The Booker Longlist 2017: Are Any of Them Worth Five Stars?

Tomorrow the Man Booker Prize shortlist is announced.

I’m always excited about the Booker.  It has introduced me to so many brilliant authors over the years:  A. S. Byatt, Anita Brookner, Penelope Fitzgerald, Graham Swift, Peter Carey, Allen Hollingsworth, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, and the list goes on and on. And the nominees are often even better than the winners.

But one of my favorites, William Trevor, never won. And I rooted for him four times.

I kept up with the Booker till 2011, the year nobody liked the longlist.  (And I really didn’t like it.)

But one of my real-life best friends, who asks to be called The Man on the Street, has read six from the longlist this year, and agreed to share his star ratings.

He says flippantly, “We take our Booker very seriously in Des Moines.  What else is there to do after the State Fair?”

But  he is not, alas, overly-impressed with this year’s longlist.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie   ★★★★ (four stars out of five)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ★★★★ (four stars out of five)

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry  ★★★1/2   (three-and-a-half stars out of five)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders ★★★  (three stars out of five)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead  ★★★ (three stars out of five)

Autumn by Ali Smith ★★ (two stars out of five)

He says his favorite is Home Fire, which he describes as a well-plotted, well-written retelling of Antigone.

Is anyone else keeping up with the Booker reading this year?  What do you recommend?

16 thoughts on “The Booker Longlist 2017: Are Any of Them Worth Five Stars?

  1. I gave Days Without End five stars. Liked The underground Railroad with some reservations. Couldn’t get into Lincoln in the Bardo (unpopular opinion). Enjoying History of Wolves, 2 chapters in.


    • I am a great fan of Sebastian Barry, so would doubtless like that one, too. The other three you mention made the shortlist, but I will prob read the Barry and a couple on the longlist because honestly they sound very nteresting to me.

      On Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 10:14 PM, mirabile dictu wrote:



  2. I have only read two, Home Fire and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I would like to see Home Fire particularly on the shortlist. I did love the Arundhati Roy but wonder if it won’t divide the judges in the same way as it seems to have divided ordinary readers.


  3. I’ve read three of these and would like to see both the Whitehead and particularly the Barry on the shortlist. I seem to be the lone dissenting voice where the Shamsie is concerned. I simply didn’t believe in some of the characters and it undermined the whole premise for me.


    • I love Sebastian Barry! I’ve put off this one because of the Civil War connection, because I’ve read enought Civil War books to last me. but what the heck? It didn’t make the shortlist, along with some of the others I want to read, so I’ll add this to MY list. Haven’t read the Colson for the same Civil War reason, though I understand his is more like magic realism.

      On Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 2:21 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:



      • It is the quality of the writing which is so remarkable where Barry’s book is concerned. The subject matter is horrendous but you are so bound up in the characters that somehow you get through that. I would love to know what you make of it. There really isn’t anything much about the Civil War in the Whitehead, so I certainly wouldn’t avoid it for that reason.


  4. I lost track of the Booker years ago – in fact the last time I got enthusiastic about it was when Margaret Atwood finally won it… I would probably choose the Auster if I had to pick one to read but I can’t say I’m particularly drawn to any. I *have* read newly published works this year which I’ve loved but I don’t imagine they’ll win any prizes!!


  5. It was the prize which first ignited my interest in reading literary fiction (the year Possession was nominated and won) but I have followed it half-heartedly for more years than not in the past decade or so. This year, I have enjoyed reading other people’s opinions about the books, but I’ve only read three, so can’t comment overall. My favourite thing about prizelists is the longlists – after that, they seem to emphasize the randomness of it all (not that that’s not also true of the longlist of course, but less obviously so).


    • I agree about the longlists. I did follow the Booker closely when Kevin of Canada was reading with other bloggers, but this year somehow didn’t find the people who were talking about it. And this year the books I want to read didn’t make the shortlist, so perhaps I’ll read some on the longlist.


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