The Man Booker Prize jury has just announced the list of finalists for the world’s most prestigious literary prize. Six novels are vying for the top honor, to be awarded on Tuesday, October 13th.
From a rippling river in Nigeria to the bustling streets of New York City, these books offer a chance to explore far-flung corners of the world. And they show us old, familiar haunts in dazzlingly original ways.
Let these novels transport you around the globe. Your tour guides: some of the best fiction writers in the world. Who knows, you might find inspiration for your next travel destination within their pages.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Taking as its starting point the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, James’ novel is a multilayered tour-de-force. Hurtling through 1970s and 80s Jamaica, the book explores the fraught history of U.S.-Caribbean relations. Not exactly brief, the book is a serious commitment at 688 pages. But don’t worry. James has a talent for language and story. In his hands, the streets that birthed the reggae legend come to life, crisscrossed with a raucous cast of characters, from politicians to gangsters, C.I.A. spooks to music journalists.
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
The only author on this year’s list to have been previously nominated (for C in 2010), British novelist Tom McCarthy is a virtuoso of the avant-garde. A ‘corporate anthropologist’ has been tasked with creating a report to crystalize the meaning of our information age. He fixates on the unreality of the web, compiles dossiers on ocean oil spills, traffic jams in Africa, and Japanese video game characters. But what is the secret thread that ties it all together? What does it all mean, really? A travelogue for our Google-Earth™ times, this slim philosophical novel is the perfect book for those looking to stretch their minds on a plan-free Sunday afternoon.
The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma
Obioma’s debut is a magical coming of age story set in small-town Nigeria, moving along a strong current of Shakespearean tragedy. Disobeying their strict father, four brothers go fishing on a nearby river. They find fish, and also, Abulu, the local madman. He recounts a terrible prophecy. Ikenna, the eldest brother, will one day be killed by one of his siblings, a fisherman. Narrated by a bashful nine-year old boy named Benjamin, the novel paints a beautiful and ultimately heart-breaking portrait of the struggle of the Agwu family and of the West African country they call home.
The Year of The Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
Arriving with the stamp of approval from Salman Rushdie, past winner of the Booker of Bookers, Sahota’s novel tells the story of an unlikely family. Thirteen men live together in a cramped flat in Sheffield, England. The book focuses on three: Tochi, Randeep and Avtar, immigrants from India. We also meet Randeep’s British-Indian wife Narindar. Moving between India and England, the novel tackles big themes: nationalism and immigration, religious fundamentalism and racism, the moral responsibility we have to those less privileged. But Sahota is most concerned with people, not politics. His lovingly-crafted characters are the true heart of this moving tale.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
At first glance, the subject of Tyler’s latest novel might seem old-hat for American readers. Several generations of a middle-class family, living in the suburbs. Ho-hum, you say. But hand this well-worn conceit to a gifted novelist like Anne Tyler and you’ve got a classic in the making. Abby and Red call the family home to Baltimore, and soon three generations of Whitshanks, including bad-boy Denny, are unspooling the threads of their tragic-comic family story. A book for the well travelled reader who wants to go home again.
Be ready for heartbreak, dear reader. Yanagihara’s mammoth novel follows a small group of ambitious friends over the course of four decades as they grow into adulthood in New York City. Malcolm is an architect discouraged by the flat-lining of his career, Willem is an aspiring actor, and J.B., a struggling artist waiting for his big break. At the center of it all is Jude, a successful lawyer trying to overcome a horrific childhood. Don’t expect bright lights from this big city novel. This is a haunting book; you’ll carry Jude on your travels long after reading the final page.
Yutaka Dirks is a writer from Toronto, Canada. On a crowded subway or an airplane high over the Pacific, he’s never without a good book.
Want more? Check out the 17 books that inspired us to travel the world!