‘A tour de force’: wildcard novel completes Not the Booker prize shortlist

Last year’s judges have finalised the 2018 shortlist, adding Marc Nash’s Three Dreams in the Key of G. Now we’re on the hunt for three new judges ...

We now have a complete shortlist for the 2018 Not the Booker prize. Our excellent panel of judges from last year have added Three Dreams in the Key of G by Marc Nash, as our wildcard entry. It sounds like a daring experimental novel that should add considerable interest to our list – but don’t take it from me, take it from our three judges:

Hannah Bruce calls it “a truly unique book – a tour de force of advanced literature. Nash manages to intertwine three interesting narrators, while also expressing the emotion of science. Three Dreams is a book capable of standing out in any collection or shortlist, and will likely not be forgotten.”

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Serial chiller: Wilkie Collins, master of the cliffhanger

When it was first published 150 years ago, The Moonstone came out in weekly instalments. Read as a novel today, Collins’ page-turner has lost none of its power

Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone at a time of personal trauma and physical agony. But his professional life was going much better: with four bestsellers published in a decade, Collins was one of the best-paid writers working at the time. When The Moonstone came out in 1868, he netted a tidy £750 for the UK serial rights, plus the same again in the US. This was already a much larger sum than most literary novelists can expect today – equivalent to about £168,000 in 2018 – with more to come from sales of the complete edition. Collins was as acclaimed as he was popular, fully aware of his powers and thoroughly enjoying them. In an 1871 preface to The Moonstone he said: ...

Not the Booker prize 2018 shortlist announced: time to start reading!

In a very close public vote, five novels have emerged as contenders, with one final choice still to come from the judges

The votes have been cast and counted and we have an almost complete Not the Booker prize shortlist for 2018. Here are the five books moving through to the next stage of the competition, ranked by vote:

Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn (110)
Dark Pines by Will Dean (83)
Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley (69)
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan (67)
Sealed by Naomi Booth (64)

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Not the Booker longlist: vote now to decide the 2018 shortlist

Our intitial poll has put more than 140 novels in contention. We need your learned opinions to winnow this down to a shortlist next week

It’s time for the Not The Booker longlist. Just like every year, it feels like we need it. As you might have seen, the actual Man Booker longlist was released last week and, well … Let’s try not to be rude. At least there are some admirably unusual choices on there. It’s also inevitable that the judges of that prize are going to miss off some beauties, because they only get to choose 12 books. And that’s where we come in. Our longlist is actually genuinely long. Thanks to all the nominations we’ve received, we’ve got a giant roster of more than 140 novels – and plenty of them are superb.

It’s very pleasing to see so many books get some time in the ...

Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is our reading group choice for August

Dorothy L Sayers called it ‘probably the very finest detective story ever written’ – so get cracking early on this substantial Victorian sensation

We briefly interrupt our ongoing coverage of Moon Tiger to announce the subject of next month’s reading group: Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone.

The Moonstone is a wonderful page-turner of a novel – but there are quite a few of those pages to turn. I’d advise getting cracking early, if you can. I’d also advise starting to read it as soon as you can for the sheer, exhilarating fun of it.

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The unfilmable brilliance of Moon Tiger

Penelope Lively’s novel defeated even Harold Pinter’s attempts to write a screenplay, and it’s not just the narrator’s voice that a camera couldn’t capture

When Michael Ondaatje won the Golden Booker prize last week he gave credit for the novel’s popularity to Anthony Minghella, suggesting that the film director’s adaptation of The English Patient had “something to do with the result of this vote”. He was being modest; The English Patient is a superb book and stands alone. Even so, it’s fun to speculate about what might have happened if an equally impressive film had been made of Moon Tiger.

Indeed, I’ve sometimes wondered why such a film has not appeared. One of the many pleasures of reading Moon Tiger comes from the variously gorgeous and unsettling images it embeds in your brain. Some of the descriptions of desert war wouldn’t look out of place in The English ...

Not the Booker prize 2018: nominate your favourite book of the year

The literary award decided by Guardian readers is celebrating its 10th birthday – and now it’s down to you to choose the contenders

The Not the Booker prize is back. Again! When we started back in 2009, the world was a different place – one Gordon Brown was prime minister and a TV host called Donald Trump had just endorsed Hillary Clinton to be president of the US.

Over the last 10 years we’ve done some fine work – or, I should say, you’ve done some fine work. It’s your nominations, suggestions and votes that have made this prize over the past decade. We’ve had some fiery and important discussions about the nature of art and prizes and judgments. We’ve also been able to bring attention to some excellent books – bask in the glow of our past winners:

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Reading group: Help choose a Booker prize winner to read in July

The Golden Man Booker prize judges are making their choice – but we want your ‘gold’. The author will win our attention for a month. Please vote!

