When one of my Book Clubs decided to read the Man Booker 2013 shortlist I was a bit sceptical. Yes, we could then decide if The Luminaries deserved to win, but we would also have to read it. And – this just in – it is very long. Anyway, it all turned out swimmingly and I read and loved books I would never have looked at if they hadn’t been on the list.
Reading from a list was so successful we’re casting around for another one. My suggestion was to consult the handy Literary prizes and book awards page on our very own Christchurch City Libraries web site. The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 looks promising, mostly because of the judges:
- Mary Beard, author, hugely entertaining television presenter, blogger and admirable human being who has risen above some very nasty verbal abuse without being insufferable about it
- Denise Mina, “the Queen of Tartan Noir” and owner of one of the best quiffs ever
- Caitlin Moran, very funny, very rude and a woman who is is unafraid of the word feminist
- Sophie Raworth, one of the BBC presenters at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Truly impressive
- Helen Fraser, the chair of the judging panel and former Managing Director of Penguin U.K. She may not have written a book, but has surely read a few good ones
A list chosen by this crew must be preferable to the system my other Book Club uses, where the members tick titles on a catalogue at the start of the year. They then shiftily deny any knowledge of the books that arrive each month and steadfastly refuse to read them. Or perhaps that’s just me.
The winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 was Eimar McBride, who must be good, because if she could be a literary character she would be Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch and because she chose Anne of Green Gables as the defining book of her childhood. Although the book she always recommends is Ulysses – “why don’t more people listen?” Because it’s impossible to read, that’s why.
Using the Baileys list also offers the opportunity to swig down the sponsor’s product (or rather sip it in a genteel fashion) while discussing the finer points of literary fiction. A winning combination.