Twenty novels later, it’s time to write my wishlist for the Baileys’ Prize Shortlist. Reading the long list has been a wonderful experience and there are no books I would be surprised to see on the shortlist. There are two lists in my mind – the Predictions list and the What I Would Love to See Shortlisted list. For example, I am reasonably certain that The Luminaries will feature on the shortlist. But I can’t bear to knock off any of the books I’ve discovered to make way for it. I’m expecting to see The Lowland on the shortlist too. But The Lowland has already been shortlisted for the Man Booker. And Almost English was longlisted, and Elizabeth Strout has already won the Pulitzer (albeit for a different novel). Donna Tartt and Elizabeth Gilbert are already widely known and widely read and Margaret Atwood can’t even buy a cup of coffee without being swamped (I would SO swamp Margaret Atwood if I ever saw her buying a cup of coffee.) Suzanne Berne and Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie have both won the Orange Prize with previous novels. None of this should matter, and maybe none of it does. But the joy of reading this years’ longlist has not lain in reading books that I already knew were excellent, by writers I already loved. It’s been in the discovery of writers I hadn’t heard of, and books I may never had read if I hadn’t undertaken this challenge. I hold my hand up high and say that the joy of the new has swayed me. What follows is a very personal take on a month of reading, and a tribute to an excellent long list.
Four of my chosen titles have been definites; the two remaining have been fluid and I know I’ll have changed my mind in the morning – and changed it back again by the afternoon. So, to repeat: there is no long listed book I would be surprised to see on the shortlist – or that I would not be glad to see there.
And so, without further ado, I present my wishlist for the Bailey’s Prize shortlist.
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen
All the birds, singing by Evie Wyld
Americanah by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
I can’t wait for the announcement on the 7th April.
Love reading your thoughts and process coming to this list. It’s true that past wins or popularity shouldn’t matter, but at the same time it feels like in prizes we should cheer for those books who haven’t received as much attention because winning will no doubt bring a wider audience than they would ever receive. Currently, I’ve only read half the long list and 4 of the books on your shortlist wish list. I just finished The Burgess Boys yesterday and had a very personal reaction to it. Since it’s so fresh in my mind I hope it makes it, but Evie Wyld still sticks in my mind so much though I read it weeks ago. Hopefully I’ll be posting my short list hopes before the weekend is out.
And yes, it’s all about the discovery and pleasure in reading and every book could easily take a place on the short list.
Thank you Eric – I found the process of deciding upon a shortlist so much easier with the Man Booker last year, although the crossover between my shortlist and theirs wasn’t huge. Having posted my shortlist last night, I found myself awake at 3:30am fretting about my final choices. Very much looking forward to seeing your shortlist. It has to come down to personal preference in the end – but I do hope lesser known writers are given a break.