The Longlist: What you can read now

The Man Booker 2013 longlist is out, the baker’s dozen that precedes the shortlist of six, both chosen by a panel of judges as worthy contenders for Britain’s most prestigious literary award.

The Man Booker prize is given each year to an author from Britain, the Republic of Ireland, Zimbabwe or a Commonwealth nation. This year’s longlist represents seven different countries, with a mix of debut and established novelists. One of the most surprising novels on the list is The Spinning Heart by Irish author Donal Ryan, if simply for the fact it was rejected 47 times before it finally got published — signifying the importance of persistence, which, for authors, goes hand-in-hand with courage.

Below are the 13 novels with links to their Man Booker summaries (click on the titles) and other pages. Verdicts from Kirkus Reviews and Publisher’s Weekly, the U.S. book review industry magazines, are included with some. Keep in mind publication information listed is to the best of what I could find and current as of this blog post date. In other words, publishers may change their minds.

  • The Man Booker shortlist comes out September 10.
  • The winner will be announced October 15.

Six Novels on the Man Booker Longlist Currently Available in the U.S.

Five Star Billionaire, a novelFive Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Published this month in the U.S., Five Star Billionaire is described by the publisher as “an expansive, eye-opening novel that captures the vibrancy of China today” via the immigrant experience of five characters. Praise abounds overseas for this novel, but Kirkus describes it as “clunky” and Publisher’s Weekly as “disappointing.”

TransAtlantic, a novelTransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Kirkus says this novel is “masterly” and “profoundly moving” in its starred review, and Britain’s The Guardian is praiseworthy but complains about small irritations of style. The plot links disparate stories (as McCann did in his National Book Award-winning novel Let the Great World Spin) that are connected by a transatlantic theme, spanning generations.

Harvest,  a novelHarvest by Jim Crace
Given a starred review by both Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, the plot involves dark influences that overcome a small English village. From a review in The New York Times: “In its poetry of the precarious hereafter, Harvest calls to mind J. M. Coetzee’s finest and most allegorical novel, Waiting for the Barbarians.”

A Tale for the Time Being, a novelA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Published in the U.S. earlier this year, Publisher’s Weekly calls this novel “absorbing” and Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it “a masterpiece, pure and simple.” The story is about a woman finding a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl. Kirkus also writes: “These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling.”

The Testament of Mary, a novelThe Testament of Mary by Colim Tóibín
Published in the U.S. end of 2012, this is a slim book that gives the life and death of Jesus from his mother Mary’s perspective. A fictional story narrated by Mary that veers north of Christian doctrine. Kirkus describes it as “a work suffused with mystery and wonder.” An NPR review calls it, “Lovely, understated and powerfully sad.”

We Need New Names, a novelWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Published in the U.S. in May this year, this novel received critical praise for the writing style and its moving, fresh narrative voice. The story is about a 10-year-old girl surviving a difficult life in Zimbabwe and then is abruptly moved to the American Midwest to live with an aunt and uncle.

Two Novels on the Man Booker Longlist Soon to be Published in the U.S.

The Luminaries, a novelThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Scheduled for release in the U.S. in October 2013 and at a hefty 848 pages, the story is about a young woman on trial for murder in nineteenth-century New Zealand. Granta says it “has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device.”

The Lowland, a novelThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Set to be published in the U.S. this September, this novel is about two brothers who are close but vastly different, one choosing a scientific research career in America and the other rebelling at home against poverty and inequality. Takes place during the 1960s. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a formidable and beautiful book.” 

The Remaining Five — No U.S. Publication Date Listed at this Time

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
Eve Harris’s debut is about an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in London and a 19-year-old Jewish girl facing up to marriage with a stranger. Set for publication in the U.K. September 2013.

The Kills by Richard House
A political thriller spread over four books that yield 1,000 pages of reading. Involves a military base in Iraq. Published in the U.K. Available from other sellers on Amazon — search using the author’s name for best results.

Unexploded by Alison Macleod
A WWII story set in Brighton, England, involving a family and a German Jewish painter imprisoned in a local internment camp. Due out  in the U.K. in September 2013.

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
A teenager living with Hungarian relatives in a tiny flat in West London runs from the crushing home environment but finds herself in a worse place. Set to be published in the U.K. in a few weeks.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
About the impact of Ireland’s financial crisis on a small Irish town. Published in the U.K. Listed as “Currently Unavailable” on Amazon from other sellers. The publisher’s website lists it as out of stock.

7 thoughts on “The Longlist: What you can read now

  1. I will get out my little book and pen and write down some of these. I think I am most interested in the Colum McCann novel as I thoroughly enjoyed Man on a Wire. The list is getting long; the New York Times book review section makes sure of that.


    1. There are indeed some good ones on this list. I’ll be curious to see which ones that aren’t scheduled for U.S. publication get that changed, due to their Man Booker nominee status.


  2. I am extremely curious about The Luminaries. I did start Harvest a few weeks ago and just had to put it down. I couldn’t get into it as much as I tried (and wanted to).


    1. I am not a Crace fan. That’s a personal lack of preference — I critically recognize his talent — so have avoided “Harvest.” “The Luminaries” also has my attention.


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