The Man Booker Longlist – why are we waiting for publication?

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The longlist of thirteen titles has been announced, but we can only get our hands on eight of them? Is this a prize for the public, or just for publishers?

It doesn’t seem entirely fair that the public aren’t able to get fully involved with the Man Booker this year, and what’s more unfair is that certain publishers are choosing to purposefully not bring forward publication for their titles. This is despite the fact that HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate is to bring forward its publication date for Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog to 31st July since it was longlisted for the prize. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me…

From a publisher’s point of view, surely being longlisted for the Man Booker is phenomenal for sales – most people will be desperate to get their hands on a copy so they can make their own mind up about who should be shortlisted, and who should eventually win. Isn’t that what book prizes are all about? Generate a bit of publicity, a bit of chatter and buzz about a book and an author, provoke discussion and debate and then ultimately crown a victor to the combined cries of celebration and commiseration? How does any of this work if people can’t read four of the books on the list? What happens if they’re shortlisted? It’s just ridiculous. It’s just squandering free publicity. How frustrating for the public, and undoubtedly for the authors too.

2014_booker_novelsFrom a personal point of view, I often supplement my reading with these book prize longlisted titles, and it’s extremely irritating to have a book flaunted in my face and in the media when I can’t read it. A cynical part of my brain tells me that this is just an elaborate way for the big publishing companies to pat each other on the back about how well they’re doing. It’s a bit of competition between publishing houses, and seems a bit elitist and alienating to everyone else. Is the Booker just a prize for publishers, or for everyone? I really don’t know any more.

In an article on The Bookseller site, Simon Key from the Big Green Bookshop is quoted as saying:

It is just stupid that nearly half the books aren’t even out yet. The Man Booker Prize is trying to stand out from the Folio, why doesn’t it do that by being inclusive and selecting books which are already published so that the public can get involved? What’s the point in keeping it just for the publishing industry? How are booksellers able to make a song and dance among customers when we can’t offer them the books? They have changed the rules so that Americans can enter, why don’t they change the eligibility to ensure the books have to be published?

The word ‘inclusive’ jumps out at me. It should be inclusive, of smaller, independent publishers, as well as the public. The problem with a lot of these big book prizes, and I’m probably the zillionth person to harp on about this, is their exclusivity. As Simon says, the Booker seems as though it’s trying to fight against this criticism by including American titles, but that’s only a small fragment of the whole picture. All we’re asking for is the ability to read the books that we’re being told we should read, isn’t that what you want, Booker Prize? Isn’t that the whole point of you? Sigh.

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Last week, Freight Books read…

Sorry we’ve been away for so long! It’s been an extremely busy July at Freight Books, and I’m afraid we were so preoccupied with creating some fabulous new reads that we forgot to keep on top of all the brilliant books that are already out there! Forgive us!Kate Tough Head for the Edge

Head for the Edge, Keep Walking by Kate Tough (Cargo, 2014). I very much enjoyed this book. It’s the first book in a long time that I felt I could actually relate to, which is nice considering the main character is so charming and witty! It’s the kind of character that you hope to see a glimmer of yourself in, though it’s not always the case…

Jill’s story begins with the end of a long-term, serious relationship with a man who has, seemingly, chosen his career over her and moved abroad to pursue it. If you’ve only read the first ten pages, you can be forgiven for thinking that the character is a bit of a relationship martyr, and annoyingly obsessed with this guy. It would have been tedious if the author wasn’t able to explore Jill’s distress in such a poetic, beautiful, and witty way. It was genuinely really, really, funny! Despite the book beginning on such a downturn, the character’s personality shines through and you find yourself wondering how anyone could dump this girl! She’s brilliant! But then she starts unraveling the details of the break-up, and the classic ‘it’s all his fault’ mantra starts to creep in, and you find yourself doubting Jill’s logic, which actually just makes the book more interesting. She’s flawed, but so is everyone.

I don’t even take off my coat. I beeline for the walk-in cupboard in the living room. Moving a portable heater to one side, I can access a large cardboard box to reach inside. Both blind hands are required to lift out a smaller box placed there in July; when I swore I’d never do this.

Cross-legged on the rug, my coat-seams cut into my armpits as I hold him.

My lungs remember air.

I slip-stop through the glossy stack: him alone, me and him, headshots, full-length family groupings. Set against: landmarks and landscapes and sun-loungers and celebrations.

Today has been a subway train rumbling towards this point, now arrived – I have to hear his voice. Just for a moment. The sound of it. I need to. I must.

I guess the point I’m making is that Jill is a real woman. She isn’t perfect, but that isn’t a problem. And the author feasts on every aspect of Jill’s life, not just the relationship stuff (which reeks of anti-feminism in my book). The author delves into Jill’s relationships with her friends, her parents, her health, as well as her career and desire and actions to progress within a company – trying to achieve her goals and improve her life! It made me laugh every time I read something and thought ‘that thought has definitely crossed my mind before’.

The funny stuff lies mostly in her forage into online dating, where she meets a host of interesting characters (one of whom asks her to treat his penis like a gear stick – I’ll let you make up your own mind about what that could possibly mean).

I found this book to be a really enjoyable, easy read. Totally perfect for reading outside in the sun. The story is gripping, emotional, honest, funny and little gems of poetry glitter throughout. I was hooked. I want to hear more from Jill and her friends!

The Bookseller’s Dozen #4

Continuing our monthly feature of Scottish independent bookshops.

