Sunday, 19 October 2008

Man Booker Prize - the most difficult novels

As announced earlier in the week, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won the man Booker Prize. The announcement seems to have been greeted mainly with surprise. Nonetheless, as I noted back in May, first novels set in India have done very well in the prize in recent years. The White Tiger is widely available as a first edition. Prices are currently rather high, but if you are prepared to wait for a while they will undoubtedly fall again once the initial excitement is over, as this is not an uncommon book.

The Clothes on their Backs looks destined to join the list of the most difficult to obtain Booker novels from a collector’s perspective. I have assembled over quite a few years a full collection of the winners and shortlisted books. The ones I found most difficult to obtain in the UK first edition were the following:

1) Gordon M.Williams, Scenes like these. Secker and Warburg, 1968. An exceptionally uncommon book - none available online at the moment. Paradoxically, may be cheap if encountered. I have two copies, each of which cost under ten pounds. However, many collectors would pay much more.
2) TH Wheeler, The Conjunction, Angus and Robertson, 1969. Again, exceptionally uncommon in the original first edition, with no copies available online at present.
3) JL Carr, A month in the country, The Harvester Press, 1980. The first edition is currently unavailable online, although reprrints are relatively common.
4) Stanley Middleton, Holiday, Hutchinson, 1974. The 1974 winner eluded me for several years. However, there are now several copies available via ABEBooks, albeit at a minimum cost of £1000!
5) Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop, Duckworth, 1978. Shortlisted in 1978, a small print run went mainly to libraries. Again available via ABEBooks, at £300 or ablve.
6) Keri Hulme, The Bone People, 1985. Probably the most surprising winner over the years, and complicated from a bibliographical perspective. The true First British Edition of this Booker Prize winning novel is distinguished on the title page by the statement: 'Spiral in association with Hodder and Stoughton Auckland, London, Sydney, Toronto'. Typeset in Christchurch, New Zealand; printed and bound in Singapore. In format it is slightly larger and thicker than the later Spiral/ Hodder impression which appears to be a first edition but unlike the true first edition also has the “Shortlisted for the Booker Prize” on the dustjacket.

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