In a week that seems likely to be filled with book news of the maddening kind, it’s fun to come across a story that celebrates books and reminds us of the excitement they can bring.

The announcement of Lost Man Booker, seems designed to help us refocus on what’s really important about books and how they can influence our culture and our lives in beautiful and meaningful ways.

Here’s the setup: two years after the Booker Prize began, it was no longer awarded as a retrospective. According to the Man Booker foundation, it became, “as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year’s gap when a wealth of fiction, published in 1970, fell through the net. These books were simply never considered for the prize.”

And what a wealth it was, too. When you look at the longlist, which has just been announced, the mind reels with possibilities and wonder. There is, quite literally, something here for everyone: for every reading taste in the English language:

The Lost Man Booker Prize is the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation. He comments, “I noticed that when Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business was first published it carried encomiums from Saul Bellow and John Fowles both of whom judged the 1971 Booker Prize. However judges for 1971 said it had not been considered or submitted. This led to an investigation which concluded that a year had been excluded. I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker Prize.”

Though the poll has still to be posted, you’ll get the chance to vote on the shortlist via the Man Booker Web site. The shortlist will then be announced in March, while the winner will be announced in May.

Here’s the longlist:

  • Brian Aldiss, The Hand Reared Boy
  • H.E.Bates, A Little Of What You Fancy?
  • Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees
  • Melvyn Bragg, A Place In England
  • Christy Brown, Down All The Days
  • Len Deighton, Bomber
  • J.G.Farrell, Troubles
  • Elaine Feinstein, The Circle
  • Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon
  • Reginald Hill, A Clubbable Woman
  • Susan Hill, I’m The King Of The Castle
  • Francis King, A Domestic Animal
  • Margaret Laurence, The Fire Dwellers
  • David Lodge, Out Of The Shelter
  • Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat
  • Shiva Naipaul, Fireflies
  • Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander
  • Joe Orton, Head To Toe
  • Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
  • Ruth Rendell, A Guilty Thing Surprised
  • Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat
  • Patrick White, The Vivisector

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