This is one of my personal favourites! When I studied in Edinburgh last year I was fortunate enough to be based in the Merchiston campus – a mere 3 minute walk from this intimate, friendly bookshop. The bookshop boasts a regular programme of events including ‘big name authors as well as writer’s workshops and story-time for the under 5’s’. They also have a children’s bookgroup, and provide support for adult bookgroups.

The Edinburgh Bookshop has also won quite a few accolades, including The Scottish Independent Retail Award for “Best Independent Bookshop” in 2012. It was also featured in the The Independent’s “50 Best Bookshops”. On their website, they say that their emphasis is on ‘unusual, intelligent and topical selections of titles to offer the customer a clever and refreshing choice’. They certainly do that!

121602-premises-photograph-for-the-edinburgh-bookshop-eh10-4dh1Bookshop: The Edinburgh Bookshop

Owner: Marie Moser

Location: 219 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4DH

Open Since: 2007

How did you get into bookselling in the first place?

I have briefly worked for The Edinburgh International Book Festival and James Thin in the past, but really I am just a booklover, who lived locally and jumped at the chance to take over the shop.

What sort of books do you sell?

A wide range for both Adults and Children. We try to edit our choices to include a selection of great classics and the best of new titles – as well as quite a few books which make it in just because they sound really interesting!

What’s popular at the moment?

Adult titles: Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century” and Andrew Greig’s Fair Helen.

Children’s titles: Jonny Duddle’s Giagantosaurus, Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm and William Sutcliffe’s Circus of Thieves.

Have you got your eye on a book at the moment?

Louise Welsh – A Lovely Way to Burn. A cracking page turner – I read it in one delightful sitting.

What makes an Indy bookshop better than an online or chain retailer?

The personal touch and the Booksellers’ knowledge and advice. We can help you find the perfect book for you or the person you are buying for. We’re also on your doorstep (if you live in Edinburgh), and can get you almost any book within 48 hours.

Aside from selling books, what else goes on in the bookshop?

  • Storytime for the under-5’s twice a week – a riotous start to the day!
  • A monthly Book Club for Children aged 7-16 where they can talk about what they’ve been reading and find out about new titles.
  • Two or three author events every month across a range of Adult fiction and biography.
  • We also like to dress up and join in for World Book Day, Red Nose Day etc. I’ve already been a pirate with underpants over my trousers and come to work in my pyjamas, and I’ve only had the shop for 18 months!

EDBS_Inside4Do you have any weird and wonderful bookshop stories to share?

Most of our weird ones are featured in “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops” – Jen Campbell used to work for us !

For me, dealing with our younger customers is very rewarding– and I am very touched to realise that, for some of them, coming to the Bookshop is a big part of their lives. At Christmas, one five-year-old insisted on coming in to show me his letter to Santa before he sent it – I was welling up! Another has called his dog after a character in his favourite picture book.

Do you have any interesting events coming up?

We are very excited to be doing an event with Ruth Thomas in May – as she is one of our favourite hand-sells. Her book, The Home Corner, is wry and witty – so the event should be a real joy.

What does the next year hold for the Edinburgh Bookshop?

Continuing to try and offer the best customer experience and service we can. Building on what we already do in-store, and improving our events programme – especially for children and schools.

You should get yourself down there and have a browse at what’s on offer! They are open Monday – Friday 10-6pm, Saturday 9-6pm and Sunday 11-4pm.

Follow The Edinburgh Bookshop on Twitter @EdinBookshop or on Facebook.

From the author’s mouth

In the first of a new series of posts by Freight authors, Iain Maloney
– whose debut novel First Time Solo will be published on 23rd of June – writes a response to a recent article by Will Self (link below).

Bring out your dead How the Dead Write

On May 2nd in The Guardian, previewing a lecture given on May 6th, Will Self announced the death of the literary novel. At least that’s what the headline stated: ‘The Novel is Dead (this time it’s for real)’. I’m going to give Self the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an over-eager sub-editor who came up with that piece of click bait. Continue reading

Freight’s Friday Feature

 This is almost veering off into Tell it Like it is territory. But I’m not entirely telling it how it is. I’m more attempting to point out how someone else has told it how it isn’t.

jk rowlingSo I read a very frustrating and provocative article by Lynn Shepherd on JK Rowling’s role as a writer who (shockingly!) didn’t immediately decide to give up writing when she earned a ‘vast fortune’ off the back of it.

Before I go into this in any depth, if you haven’t read this article by Lynn yet, you should do it now: click here.

All done? I know there’s a part of your brain going ‘she has a point kind of, doesn’t she? I mean, big bad mainstream authors do kind of ruin it for the little guys, don’t they?’ I have to admit, I sort of started thinking that way – I was reluctant to jump on the hating Lynn Shepherd bandwagon. But then I thought some more about it. It seems as though Lynn is trying to justify this tyrade against Rowling by asking us to agree that popular, arguably mainstream authors are making it more difficult for struggling authors to find agents, publishers and buyers when the books hit the shelves. That’s fine. You can make that argument, and I’m sure many other authors out there would feel that pain and empathise. What you can’t do is couple a self-righteous comment on the closed community of publishing/journalism with an attack (and I think it is an attack, albeit one that seems to constantly premise with ‘I don’t mean this in a mean way, but…’) on one of the world’s most successful, charitable and charismatic writers. Particularly when you haven’t even read any of her most successful works. Continue reading

Freight’s Friday Feature

Fridays are days for fun things! On Fridays we’re going to write
a wee bit about things that we enjoy.
We hope you enjoy them too.

world war z audiobookSo I’ve been wanting to do a post on the audiobook for World War Z by Max Brooks for quite some time now. I’m still a little bit cynical about ebooks, but this one absolutely floored me with its awesomeness. Continue reading