Is the Man Booker Prize a good recommendation?


ARTbop Literary Editor, reviewer, and author Marcus Hobson, asks: Is the Man Booker Prize a good recommendation? Find out now!

Selecting a book is always a matter of personal choice, so making recommendations is always a bit hit and miss. That got me to thinking whether using the Man Booker prize lists as a guide would give you a good starting point.

I have been reading some of the 2016 Man Booker Prize long listed novels. A few months back I made a stab about who might be shortlisted and ordered some copies of those I liked the sound of. It was a bit of a risk, but I ended up with four excellent books. In fact none of my four picks made it onto the shortlist, but I hope that says a lot about the titles which were eventually selected. In 2016 there were thirteen books on the long list.

The four I selected were The Many by Wyl Menmuir, The North Water by Ian McGuire, My Names is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Serious Sweet by A L Kennedy. They are all worthy of a short review in their own right.

I have never done that experiment before, trying to pick the winner, or at least pick some of the shortlist. I have in the past bought one book which went on to win the prize. Possession by A S Byatt won in 1990 and I remember picking up a copy and then putting it back on the table several times because it was a hardback and very expensive. In the end the storyline won out and I bought it months before it won the converted prize.

That got me thinking. Have I used the Booker winners as a guide for my purchasing selections? I did a quick tour of all my bookshelves and made a shocking discovery. I found 25 winning books, plus one that I know I have somewhere but couldn’t find. If I had not gone to the trouble of pulling them all out, I would never have believed I owned so many Man Booker winners. And there are some cracking reads among the selection. My three favourites would be:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I own a number of other books by several of the winning authors; Kingsley Amis, Ian McEwan, Ben Orki, Thomas Keneally, John Berger, Peter Carey, Kazuo Ishiguro, William Golding and Iris Murdoch. The prize has certainly picked some great winners. I might not have agreed with every choice of book, for example Amsterdam by Ian McEwan was the winner in 1998 but was no where as good as his other books around that time, Enduring Love or Atonement (which was on the shortlist in 2001).

More of the extensive Marcus Hobson collection… winners…

The Man Booker has an excellent website which allows you to see the shortlist back to the very first winner in 1969, as well as all the titles on the long list over the last 16 years. It is interesting to venture back into lists from the 1970s, if only because there are so many novels I have never heard of. One or two of the writers I know from other works. The 1972 winner, John Berger, died earlier this year having just celebrated his 90th birthday and was still turning out books that I want to buy right up to his death. It certainly makes you think about the fame of winning and how transient it might be.

If you work your way through all the long and short lists on the website you will see a number of famous names come and go. Authors from this end of the world are well represented, with two Kiwi winners in Keri Hulme and Eleanor Catton and Australians such as Peter Carey (twice) and Thomas Keneally. Tim Winton has been on the long and short lists several times but has yet to win. I’m sure his time will come.

So I must conclude that using the Booker list is a good way to find your next good read. Have a look at the website and you may find that you already own a few past winners or short listers. If the rain keeps me inside again, I may find that I start to work out how many of the shortlisted titles I have too. But that is certainly a profitable search, because there are some real gems hidden away in some of the distant years. My pick of the “nearly wons” at this stage would be A Month in the Country by J L Carr, a beautiful story set just after the First World War which was made into a long forgotten film of the same name.

Having started to think about the Man Booker prize, which until last year had been an exclusively English & Commonwealth award, my mind then wondered over the Atlantic to the USA and to their equivalent the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This time my haul from the shelves was much thinner. The Pulitzer has a much longer history, going back to 1948, so it is able to pull out a few of the older big guns like Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea), Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and a couple by William Faulkner.

Pulitzer Prize winners….


