This year’s shortlist offers a diverse range of titles, each of which could make for a very good Big Read. Having been determined by a specially developed selection algorithm – we think this is the first time that a literary prize has been chosen by a computer.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Himself by Jess Kidd
This is a book of staggering originality. I have never read a detective story where the cast of characters includes ghosts which only some of the protagonists can see. The story takes place in 1950s and 1970s Ireland, in a festering world of organic grubbiness, where frogs, clouds of soot and the occasional hurricane of books all get in the way of solving the mystery. It’s vivid, funny and the mysterious stranger at the centre of the action – Mahony – is 'a Dublin orphan, which means that he could survive on an iceberg in just his socks'. Quite compelling!
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Tin Man is the story of two boys, Michael and Ellis, who grow up together – and Annie, whom they meet as adults, but becomes immensely important to them both. The story is told from the point of view of the boys, one after another. They both remember the past, and as they look back they dwell on the secrets they kept from each other and the conversations they might have had. Moving between a grey factory in England and the bright colours of France, I found it mesmerising. The author has a real sensitivity for what stands out in our lives, and what shapes the people we become. I read it in just two days.