This July is a bumper Man Booker month. As well as the announcement of the 2018 longlist, we also have the results of the Golden Booker vote to look forward to, with members of the public picking their favourite winner from a six-book shortlist spanning the last 50 years. So we thought we’d join in, by asking you to nominate your own favourite winner from the last half-century to be this month’s reading group selection.

I have to admit I initially felt some “franchise fatigue” when the Golden Booker was announced. It perhaps says as much about my relationship with time as it does about the Booker, but it doesn’t seem all that long since the Lost Booker (won by ...

Class, sex and war: how Rebecca West dismantled Edwardian ideals

The Return of the Soldier begins in genteel keeping with its era, but proceeds to splinter under the weight of trauma it depicts

The Return of the Soldier sounds like a novel at odds with its society. Rebecca West’s ideas about the hell of war and the iniquities of the class system, combined with her progressive sexual politics, set the then 24-year-old against the Edwardian establishment when it was first published in 1918. But you wouldn’t guess West was going to unleash a modernist firestorm from the first few quiet and genteel pages. There’s an emotional wrench on the very first page when we realise that the setting is the nursery of a dead child – but otherwise the writing is slow, calm and ornate.

Take this early description of Baldry Court, the house to which the titular soldier, Chris Baldry, must soon return:

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The Return of the Soldier: an incendiary, formidable debut

Rebecca West’s novel, published when she was just 24, took a maverick line on everything from sexual politics to class and the first world war

“I’ve aroused hostility in an extraordinary lot of people,” Rebecca West told the Paris Review in 1981. “I’ve never known why. I don’t think I’m formidable.”

West was speaking towards the end of a long, productive life. She had written troubling accounts of the Nuremberg trials, spoken up about repression under communist regimes (and had done the same for fascist ones in the decades before the second world war) and taken to the streets with suffragettes (later falling out with many of their leaders). She had set down hundreds of thousands of sparkling words in novels, non-fiction books, reviews and journalism. And throughout it all she had demonstrated an enviable ability to set fire to everything.

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Reading group: Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier is June’s book

Her private life is these days better known than her novels, but the centenary of her debut is a good time to revisit a bold and brave writer

This June marks 100 years since Rebecca West’s first novel The Return of the Soldier was published – which is all the excuse we need to take a look at this fascinating book and its remarkable author.

When the novel was published, West was just 26 but had already made a name for herself. Or, at least, borrowed one. The author was born Cicely Isabel Fairfield in 1892, but took her new name from the heroine of an Ibsen play, Rosmersholm. She would later claim that this decision wasn’t made for “any profound reason” – although it’s hard not to see a link between in the two women’s rebellious free thinking.

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Djuna Barnes’s writing is exhilarating – but steeped in the worst of its era

Nightwood is an intensely imagined record of marginalised lives, but it is also marked with repellent prejudice

“Do you know what a Tuppenny Upright might be?” asks Dr Matthew Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante-O’Connor towards the end of Nightwood. He doesn’t wait for an answer: a Tuppenny’ Upright, we immediately learn (even if we don’t want to), is “an old-time girl” who plies her trade on London Bridge and gets her name because “for tuppence, an upright is all anyone can expect”. He plunges on:

“They used to walk along slowly, all ruffles and rags, with big terror hats on them, a pin struck over the eye and slap up through the crown, half their shadows on the ground and the other half crawling along the wall beside them; ladies of the haute sewer taking their last stroll, sauntering on their last Rotten Row, going slowly along in the dark, holding up their ...

Djuna Barnes’s writing is exhilarating – but steeped in the worst of its era

Nightwood is an intensely imagined record of marginalised lives, but it is also marked with repellent prejudice

“Do you know what a Tuppenny Upright might be?” asks Dr Matthew Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante-O’Connor towards the end of Nightwood. He doesn’t wait for an answer: a Tuppenny’ Upright, we immediately learn (even if we don’t want to), is “an old-time girl” who plies her trade on London Bridge and gets her name because “for tuppence, an upright is all anyone can expect”. He plunges on:

“They used to walk along slowly, all ruffles and rags, with big terror hats on them, a pin struck over the eye and slap up through the crown, half their shadows on the ground and the other half crawling along the wall beside them; ladies of the haute sewer taking their last stroll, sauntering on their last Rotten Row, going slowly along in the dark, holding up their ...

