Awards Series: The Booker

A wife, mother, and grandma, Yvonne Anderson lives in rural Ohio. She’s a former legal secretary, currently a professional Virtual Assistant, and writes a daily Bible study blog. She creates fiction just for fun, but sometimes entertains fantasies about real remuneration.

In 1968, the celebrated London publisher Tom Maschler approached representatives of a large UK financial conglomerate, Booker Brothers, with a proposal. Though not primarily a publishing company, Booker Brothers had an Authors’ Division that published a number of well-known writers such as Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. Mashler proposed that the company dedicate a small percentage of their profits to a literary prize. As Mashler recalls, “We were frank about the fact that the prize would take several years to make a mark. We pointed out that once it did so (as we were convinced it would) Booker might well find their sponsorship something they could be proud of.”

And so the Booker-McConnell Prize for Fiction was born. Now officially known as the Man Booker Prize (because Booker Brothers later dropped its publishing division and became exclusively an investment firm, changing its name to The Man Group), the prize is often just called “the Booker.” And Tom Maschler’s promise that the prize would be something they could be proud of has exceeded all expectations.

Probably the world’s most important literary award, the Booker is presented each year for the best original full-length novel written in the English language by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland. In 1968, the prize rewarded the recipient with £21,000; in 2002 the prize money was increased to £50,000. But many winners of the Booker have found not only their finances, but their lives transformed. Many of the novels have been turned into movies, and on at least one occasion, the author went on to win a Nobel Prize.

One reason for the Booker’s stellar reputation is the integrity of its judging process. No allegation has ever been made of bribery or any impropriety surrounding the award. The selection process begins with the formation of an advisory committee comprised of an author, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation. This committee selects a panel of judges from among the leading literary critics, writers, academics and notable public figures. Once appointed, the judges are permitted to work with no interference from the prize administrator or sponsor.

UK publishers may enter up to two full-length novels for consideration. The author is not disqualified if he or she has previously won. The author must, however, be living at the time of the award, and the book must have been originally written in English. Furthermore, a book is considered eligible only if its publisher agrees to certain stipulations. Among other things, the publisher must commit to contributing £5,000 towards general publicity if the book reaches the shortlist, and a further £5,000 if the book wins the prize. Self-published books are not eligible.

No need to feel cheated that you can’t win because you don’t live in the UK. Thanks to The Man Booker International Prize established in 2005, there’s hope for us colonists. Awarded every two years, this £60,000 prize goes to an author living in any country who has published fiction either originally in English, or whose work is generally available in an English translation.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, a list of Booker winners would probably be a good place to start. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve never read any of them, but it sounds like a worthwhile project. If you think so too, here’s list of all the winners to date. Dig in!

2006 – Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
2005 – John Banville, The Sea
2004 – Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
2003 – DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
2002 – Yann Martel, Life of Pi
2001 – Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
2000 – Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
1999 – J M Coetzee, Disgrace
1998 – Ian McEwan, Amsterdam
1997 – Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
1996 – Graham Swift, Last Orders
1995 – Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
1994 – James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1993 – Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1992 – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (co-winner)
1992 – Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger (co-winner)
1991 – Ben Okri, The Famished Road
1990 – A S Byatt, Possession
1989 – Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
1988 – Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
1987 – Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
1986 – Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1985 – Keri Hulme, The Bone People
1984 – Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
1983 – J M Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K
1982 – Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s Ark
1981 – Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
1980 – William Golding, Rites of Passage
1979 – Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
1978 – Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
1977 – Paul Scott, Staying On
1976 – David Storey, Saville
1975 – Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust
1974 – Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist (co-winner)
1974 – Stanley Middleton, Holiday (co-winner)
1973 – J G Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur
1972 – John Berger, G
1971 – V S Naipaul, In a Free State
1970 – Bernice Rubens, The Elected Member
1969 – P H Newby, Something to Answer For
1968 – Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

War Stories

Mike’s stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project, Relevant Magazine and the forthcoming 316 Journal. He is included in the upcoming Coach’s Midnight Diner anthology and was one of ten authors picked for Infuze Magazine’s Best of 2005 print anthology. Mike is an ordained minister, has led numerous small groups and developed discipleship-training curriculum for several churches. He and his wife Lisa live in Southern California, where they have raised four children. You can visit him at

By Mike Duran

Betty Williams said she “could kill George Bush.” Sure, she later retracted her comments. But what made them so shocking in the first place was that Betty Williams has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

While killing someone you disagree with is hardly proper – especially for a Nobel laureate peace activist – in the long run, it’s much more effective than, say, bludgeoning them with a chorus of “Give Peace a Chance.” In this, Ms. Williams inadvertently discloses the limitations of non-violence.

War may not be the answer, but sometimes it’s the right response. No doubt, peace is an ideal we should all pray for and pursue. Nevertheless, even Scripture says there’s “a time for war” (Eccl. 3:8). Sometimes conflict is essential.

Of course, not all would agree.

Shortly after the 2003 Academy Awards, wherein Peter Jackson’s Return of the King , final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, garnered eleven statuettes, the peaceniks got to grumbling. Some suggested the blockbuster films send dangerous messages to the world’s young people, that they glorify violence and minimize diplomacy, that they justify war – even if the opponents happened to be Orcs and Cave Trolls.

