And the Winner Is

I’ve mentioned before that one of the ways I find new books is to check out the long list for the different book awards. When the Man Booker Prize list was released, I was tickled to discover that I’d already explored two of the ten finalists. Admittedly, I didn’t like one (Satin Island by Tom McCarthy) and I stopped half way through the other (Lila by Marilynne Robinson). I decided to give the list a fresh look, and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler interested me.

A Spool of Blue Thread

I was really hoping this book would win. It had an unusual structure: What could have been the ending happened in the middle, and the rest of the book filled in pieces of the back story that were lost to the other characters forever with the first ending. It reminded me a lot of The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud and The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer. Alas, it did not win. I have no interest in reading a 700 page fictionalization of the death of Bob Marley (this year’s winner), so I think I’m done with Man Booker for this year.

Before the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced, the odds makers had Haruki Murakami as the top choice. Of course I was hoping he would win since I love his work. At that moment I decided I was going to read a work by whomever was the lucky winner.

This year’s winner is Svetlana Alexievich. It was an unusual choice because she is a non-fiction author – a Russian journalist. I bought her book, Voices from Chernobyl – the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, two days after the prize was announced. I was impressed by the speed of their marketing department in getting the award mentioned on the cover!

Voices from Chernobyl

The story is quite compelling. It gives great insight into the then Soviet mindset and the way the people from the region were treated afterwards. It was almost impossible to fathom how willing the first responders (and the clean up teams that came later) were to work under those conditions with next to no safety equipment. If it had been fiction, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Voices from Chernobyl happened to be the book that brought me over the edge of my reading challenge. I have now read 26 books and listened to almost as many audiobooks so far this year.

So what is next? I love that this time of year Goodreads starts its voting for the best books of the year; They finished their first round yesterday, and the semi-finals start tomorrow. I’d only read one or two in each of the categories of interest to me up to now, so I’ve put several books from those lists into my library queue. As a matter of fact, The Fold by Peter Clines is waiting for me to pick it up. I’m number 275 for Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, so that will take a while.

What have been some of this year’s best books for you this year? or Does anyone else remember being afraid when Chernobyl happened?

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