Djuna Barnes’s writing is exhilarating – but steeped in the worst of its era

Nightwood is an intensely imagined record of marginalised lives, but it is also marked with repellent prejudice

“Do you know what a Tuppenny Upright might be?” asks Dr Matthew Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante-O’Connor towards the end of Nightwood. He doesn’t wait for an answer: a Tuppenny’ Upright, we immediately learn (even if we don’t want to), is “an old-time girl” who plies her trade on London Bridge and gets her name because “for tuppence, an upright is all anyone can expect”. He plunges on:

“They used to walk along slowly, all ruffles and rags, with big terror hats on them, a pin struck over the eye and slap up through the crown, half their shadows on the ground and the other half crawling along the wall beside them; ladies of the haute sewer taking their last stroll, sauntering on their last Rotten Row, going slowly along in the dark, holding up their ...

Nightwood: a ‘wonderful book’ – or ‘woven in conceit’ to torment readers?

Opinions have divided starkly on May’s reading group – but does Djuna Barnes’s novel ever settle anywhere between exhilaration and baffling tedium?

Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood is one of the most divisive books we have tackled on the reading group. Just consider this quick selection of responses sent in over the last week:

“A really wonderful book, and I’m overjoyed to see it came out of the hat.”

“I still think Nightwood is an overestimated text, woven in conceit and clad with self-indulgence.”

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Reading group: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is our book for May

Our modernist choice comes garlanded with praise from Dylan Thomas, TS Eliot and Jeanette Winterson – who promises that it will leave you ‘pearl-lined’

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes has come out of the hat and will be this month’s choice on the reading group.

This extraordinary novel was first published in 1936. Its story of expats, drifters, troubled souls, pain and loss in Paris struck a chord in that turbulent year of the Nazi Olympics and the outbreak of the Spanish civil war. But actually, Nightwood was set in the 1920s and (true to an ongoing and noble tradition of modernist novels) the book had been circulating in publishing houses for several years before Faber & Faber picked it up. It is, as Jeanette Winterson wrote in her 2006 introduction to the book, both of its moment and something apart: “Nightwood has not survived as a slice of history, ...

Reading group: which modernist book should we read this month?

From James Joyce to HG Wells, the efforts of 20th-century writers to find fresh forms for new times have not grown old. Please share your innovative choices

This month on the reading group we’re going to make it new. In May, it’s 75 years since the first collected edition of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets was published in the US, which seems like a good prompt to put modernism in the spotlight.

The temptation here is to squeeze out a joke about time present and time past (and time future contained in time past), but I shan’t open that door. Except to say that a literary form that was so interested in structure and setting the past into a new context is an excellent candidate for investigation here.

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From a fortune cookie to a Pulitzer: the story behind William Kennedy’s Ironweed

Ironweed’s hero navigates the Great Depression in a drunken haze, but his journey is lit by glowing writing about love, friendship and redemption

When the Paris Review interviewed William Kennedy in July 1984, he had just installed a new swimming pool outside his house. Six months earlier, he’d opened a fortune cookie that said he was going to have a lucky week. He’d assumed it was because “I was getting reviewed in about five different major places” – but that wasn’t the half of it. A man (called, pleasingly, Dr Hope) called Kennedy and told him he’d won a MacArthur Fellowship – then $264,000 (these days it is a hefty $625,000). That same year, Kennedy would win the Pulitzer prize for Ironweed, sold the film rights (as well as truck-loads of copies) and received almost universally glowing reviews around the world.

Things were suddenly going well for Kennedy, but ...

Reading group: Ironweed by William Kennedy is our underappreciated book for April

After a Pulitzer prize win and a film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in the 80s, Kennedy’s novel about a haunted man deserves wider recognition

After asking you to nominate books you felt were underappreciated, Ironweed by William Kennedy has come out of the hat to be our Reading Group book for April.

A year after it was published in 1983, Ironweed won the Pulitzer prize for fiction and was even made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, in 1987. But I think it’s reasonable to say that deserves a little more attention today. I have to admit to near total ignorance of the novel. It has barely been mentioned in the Guardian’s book pages in the last five years, and it has yet to appear on the excellent Backlisted Podcast.

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Reading group: which underappreciated book should we read in April?

Do you have a favourite read that is tragically underrated? Is there an up-and-coming author who deserves the spotlight? Convince us and we’ll read it together this month

This month on the reading group we want to shine the spotlight on a writer you feel deserves more attention. At the end of last year we had you nominate the overlooked gems of 2017, and that felt like a tremendous success. Not least because we ended up reading the wonderful (and recently award-winning) Attrib by Eley Williams.

Now we want to extend that opportunity again and hunt for the writers who perhaps not enough people have read, or who just merit an extra bit of attention. The remit is as broad as you want to make it. If you feel that not enough people nowadays are enjoying Lucretius’s thoughts on Epicurean philosophy, sock us a nomination for De Rerum Natura. ...