Marcus Hobson is the ARTbop Literary Editor, regular book reviewer, writer, and the former Secretary of the Tauranga Writers group Marcus has been, and continues to be, lots of things. An aspiring author of both novels and reviews, he has always said he wants to be a writer and 40 years later is making that come true. He has in the past done such varied things as study ancient and mediaeval history at Uni in London, worked as an archaeologist, as an economist in central and southern Africa, and as truck driver in a quarry. About two years ago he relocated to the beautiful Bay from a finance job in Auckland. He is a lover of art, the written word and a full-time fanatical book collector, with over 3,000 volumes on his shelves. He lives close to Katikati with his wife and sometimes their three daughters, two cats, a library and the odd chicken. Marcus is currently working on a “factional” work about World War One.

ARTbop Literary Editor and Author Marcus Hobson with fellow Tauranga Writers Inc member author Loretta Crawford


If you would like to contribute your original book reviews to ARTbop WORDS please forward them to for the attention of the Literary Editor Marcus Hobson. We prefer the work is emailed in docx format We appreciate one or two jpg images (not enormous ones as they become an uploading issue for ARTbop)

AND ARTbop promotes:

Publisher Roger Steele introduces poet John Adams and his new work


The Rumpelstiltskin Blues is published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa publishers, Welington New Zealand. Their website says:- “We are a small independent company focusing on quality non-fiction and poetry — naturally we’re also happy to publish popular bestsellers. We’ve been publishing since 1996 and have won several national book awards.     Our list includes art and poetry, business, Maori, children’s, humour, self-help, current affairs and general books. We are interested in adventurous projects and in co-operating with other NZ and overseas publishers (see our bookshop for a detailed listing).  At the end of 2014 we had produced around 500 books.We have many exciting and excellent titles to come – please stay tuned to our website, and keep in touch.

John Adams is an Auckland writer, author of Briefcase (AUP, 2011), winner of the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Poetry Book published in 2011, and the Elbow Stories (Steele Roberts, 2013).]

John’s band (a sextet) plays original compositions, song and spoken word “Don’t Judge Me” is available to play at private and public functions.

Don’t Judge me with poet and musician John Adams at the launch of his second collection of poems..

John Adams can be contacted at



The exhibition dates for the other exhibitions currently showing in the Tauranga Art Gallery are listed below.

Willow: an Installation by Sara Hughes 1 July – 1 October 2017

“This major project invites visitors of all ages to interact with the elements of the work…”

Generosity: Gifts for the Gallery – 1 July 0 17 September 2017

Tauranga arts patron and donor Mrs David Dowrick

“The exhibition features works that explore the relationships with significant individuals and personalities who have helped to build the Tauranga Art Gallery collection ….” Curated by former Gallery Director Penelope Jackson

Toi Mauri: Contemporary Maori Carving by Todd Couper 1 July – 10 September 2017

Todd Couper at the opening of Toi Mauri at the Tauranga Art Gallery

“…the first survey exhibition over the past 15 years of the impressive career of Tauranga-based contemporary Maori artist Todd Couper…”

Jae Kang: Waves of Your Breath 1 July – 29 October 2017

“Auckland-based, Korean artist, Jae Kang has made a large-scale site-specific drawing on the walls of our gallery stairwell.”

Insert Coin- Kereama Taepa 1 July 2017 – January 2018

“Commissioned for the Gallery-s 10th Anniversary celebrations, Papamoa-based artist Kereama Taepa has created one of his unique graphic mash-ups inside the Tauranga Art Gallery lift.”

The programme also contains details of exhibitions commencing in September 2017.

ARTbop is publishing individual reviews of each of the exhibitions currently showing in the Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga.

ZOETICA – life – passion – bravery 30 August to 02 September 2017 Tarnished Frocks & Divas in association with Carrus     W: F: Tarnished Frocks and Divas



The work of Auckland poet Simone Kaho resonates with me on many levels.   Check out her volume of work

Simone Kaho’s  book of poetry LUCKY PUNCH available through Anahera Press.


Tauranga Poet Lee Switzer on ARTbop photographic duty in Rotorua, Bay of Plenty


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