The Alternative Booker: My Choices & Why

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I rarely participate in the blog games. I enjoy reading them and am always honoured to be nominated, but time is precious and there never seems enough minutes in the day to play along with all of them. That said, this one appealed for some strange reason, so I must thank the lovely @AshNFinn who nominated me for this post.  You can read her blog here.

Last week it was announced that Hilary Mantel won the Costa Awards with ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. Honestly, I’ve never read Mantel’s work, but it did prompt me to put her on my reading list. For me, book awards are like research into the literary world, a chance to take advantage of a book recommendation. It won an award so it must be good, right? But that doesn’t always follow.

I’ve always found the Man Booker Prize a strange phenomenon. The prize winners vary enormously and I have to admit that there are few winners that have really appealed over the years, although I did love Paddy Clarke’s ‘Ha Ha Ha’. My husband is a big reader and really enjoyed ‘The True History of the Kelly Gang’ by Peter Carey, but struggled with Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’. I guess this just demonstrates the subjective nature of literature and the fact there is something out there to appeal to everyone.

Anyway, the idea of this game is to pick your own 5 Booker nominations from your reading library. I did a quick brainstorm and finally decided on the following. They may not be new books, but they have all resonated with me and left something that still lingers to this day – an essential element of a ‘favourite’ book in my mind.


The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – Highsmith’s prose reminded me of J D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Her portrayal of the mind of a serial killer in this book and how she managed to twist and turn the readers’ feelings towards Ripley was fascinating.

Tokyo by Mo Hayder – I reviewed this book on my blog very recently. (You can read my full review here.) I found the mixture of dark crime fiction set in the underbelly of Tokyo society quite enchanting.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – I’ve read this book twice which is a great rarity for me but having always been fascinated with the East, the life of a geisha in historical Osaka and the cultural differences here were both engaging and frightening.

The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday – Travel has always been a passion of mine and this book combines a wonderful psychological thriller with a part setting in Scotland – giving me inspiration to set some of my second book in the Scottish Highlands.

Afterwards by Rosemont Lupton – We always hear that novels should be original and Lupton’s follow on from her bestseller, Sister, is definitely one of the most unusual psychological thrillers I have read in a long time. Told through the eyes of a comatose mother, she unravels a police investigation into a fire at her daughter’s school; a very intriguing tale with an interesting twist at the end.

OK, enough of my rambling. I have to nominate 5 bloggers to continue this game. Here you are:








I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

6 thoughts on “The Alternative Booker: My Choices & Why

  1. This is a great idea for ordinary voices to be heard in relation to books. I never “get” most of the book awards, though do understand they obviously mean a lot to those taking part. I’m sad to say, I haven’t read any on your list, I may have to look them up!

  2. Interesting post, Jane. I was struck by your comments about Highsmith’s ability to manipulate reader empathy (or something close to it) toward her peculiarly ‘talented’ Mr. Ripley. Seems to me that Mantel works a similar magic in *Wolf Hall* and *Bring Up the Bodies* in presenting Cromwell. I tore through both novels at record pace, and then went back for a second read. Such writing!

    As for an alternative Man Booker, I think I’d start my list with Jamie O’Neill’s wonderful 2001 novel, *At Swim, Two Boys*, which navigates precarious territory—two young Irish men in love; events leading to the Easter Rising of 1916—to create an unforgettable read. It’s a decade since I read *At Swim…*, but those characters are still with me.

    • Hi Jack. That’s interesting. I haven’t read At Swim, Two Boys. You’ve certainly convinced me on Mantel with that comment. I think I’ll start with Wolf Hall. Thanks for stopping by.

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