Okay, more like “On Reading Some of the Man Booker Prize Longlist.” Okay, fine, “On Reading 2 of the Man Booker Prize Longlist.” Maybe I didn’t get very far, but starting this longlist really did a lot for me.
I had never followed many book awards before beginning my book blog. Of course, I’d check in to see who won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, but that never motivated any great sense of action for me. Since becoming a part of the book reviewing community, I’ve started to see some of the value in exploring book awards and their respective long or short lists.
For a long time, I stuck to the genres I knew and loved: mystery, true crime, thrillers - definitely not anything that had the potential to be overly emotional or sad. This was flawed thinking, and exactly the reason I needed to explore book awards. Awards such as the Man Booker force me to step out of my comfort zone.
Maybe this time I only got to 2/13, but next time it’ll be 4-5. The importance lies in the growth you experience in reading something you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise; in living someone else’s experience.
1. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
I kind of struggled with this novel, set as a character study of a girl named Eileen Dunlop. The book is narrated by Eileen as a 70-80 year old, recounting a time in her twenties when she worked at a boys’ juvenile detention center and lived with her alcoholic father. One thing you’ll hear when reading about this novel - it’s pretty sick. Eileen is kind of a grotesque character, and Moshfegh doesn’t hold back in painting that picture. To me, the book felt a bit mundane and almost repetitive - which likely was intentional. But, the story became SO interesting and compelling at the end, that I wish more time had been spent there. My head was spinning as I closed the last page of the book because it truly felt so rushed.
2. The North Water by Ian McGuire
Strangely enough, I have really been craving stories about the frigid north this summer. Maybe because it’s been an incredibly hot one, but I’ve been on the hunt non-stop for anything set in the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland, etc. (send me your recs!). The North Water is follows a 19th Century whaling expedition to the Arctic waters, and let me tell you: you can almost feel the grime and salt water on you. Aboard the ship, we not only find a killer on the loose, but also a man trying to escape his dark past, and a captain with a secret agenda.
This book really scratched my itch for a gritty and frigid read. McGuire’s exploration of human darkness and the lengths we will go to survive are deeply chilling. To me, The North Water almost reads like an adult bedtime story (one that may give you nightmares), with all its elements of action, adventure, gore, and just general moral depravity.
“I’d venture the Good Lord don’t spend much time up here in the North Water,” he says with a smile. “It’s most probable he don’t like the chill."