2015 Guardian 1st Book Award Shortlist & Winner

When the longlist for this year’s Guardian 1st Book Award was released earlier this year I included three novels from it on my TBR list in August.  I was pleased to see all three of them on the shortlist of six books.  Unfortunately I got my dates wrong this year and missed both the release of the shortlist and the announcement of the winner! But since I think the shortlist will make for very interesting reading for many, I want to include it along with the winner of the award.  And so here is the winner followed by the rest of the shortlist for your perusal and possibly for some inspiration for holiday reading next month.


The Winner:

Physical by Andrew McMillan

physical andrew mcmillan

Excerpt from the Guardian article:

“Set in the wastes of a northern industrial town, a “town that has lost something … that sunk from its centre / like a man winded by a punch”, Protest of the Physical circles around many of the concerns that animate the rest of the collection – the sudden closeness of an encounter with “your hoodie / halfway up your body / and my cock half out in your hand”, the deep engagement with the work of the poet Thom Gunn, the stark realisation “the fear is to die untouched love lost” – arriving at the conclusion that “there is beauty in the ordinary / the row of shops on Shambles Street / the day chasing its own shadow”.

Physical explores the anxieties of modern man, reaching out from the experiences of gay men wrestling with their emotions and each others’ bodies to chart the gaps between appearance and reality in contemporary culture. Strongman describes bench-pressing a young nephew, lifting him towards the artex ceiling “because / what is masculinity if not taking the weight / of a boy and straining it from oneself?”. The Fact We Almost Killed a Badger Is Incidental paints a relationship falling apart because “I still could not have sat through one more night of silence”. The Men Are Weeping in the Gym imagines men “swearing that the wetness / on their cheeks is perspiration / that the words they mutter as they lift / are meaningless”.”



The Shortlist:

Man v Nature by Diane Cook

man v nature diane cook

Excerpt from the Guardian shortlist article in which all the shortlisted authors talk a bit about the inspiration behind their books:

“Many of these stories take place in worlds that feel familiar, but the rules are somehow different. A strange man steals newborns from suburban houses, old friends get lost on a lake it’s impossible to get lost on, neighbours continue to snipe at each other long after the rest of the world has drowned. These stories came from a sense of play, from asking “What if?”, and from trying to get at something true about being human. I had a professor, David Plante, once say that metaphors are miracles because they transform one thing into something else entirely. Presto chango! and that man is a rat, this house is a prison, your heart is gold. I feel similarly wowed by the miraculous nature of fiction. The best fiction somehow manages to feel truer than real life.” (GoodReads)

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

the fishermen by chigozie obioma

Excerpt from Guardian shortlist article:

“I grew up with many siblings, and always knew that one day I would write a story about the experience. But, strangely, this novel is not about my experience, but was merely inspired by it. When they were children, two of my older brothers had the kind of sibling rivalry that ignited little fires of violence. But when I learned that, as men aged almost 30, they had become very close, I began to ponder on what can rip families apart, especially close-knit ones. At around the same time, I had been reading a book in which I had encountered a phrase that stuck out to me: “A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” So, I thought, can this be applied to just about any entity, such as a family? The idea of a family whose destruction must come from the outside but is effected from within took shape in my mind. But then the dilemma: what would come against the family from the outside? Would it be some form of crisis, war, poverty – what? Would any of these things also cause the destruction to be effected from within?” (GoodReads)

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev

aug nothing is true

Excerpt from Guardian shortlist article:

“This book is basically one long excuse for going awol. I came to Moscow just after university – a reasonable point to go and explore the world –and ended up disappearing down the rabbit hole for nine years. When I came back to London, broken and bankrupt, I had to explain myself. Where had I been?

I began to tell the stories of the things I’d seen, and as I did so I realised they form a pattern, the outlines of a new type of political model, of a new type of psychology, of a new idea of good and bad. And I realised that my time in Russia, where I had spent several years working on TV programmes, had actually been a nice angle on a country that has blended authoritarianism and reality show; a TV-ocracy where Putin is the Simon Cowell in chief.

