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Weekly Roundup: Man Booker authors' holiday reading recommendations

Weekly Roundup: Man Booker authors' holiday reading recommendations

A group (or should that be a folio? a scriptorium? a Quink?) of Man Booker writers have revealed the identity of their holiday reading to The Observer. Hilary Mantel, the reigning Man Booker queen, will be taking a break from Tudor England and alighting instead in the 1950s with David Kynaston's Modernity Britain. Julian Barnes, meanwhile, is going for a balloon trip with Richard Holmes's Falling Upwards. This year's Chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane, remains suitably bucolic with Tim Dee's Four Fields. While Justin Cartwright (Man Booker shortlisted in 1995 and a Man Booker International judge in 2011) has gone for W G Sebald's A Place in the Country. The full list of recommendations can be found here.


With the news that J.K. Rowling has written a thriller – The Cuckoo's Calling – under the moniker Robert Galbraith, The Times reminded its readers that she is not the first to try this trick. Two Man Booker winners for example, John Banville and Julian Barnes, have also turned to crime. Banville regularly writes as Benjamin Black and Julian Barnes has tried his hand at the genre too, as Dan Kavanagh (utilising the surname of his late wife Pat Kavanagh). "Dan Kavanagh" even has his own website which ascribes to him a lively series of previous jobs including stints as 'a steer-wrestler, a waiter-on-roller-skates at a drive-in eatery in Tucson, and a bouncer in a gay bar in San Francisco'. The website also carries the cheeky advice: 'If you like Dan Kavanagh, try Julian Barnes.'


Stoner, a largely-forgotten novel written by a largely-forgotten American novelist called John Williams, and published in 1965, is having a new lease of life in part prompted by a recommendation from the Man Booker winner Ian McEwan. Discussing the book, John Sutherland (Man Booker Chair of judges in 2005) turned his thoughts to the phenomenon of what he calls 'Lazarus literature'.  'Where literature is concerned,' he noted, 'it’s a mass grave. There are two million novels at least in the vaults of the British Library, growing by 10,000 a year. The dust lies heavily on them.' Some novels, however, do rise from the dead. Among those he listed that had once disappeared from view, but had come back stronger than they had been in their first life, were surprises such as The Great Gatsby and Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road. The eminent professor also poignantly remarked in passing that, during his life: 'I must, I calculate, have read 10,000 novels. Each a little literary love affair.' He must be a rotten card player if he's been so lucky in love.


NW, the latest novel from Zadie Smith (Man Booker shortlisted in 2005), is set in the London postcodes bearing the same prefix. She recently got together with The Guardian and asked readers to send in photographs of atmospheric bits of London. The results can be seen here. Her own favourite is a picture of a nondescript street, a garage shutter and three chairs left on the pavement. If this doesn't sound too enticing she gives her reasons: 'Urban areas are beautiful', she says, 'it’s not all putrid canals and ethnic tension.'