The six books shortlisted by the judges (biographer Victoria Glendinning, broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and John Mullan, professor of English at the University of London) are :
The Ghost Road - Pat Barker (1995)Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian analyses the list :
Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey (1988)
Disgrace - JM Coetzee (1999)
The Siege of Krishnapur - JG Farrell (1973)
The Conservationist - Nadine Gordimer(1974)
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (1981)
... five deal more or less directly with postcolonial experience, and three are historical novels. The authors span four continents: Barker and Farrell were born in England, Coetzee and Gordimer in South Africa, Carey in Australia and Rushdie in India - although Farrell spent much of his life in Ireland, Rushdie settled in Britain, and Carey moved to the US.The winner will be chosen by the public and you can vote on the website.
The shortlist also represents a senior generation of writers: four were born in the 1940s, one in the 1930s and one in the 1920s. While JG Farrell died in a fishing accident in 1979, the rest are very much with us.
You can, though, in the end see such a list as just a bit of fun, an enjoyable bit of bookish silliness, because ultimately "best" is impossible to judge. (The Literary Saloon calls the contest "ridiculous".) Of course, as Sam Jordison points out on the Guardian blog, healthy scepticism is the default.
Of the six listed novels, I haven't read Farrell's or Gordimer's (though the latter I have in TBR limbo - think I bought it from Skoob a decade or two ago).
All the others are novels I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Salman Rushdie is the bookie's favourite (William Hill offers odds of 6/4) and I'd be perfectly content to see him win again (he also won the Booker of Bookers 15 years ago) as he did rather change the literary landscape. But I think I'm voting for Peter Carey because Oscar and Lucinda is a favourite to be reread and reread again, and I don't think I have the energy in this lifetime to revisit Midnight's Children.
John Mullan makes and interesting point :
All three of us felt that quite a lot of really good novelists have won, but not for their best book. Lucky the novelist who won for his or her best book, like Coetzee. If Ian McEwan's Atonement had won the Booker it would have had a great chance, but he won with Amsterdam. And it's a pity that Margaret Atwood won for The Blind Assassin.I disagree with him about Coetzee, because I think Waiting for the Barbarians is a much stronger novel. But he's spot on about McEwan, and Atwood should have won for The Handmaid's Tale.
The overall winner of The Best of the Booker will be announced as part of the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre on 10 July 2008.
Reading Copy, the AbeBooks blog conducted a reader's poll and found the favourites (with 845 responses) to be :
1) Life of Pi by Yann Martel (11.7%)Very different, huh?
2) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (11.4%)
3) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (8.6%)
4) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (8.1%)
5) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (7.2%)
6) Possession by AS Byatt (5.8%)
7) Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (5.5%)
8) The Bone People by Keri Hulme (5.2%)
9) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (4.6%)
10) The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (3.2%)