On your marks...

22/07/2011 by Katie Allen

Book lovers and bookies alike will soon be turning their thoughts to next Tuesday when the longlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction is announced.

Still the big daddy of prizes, although the Orange Prize gives it a good run for its money, the Booker is one of the few prizes everyone has heard of and that can make an author’s career. Last year’s winner was sexegenarian Howard Jacobson’s humorous look at friendship, ageing and Jewishness, The Finkler Question, while the previous year was Hilary Mantel’s bestselling Wolf Hall, which re-told the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn from the perspective of brutal social climber and regal advisor Thomas Cromwell.

The list never fails to elicit controversy, from the shortlist release in 1993, when the publisher of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, Anthony Cheetham, called the judges 'a bunch of wankers’ for not shortlisting the book. Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won that year.

While a decade on, D B C Pierre won for Vernon God Little – after confessing that he had spent 10 years fleecing his friends out of cash. He vowed to donate his prize money to making amends.

And this year, organisers formed the spin-off Best of Beryl prize, with readers invited to choose their favourite of the five novels by Beryl Bainbridge that were shortlisted for the prize – but never won. Bainbridge, whose latest novel The Girl in The Polka Dot Dress was published posthumously this year, was the most nominated author ever. The eventual gong went to her 1998 novel Master Georgie.

We’ve assembled some of the brightest lights in publishing to pick their nominations for this year's Man Booker "dozen", including book reviewer Suzi Feay, Foyles bookshop's Jonathan Ruppin, The Bookseller's books editor Alice O’Keeffe and charts editor Philip Stone, plus blogger Simon Savidge, with more to come...

Feel free to agree, disagree, or add your own nominations…

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