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Officially “Great”

Officially “Great”

It may come rather as confirmation after the fact but two Bookerites have just been named on a new list of “100 great Black Britons”. 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo is there alongside the chair of this year’s Booker Prize judges Margaret Busby (who may be too busy re-reading the shortlist to notice the honour). The list, selected with help from the public, has a scope of 400 years and includes the likes of the artist and film director Steve McQueen, the architect Sir David Adjaye, the artist Yinka Shonibare, the former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and, of course, Stormzy. The initiative also includes a crowdfunding campaign so that a book telling the stories of the 100 distinguished Britons can be sent to every secondary school in the country.


Evaristo was also one of the high-profile black women taking part in Instagram’s “Share the Mic” initiative on Thursday in which 70 white women with a combined audience of over 175 million on Instagram handed over their accounts for a day to black partners. Evaristo was paired with Christiane Amanpour, the highly respected face of CNN’s international coverage, while June Sarpong got to play with the account of Victoria Beckham and the historian Emma Dabiri took over Gwyneth Paltrow’s account. The idea was that to mark the start of Black History Month the temporary account holders could use their borrowed platforms to share their experiences and spread the word about the achievements of black women in the UK. Evaristo is known for her sense of fun so resisting the temptation to post pictures of her dinner or goofing-about selfies among more edifying posts must have been hard.


Richard Flanagan, Booker Prize winner in 2014, has a new novel coming out in Britain in January 2021. If his name weren’t on the cover, the title alone, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, would be a give-away that the book emerged from the same pen as The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Although The Living Sea deals with themes such as a degrading natural world, Flanagan refuses to be downcast, proclaiming in a recent interview that: “Despair is always rational, but hope is human. Perhaps it’s the essence of being human,” he noted. As if to show how fully human he is, added that “In spite of everything, I find the world very beautiful. I feel a sense of grateful wonder.” Readers should be grateful for Flanagan himself: despite his tour to promote the new book being cancelled by the pandemic, he can still find humour in the situation: “Maybe that’s why books are doing well in Covid – nobody has to meet the writers.”


Just to show how firmly the Booker Prize judges have their fingers on the reading pulse, the nation’s booksellers have revealed their favourite books of 2020 – as the shortlist for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards – and Booker authors play their part. The section winners will be announced on 10 November, a little over a week before the Booker Prize winner is announced on the 19th, which means that the nerves of Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain, will be well and truly shredded. Stuart is not just a Booker Prize shortlistee but up for the BAMB gong too in the “breakthrough author” category. First, however, he must see off competition