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Booking the Trend

Yesterday I was reading about the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. A number of the selected books looked interesting, and I reflected that I hadn’t read much literary fiction recently, and that I almost never read contemporary works in this genre. I decided to read at least some of what are presumably this year’s best novels. Then, in a moment of inspiration – or insanity – I wondered whether it would be feasible to read them all before the winner was announced. So I checked. There are thirteen books on the list, and the award ceremony is on 18 October. That was 82 days away, meaning I’d need to read one book every 6.3 days. That seemed doable, if challenging; it’s well within my peak range and about half my target rate for the year (although it’s at least double my actual rate). The more I thought about it, the more I resolved to do it. By cheating slightly and consuming some of them as audiobooks I could give myself even more time per book. If I fall behind anyway, I’m hoping that when the shortlist is announced (6 September) I’ll have been lucky and can at least get the six finalists finished before the ceremony. Looked at like this, it almost seems crazy not to do it.

Despite my misgivings about Audible, I downloaded The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst for free (as long as I remember to cancel my membership in time). I started listening and so far it seems promising. While I frequently listen to audiobooks, they are almost always non-fiction and usually books I have read before, so they don’t require my full attention. This epic multi-generational family drama probably will, and it remains to be seen whether I’ll truly be able to appreciate it in this format.

As I’ll be away next week and wanted to get started right away, I decided to buy some or all of the remaining books in e-book format. I have owned a Sony Reader for almost two years but had never purchased a book for it, and in fact had not used it at all since getting a smartphone last September. For those who haven’t used the Sony bookstore, it’s a little like an online version of the shop in Black Books, evidently run by drunken misanthropes who, though they may fling free but unwanted books in your general direction, will go to some length to avoid making a sale. After reinstalling software and lying about my location, I eventually managed to purchase and download a copy of Patrick deWitt’s darkly comic western The Sisters Brothers which I started reading last night. I’m enjoying it so far, and it has short chapters which somehow helps to fool my brain into reading more. I’m confident I can get through it quickly and will be downloading at least one more book today to ensure I don’t run out while on holiday.

I will post updates and reviews as appropriate.

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