I’m guessing the critics were equally rankled by the climactic battle sequences in 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Whereas Jackson aimed at adults, the Narnia movie aimed at kiddies – which made the sprawling war scenes even more egregious. Still, if Aslan began a round of peace talks with the White Witch instead of sacrificing himself, the story would have surely lost steam.

The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings – both the books and films – appear destined to be conjoined. And for good reason. Both stories are fantasies that involve conflict between good and evil, they were written by friends and contemporaries and, in their own ways, have become cultural landmarks. Of course, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s worlds were informed by their religion. Yet another often-overlooked factor contributes to the strength of those stories.

Both Lewis and Tolkien were soldiers.

Tolkien was sent to active duty on the Western Front and served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, the most-decorated British unit in the war. After four months in and out of the trenches, he succumbed to “trench fever,” a typhus-like infection common in the insanitary conditions, and was sent back to England. Lewis chose to volunteer for active duty in World War I and served in the British Army, fighting in the muddy trenches of northern France.

It probably goes without saying, but the impact of this war – the clashing of superpowers, the loss of life, the defense of virtue – had tremendous influence upon the stories they would later tell. Of course, I’m not intending to trivialize war or diminish the sacrifices made for land and loved, but to suggest that the richness and transcendence of those stories is due, in part, to the battlefield.

If Tolkien and Lewis had never served with a band of brothers, defended something they loved, been fired upon enemy troops and watched their friends die in combat, Middle-Earth and Narnia would have never been conceived.

This idea – that war is both a reasonable response and ultimately noble – grates on postmodern man for two reasons. First, it implies that some wars are necessary (which rankles pacifists). Second, it implies real Good and Evil (which chafes relativists).

If Tolkien was a pacifist, rather than fight the Orcs, Aragorn would negotiate a land-for-peace deal, use the One Ring to barter with Saruman, and Gandhalf would become a diplomat to Mordor and the Orcian State. If Lewis was a relativist, Edmund would have broken no Moral Law and never needed rescued; Aslan could have spared Himself from dying and Narnia would begin a golden age of tolerance toward witches.

As long as there is real Good and Evil, war is necessary. As long as there is a real Devil, we must stand against him. These are the stakes of all good stories, the necessary components of all great storytelling. Even moreso, they are truisms for life.
Oswald Chambers put it this way:

The old Puritan idea that the devil tempts men had this remarkable effect, it produced the man of iron who fought; the modern idea of blaming his heredity or his circumstances produces the man who succumbs at once.

When we nix ole Scratch, we undermine our own accountability. Instead of girding for battle, modern man is busy navel-gazing and cutting checks to the therapist. Or planning troop withdrawals. Nowadays, the suicide bombers of the world are people we must “understand” not exterminate, and the only real Temptation is the temptation to see things black and white. To postmodern man, the only absolute truth is the belief that there are no absolute truths – a philosophy with its feet planted firmly in mid-air.

Tolkien and Lewis were soldiers and their stories were war stories. The war was physical, it involved armies and armaments. But behind the fray was another War – a war of ideas, a battle for Goodness, Morality and Virtue, which, in the end, was the most important of all battles.

Likewise, the Bible is a book of war and we, “people of the Book,” are engaged in its battle. Whether it’s Orcs or Nazis, Middle Earth or Europe, the armies of Mordor or the martyrs of Islam, some things are worth fighting for. And against. While war may not be the answer, if evil is real, then conflict is inevitable. Correction: It is demanded. Good Christian fiction must embody this struggle in all its facets. And, as such, all of our stories should be War Stories.

Give It Away

By Gina Holmes

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

I snapped this picture in the restroom of my son’s school. I’m sure they had good reason for bolting the toilet paper. If memory serves, flushing rolls of tp is a major source of amusement for school-age kids, (along with wet-willies, stink bombs and brown burning bags of manure).

Seeing something so basic under lock and key got me thinking about the things I’ve clenched tight in a hand which should have been open.

So often I have ideas that would benefit others and though I’m ashamed to admit it, my natural inclination is to hide these away for myself. Great phrases, marketing ideas, you name it. The devil whispers, “Don’t share that, it’s valuable information.” You want everyone doing it? It will lose its originality, it’s value.”

And then, thank God, I’m convicted … sometimes through others, sometimes through God’s word, usually through the Holy Spirit whispering to my conscious, “Give it away. After all, I gave it to you.”

I’ve been reminded time and again that I can’t out-give God. What I hold close does not bless me. It does not bless others. It is nothing more than a seed I tuck away, too greedy to part with. Too stupid to sow.

When I’m called home one day, I don’t want to leave behind a jar filled to the brim with worthless, seeds unplanted. I want to leave an orchard overflowing with fruit.

When we consider tithing, often we think of money, but should it stop there? Again and again in scripture the principle goes further than that. The fields whose crops were not harvested around the edges so aliens and poor would have something to eat for instance. It’s not just about using our talents, but also sometimes giving them away.

We can’t out-give God. Test Him and see. That is His promise.

His challenge.