My thoughts on the shortlist:
[**Lincoln in the Bardo**](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29906980-lincoln-in-the-bardo
). An amazing book of depth and emotion--and very weird. Felt like a Beckett play throughout.
) is pretty ambitious novel, really long, I'm only about a third of the way through, and the story within the novel feels like Philip Roth-light. It's honestly quite captivating however, and I find each the four distinct Ferguson's compelling in their own ways.
) was fantastic in premise but I found it fatally short. I coulda done with a lot more pages. It skimmed too much across the top of the story I think, it felt like a news report of a much more interesting novel.
[**History of Wolves**](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30183198-history-of-wolves
) was rough, it got me in the feels quite a bit. Novels with children imperiled always put me ill at ease and this was no different, just felt tense and angry throughout.
) was a surprisingly good book, not remotely what I was expecting (the cover is deceiving, and I was half-expecting a slow, family in the woods type story set in the 19th C., but this was contemporary or at least late 20th C.) It was a kinda minute story with small town rivalry, and a plot didn't really get cooking until the halfway point. By then, though, the rest of the narrative felt...inevitable, and the conclusion was far from what I expected.
I only got the Ali Smith to go. Here are my thoughts on the rest of the longlist that didn't make the cut.
**Home Fire** was a lot better than the premise outlined. I felt immediately attached to the characters. It did feel a little dated (it honestly could've been written any time in the last 15 years and been appropriate). It was an interesting mix of drama, romance, with a hint of political culture, and either highlights the complex existence of practicing Muslims living in the UK, or really simplifies it. In either case, I found the novel affecting and well written. This was my favorite book that didn't make the cut.
**Reservoir 13** I found disappointing, I'm bitter I spent 5 or so days on it.
**Ministry of Utmost Happiness** felt jumbled and messy and failed to impress.
**Solar Bones** was challenging but so good--stream of consciousness never really worked for me, but this was so richly sincere, and there were enough breaks in thoughts that it didn't really *feel* like a book length sentence even though it was constructed like one. 2nd favorite that didn't make it.
**Days Without End** was a quick brutal jaunt--much like North Water last year but without the gravitas. It was a lot more jovial. And the plays with gender and gender expression were interesting.
**Swing Time** was a great story of two friends and their lives. I feel like they grew up too fast (in terms of narrative, not experience), and I was less interested in their adult selves. Damn fine writing though.
**Underground Railroad** was a good novel. It's a little gimmicky for my taste but it was an interesting exercise. I generally do not like Whitehead's books but this one was alright. Reminded me a bit of Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union. I'm going to reread it eventually as I feel the praise and awards warrant it but I just didn't get it.
Interested in hearing everyone's opinions on what they've read from this list. I've only read two:
Exit West unfortunately didn't click for me. There was some moments that caught me off guard that really made me pause, but the piece as a whole wasn't enough for me to think it has a chance of winning (it would be hard for me to even recommend it, truthfully).
Lincoln in the Bardo was really great. I won't lie it took me a while to figure out what was going on but it was worth the effort. The central themes of redemption and making sense of who you are, or were, were really effective to me. These are the types of books that I associate with the man booker: works that do something new and different, while at their core telling a strong and meaningful story.
I managed to read 12/13 (Mozley's 'Elmet' doesn't release in the U.S. until tomorrow) and I felt like Saunders' 'Lincoln in the Bardo', Smith's 'Autumn', and Auster's '4 3 2 1' were a cut above the rest. Really enjoyed 'Days Without End' as well, and would have loved to see that make the shortlist. Was surprised to see 'Swing Time' and 'The Underground Railroad didn't make it on, too. I like the odds of Saunders winning the whole thing.