The Baileys Prize Shadow Panel 2016

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Once again I’m shadowing the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction this year and I’m joined by a panel of brilliant bloggers and writers. You’ll recognise three of the panel from last year and I’m delighted to have two new people joining us. We all tweet and will be posting reviews and reading round-ups on our blogs and Tiny Letters. We’d love you to join the discussion.

Naomi Frisby blogs about female writers on this very site. She’s written for Fiction Uncovered, is a contributor to the Waterstones’ blog and occasionally interviews writers in front of an audience. She co-runs Read Diverse 2016 and is currently working towards a PhD in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. Follow her on Twitter @Frizbot.

Eric Karl Anderson is an American-born writer who has lived in London for over a decade and runs the book blog www.LonesomeReader.com. He’s author of the novel ENOUGH and was a judge of the 2015 Green Carnation Prize. He’s also keen on baking and watching disaster movies. Find him on Twitter @LonesomeReader

Antonia Honeywell is a teacher, a writer and an avid and promiscuous reader. Her debut novel, The Ship, a haunting dystopian fable for our times, is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. www.antoniahoneywell.com Twitter: @antonia_writes

Sarah Jasmon lives on a boat, the only downside to which is the limited shelf space for books. Which means there are books everywhere else. Her debut novel, The Summer of Secrets, an evocative coming of age mystery, is published by Black Swan. She also blogs for Manchester Literature Festival, and reviews and interviews at sarahjasmon.com. Twitter: @sarahontheboat

Dan Lipscombe has been a book festival programmer, a book blogger and is a freelance writer. He pens words about books, videogames… anything with a strong narrative. He’s the creator of DiverseDecember and ReadDiverse2016. He also writes a weekly newsletter you should sign up to receive: tiny letter.com/utterbiblio You can follow him on Twitter: @utterbiblio

Vivek Tejuja: Besides being an avid bibliophile, Vivek loves food and dogs. An accidental writer, he indulges and wishes there was more time to write and read. A Bombay boy through and through, the sea is one of his loves. Men are also a part of his existence on and off. Vivek believes in the complete providence of fate. So Now You Know is Vivek’s debut book, releasing with Penguin in May this year. His book blog is www.thehungryreader.wordpress.com and you can find him on Twitter @vivekisms

My Bailey’s Prize Wishlist 2015

You know that spring is almost here when the Bailey’s Prize for Women gets underway. Next Tuesday (10th March) the longlist of 20 novels (if it remains the same as recent years) will be announced. Eligible novels have to be written in English and published by a UK adult imprint between the 1st of April 2014 and the 31st of March 2015. Translations are not eligible.

Here’s what I’d like to see on the list. If you click on the cover, it’ll take you to my review, unless the book is yet to be published, in which case the review will be posted on the week of publication.

As ever, I’ll be shadowing the whole process. Check back on Friday for more details on this.

(Published 26th March)

(Published 26th March)

(Published 5th March)

And three I haven’t read yet but are strong possibilities:

#ThisBook

Those brilliant people at the Bailey’s Women’s Prize have launched a campaign this week to discover the stories by female authors that have shaped each of us. Things began earlier in the week with a film trailer voiced by the actor, Vicky McClure and starring the lovely Anna James who many of you will recognise from Twitter (@acaseforbooks) and the ‘We Love This Book’ newsletter which Anna edits. You can watch the trailer and find out about Anna’s #ThisBook at the bottom of this post.

Taking part is easy; just answer one simple question using the #ThisBook hashtag:

Which book, written by a woman, has impacted, shaped or changed your life?

The books named on the hashtag are going to be collated and the top 20 books by women that have had the biggest impact on our lives will be revealed at the end of July.

I’m delighted to have been asked to share my book and explain the impact it’s had on me. I think this might surprise a few of you…

I don’t think I was a typical child in many ways but there was one pattern I followed that will be familiar to lots of you (especially parents); when I was younger, I devoured books. We would go to the library weekly and on the occasions I was allowed to buy a book from town during Saturday’s weekly shop, I’d have read most of it in the car before we got home (it drove my mum to keep them from me until we’d set foot in the house). However, not long after I started secondary school, things changed.

I remember spending most of my first year (Y7) lunchtimes in the library working my way through the Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew series but it wasn’t long before I’d outgrown them and didn’t know where to turn. This was prior to the boom of Young Adult titles and anyway, there were more interesting things to be doing than reading. I don’t recall reading anything much through Y8 and Y9 but at the start of Y10 something changed.

For the first time, we were placed in sets created from students across the year group. This meant I met students I’d never seen before (I went to a school with 1500 students on roll). One of the students was a girl called Joanne. Joanne and I had a mutual friend which I assume was how we were introduced and it wasn’t long before we were sitting on the back row of the science labs giggling over daft rhymes we’d made up and talking about boys. Soon I discovered that Joanne did something I didn’t anymore: she read books. She read them, enjoyed them and talked about them. And here was I with this cool, smart, funny friend and I was embarrassed. So I started reading again.

I can’t remember who recommended it – it might have been Joanne, or it might just have been the talk of a certain group at the time – but the book, written by a woman, that’s had the biggest impact on my life is Riders by Jilly Cooper. Yes, you read that right.

Of course, lots of people were talking about Jilly Cooper’s novels; we were teenagers and they were full of sex (so everyone said), what else would we be discussing? I bought myself a copy with the money from my paper round and read all 919 pages over a few days. I loved Rupert Campbell-Black and his arrogant, caddish behaviour; I rooted for underdog, Jake Lovell, desperate for the moment when he’d get his revenge; I had a soft spot for lovely Billy (didn’t we all?), Rupert’s best friend and the one who got to mop-up after all his misdemeanours. Riders may as well have been set on a different planet, rather than the far end of the Fosse Way, for all the relevance it bore to my life in Barnsley but that’s why I loved it so: it was pure escapism. And after I’d read Riders, I went straight on to read Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous and I haven’t stopped reading since.

Riders is also my favourite novel to cite when people are complaining about the books kids are reading (or not reading) today. So often we’re told that children should be reading ‘quality’ literature, which sounds to me like the sort of books guaranteed to turn your average teenager right off. Rather than turning me into an illiterate, Tory-boy loving, horse-riding, nymphomaniac, Riders sparked a lifetime love of reading that lead to a degree in English, a career as an English teacher, and a blog that I love writing. Not bad, eh?

Over to you; what’s your #ThisBook? I can’t wait to see everyone’s choices.