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It's that time of year in the literary calendar that is akin to Christmas for me -- the Man Booker Prize longlist has been released. My anticipation for the list dates back to 1990, when A.S. Byatt's Possession won. Intrigued by the cover with that glorious painting, "The Beguiling of Merlin" by Edward Burne-Jones, and the Booker Prize sticker on that gorgeous cover, well, Dear Reader, it had to come home with me.

Possession's dual storylines, Byatt's ability to mimic poets, the academic ruthlessness and examples of grown-ups behaving silly have kept the novel on my always-changing best loved books list. The ending wasn't perfect, but by then I didn't care. The novel had done the best thing a book can do for me -- I was swept away.

Since then, the Booker longlist has provided many surprises and welcome additions to my reading life. For several years now, I've tried to find as many longlist nominees as possible (and does my book budget show this). The longlist this year has debut novels, books from writers throughout the Commonwealth and shows the diversity of contemporary literary fiction.

To wit:

The returnees:

Jim Crace, with Harvest, a fable about what happens when an idyllic way of life begins to die, and which he announced earlier would be his last novel, and whose Quarantine was shortlisted 16 years ago,

Colm Tóibín, shortlisted twice before, now with The Testament of Mary, as she looks back on the years when her son Jesus was declared the Son of God, which she does not agree with,

Tash Aw for Five Star Billionaire, a novel of modern Shanghai and people who go there to find their fortunes, and whose The Harmony Silk Factory was longlisted in 2005 and which I admired,

Not nominated before?

Colum McCann for TransAtlantic, that novel of women interacting briefly with famous men and of the deaths of Irish men and boys, which I'm starting to think is a novel for the dispassionate,

Debut novelists:
NoViolet Bulawayo for We Need New Names, a portrait of a Zimbabwe shantytown called, of course, Paradise,

Eve Harris, whose The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is set in an Orthodox Jewish community, due out in the States in September,

Donal Ryan, any aspiring writer's hero for having his book rejected more than 40 times before The Spinning Heart, told from 21 points of view, was accepted, and due out in the States next March,

Female writers (imagine the day when no one would regard this as a separate category -- are you listening, Wikipedia?):

Eleanor Catton, a New Zealand writer with The Luminaries, about a woman on trial for murder in New Zealand in the 19th century, and which, of course, I very much want to read, to be published in October in the States,

Jhumpa Lhairi with her second novel, The Lowland, a tale of two brothers from Calcutta whose lives take very different turns, a September U.S. publication that you know I've pre-ordered,

Alison MacLeod's Unexploded, which has a fascinating description of a military man, a housewife who makes an inappropriate friend and a young boy who wait to see if the Germans will land in Brighton in 1940, with no U.S. publication yet set and a September U.K. publication date,

Charlotte Mendelson,Almost English, about a teenage girl in a small London flat with her mother and three Hungarian relatives, coming out in August in the U.K. with no U.S. publication date yet,

Ruth Ozeki, a Canadian-American writer and Zen Buddhist priest, for A Tale for the Time Being, a dual storyline of a suicidal Japanese girl who grows close to her very old grandmother and a writer named Ruth who finds the girl's diary washed up on a Northwest shore, and whose All Over Creation was a novel I adored,

The innovator:

Richard House's The Kills is actually four books, part political thriller, and has additional film and audio content available. (It's not available in the States yet.)

In a perfect world, I would be able to read all of them before the shortlist is announced. I do have the Ozeki and Aw novels, and plan to get the Catton and Lahairi for certain.

The shortlist comes out in September and the award will be named on October 15. I hope it is still televised live in the UK; I love the idea that somewhere in the world a literary prize is considered worthy of live television coverage.

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Poll

Which longlisted book would you most like to read?

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| 22 votes | Vote | Results

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