When I sat down to write, my intention was to capture the sensation of being alive in Russia in the 21st century. The country can feel like a democracy in the morning, a monarchy by lunch, a dictatorship by afternoon and anarchy by bedtime: the expression of a mindset that says all life is performance, that, to quote my title, nothing is true and everything is possible. In order to capture this I tried to switch genres between linear thriller narratives and whimsy; political analysis and psychological profiles.” (GoodReads)

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

aug grief

Excerpt from Guardian shortlist article:

“I wanted to tell the story of two young children after the sudden loss of a parent, in a form that might evoke the chaotic and changeable emotional landscape of mourning. The book is a love letter to reading, to moving unfaithfully and restlessly between forms and enjoying the sharp, shocking or seductive transitions. It therefore contains elements of essay, poem, fable, joke, script, interview, mid-edit manuscript and so on, and I am the first to admit that as a rag-bag of my favourite things it’s a very indulgent first book indeed.” (GoodReads)


The Shore by Sara Taylor

aug shore

Excerpt from Guardian shortlist article:

“I first came to the Eastern Shore as a small child, on a family vacation to see the wild ponies that was partially inspired by the children’s novel Misty of Chincoteague (the titular Misty is a pony, of course). While on that visit I got a sense of the sweet, wholesome magic of the place that comes across so well in that book; what struck me when I came back to the Shore to live several years later was the darker undercurrent, the thick sticky mud of uncomfortable history that had a tendency to bubble up from under the fertile soil of the place. There were graveyards in the cornfields and ghost stories about every house and corner, rumours of murders and lovers’ quarrels turned deadly, the haze of drug use and poverty hanging over a landscape so rich and green it hurt your eyes to look at it.” (GoodReads)



TBR Chronicles #06

This week the 2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist was released.  This is my most anticipated lit prize of the year and you can be sure that the longlist will have a few gems on it.  This year I’ve picked two books from the list that I expect to be really good.

The Fishermen by chigozie obioma

The first is The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma.  This novel stood out for me because of what Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries and Man Booker Prize winner, said about it: “Awesome in the true sense of the word…Few novels deserve to be called ‘mythic,’ but Chigozie Obioma’s The Fisherman is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut.”  I’m sold.  If that’s not enough for you then how about the New York Times saying: “Obioma truly is the heir to ­Achebe.”  I must read this book! (GoodReads)

The Chimes by anna smaill

The second novel I chose from the MB longlist is The Chimes by Anna Smaill.  This novel is set in “a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.  In the absence of both memory and writing is music.”  Yes, please!  The rest of the longlist will no doubt be taken apart by my fellow book bloggers so I’ll wait to hear what you all have to say before I pick anything else. (GoodReads)

VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography by david duchemin

New to my TBR is Visionmongers by David duChemin.  This book comes highly recommended for those who want to take their photography into a more commercial direction.  duChemin is said to be very readable; with a writing style that is both informative and enjoyable to read.  Looking forward to this.  (GoodReads)

This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking john brockman

I recently became aware of the books of John Brockman, publisher of edge.org, who poses a question to some of the greatest and most influential minds of our time and their answers become the subject matter of his books.  The truth is I want to read them all.  Check them out on GoodReads and you’ll see what I mean – interesting stuff!  The book that makes this list is This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Brockman.  The question Brockman poses for this book is “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” with contributions from Daniel Kahneman, Jonah Lehrer, Richard Dawkins, Aubrey De Grey, Steven Pinker, Daniel C. Dennett, Matt Ridley, and Brian Eno to name but a few. (GoodReads)

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything ken robinson

The last addition to my TBR this month is The Element by Ken Robinson.  An oldie (originally published in 2000) but apparently a goodie for those looking to read into creativity and self-fulfillment.  This book is about finding the point where your natural talent and personal passion intersects – finding your element.  (GoodReads)

What are your thoughts?  Have you read any of these?  I’d love to hear about it – you might save me some time.