and people from all the different sides will think their solid, logical arguments are the most convincing. Before you even get to those solid, logical arguments, though, there is the reader’s immediate response, and there’s no arguing about that. A lot of our conversations were about trying to account for those immediate responses and to try to understand why they varied so much.
And the conversations were so fun! It was a great pleasure to participate on this panel, and I want to thank Frances profusely for organizing it. Thank you, Frances!
And now to see what the official judges have to say. I’ll try to come back and write up my thoughts on their list. I can’t wait to see.