How to follow a UK Prize from Canada or my foray into the Man Booker International Prize


I made a snap decision today: I’ve decided to follow the Man Booker International Prize. I came to my decision, oh, about a half hour before the longlist was announced this morning. In my excitement, I filmed two videos before work: one about why I’m following the prize, and one reacting to the longlist. Scroll down to watch, if you wish.

Since my early morning burst of activity, though, I’ve learned some harsh lessons about following a UK prize from overseas: you can’t get the books.

Well, you *can*. And I knew it would be a pain – this isn’t my first rodeo (or my first Booker). But the combination of UK publication dates, translations, and this particular longlist’s preponderance of small press books makes the 2018 MBIP a real challenge. So, I did some research.

For each longlisted book, I’ve found your best bet for getting a hold of it, in Canada, before the shortlist is announced in April. I’ve noted which are available at my library; obviously your mileage will vary. Ebook and paper prices are from Amazon (more likely than Kobo to have an ebook available ahead of print pub date, and print prices are generally the same at Chapters and elsewhere). When Amazon doesn’t pan out, I look at publisher websites, and if all else fails, Book Depository (they are terrible with delivery times).

And please, if you can help with the ones that stumped me, get in touch!

  1. The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, tr. Sam Taylor: Library. If not at yours, ebook is available for $14.99.
  2. The Imposter by Jarvier Cercas, tr. Frank Wynne: You can pre-order it, but it isn’t out till August 28. $22 at Book Depository.
  3. Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes, tr. Frank Wynne: This is a tricky one: plenty of French versions floating around. Some third party vendor on Amazon has it for $12.48, but the delivery time is into April, which makes me nervous. Book Depository has it for $13, released March 22.
  4. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. Susan Bernofsy: Library, but a long hold list. $10.22 on Kindle, which is just over my ebook threshold.
  5. The White Book by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith: Library. $9.99 ebook if that fails.
  6. Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, tr. Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff: $8.73 ebook is your best bet.
  7. The Word Goes On by László Krasznahorkai, tr. John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes: Library. $16.05 for an ebook? Get outta here, László!
  8. Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, tr. Camilo A. Ramirez: $14.99 ebook is a bit steep, and the hardcover isn’t out till July.
  9. The Flying Mountain by Christopher Ransmayr, tr. Simon Pare: All I can find is a $35.30 hardcover that comes out in April. Nothing at Book Depository, even!
  10. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadaui, tr. Jonathan Wright: Library. Ebook ($13.99) and paper ($19.04) available too.
  11. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft: Can’t order it here till August, so I ordered it from the publisher for £12.99 + £4 shipping. If I pretend those are dollars, it’s not so bad.
  12. The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, tr. Darryl Sterk: $9.99 ebook? Sold.
  13. The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybanna, tr. Natasha Wimmer: $12.99 ebook or $31.99 paper – widely available but a bit over my limit.

There’s only one Canadian connection on the longlist this year – the translator of The Stolen Bicycle, Darryl Sterk, was born in Edmonton. So, that seemed a good place to start for me. How about you? Will you read anything from the longlist?

My videos from early this morning:



  1. roughghosts

    You note Book Depository’s delivery times (their site actually warns Canadians that orders can not be guaranteed). But it seems to me that any book coming in through Customs in Toronto can be delayed by dinosaurs. I’m so fed up. Don’t forget that there’s the Best Translated Book Award with a longlist announced April 10. The judges include bookstore employees and reviewers/bloggers and the books have to be published in the US, so generally easier to get.

    • lauratfrey

      Yeah, I’m a *little* worried about that Flights books, that I ordered direct from the (small) (UK) publisher…

      Thank you for telling me about the BTBA! I’ve heard of 3% but didn’t know there was a prize. I love the idea of having reviewers and bloggers, as well as authors, judge. Being a literary prize judge is one of my crazy dreams, lol. I think it’s good to have broader perspectives and people who are closer to the regular reader experience, you know?

  2. BookerTalk

    I sympathise having tried to get translated books in the past only to find our library doesn’t intend to procure them and the cost is prohibitive. The e book prices are ridiculous. I’m know they have to meet the cost of formatting but there are no paper costs, no printer costs and no distribution or warehouses costs so how come the sales price is so high?

  3. winstonsdad

    Ooh they are pricey I luckily had half the books and my library had two so only had to buys five the price for the seagull bookbis rightnit is coming out at twenty pound here

  4. Rebecca Foster

    Have you checked NetGalley and Edelweiss for all of the titles? That would be my first port of call, as it is often how I get access to North America-only titles here in the UK. You could also send grovelling e-mails to the publicists — they will sometimes send overseas, and since you’re a successful BookTuber it would be to their advantage to get some international coverage.

    I plan to read at least The White Book and Die, My Love, and had already requested review copies before the longlist announcement.

    • lauratfrey

      Great ideas! I didn’t even think of NetGalley or Edelweiss. I tried using them a bit when I was new to blogging, and just never got on with them. I did think about groveling emails (and I have done it before, haha) but personally I don’t want to be on the hook to review, since I am a very sporadic reviewer as it is. But these are excellent tips for others who are better users of online ARCs and don’t mind the grovelling 🙂

      • Rebecca Foster

        Ah, too bad about NetGalley. Edelweiss sometimes carries more obscure titles, but often the smaller publishers don’t bother putting ARCs online as it’s pretty expensive for them.

        I’m impressed that you’re willing to put money into this project, anyway. I wouldn’t expect to pay a penny to shadow a prize!

  5. annelogan17

    I’m a little ‘meh’ on the Booker list. Not surprisingly I’ve heard of very few of these books, and I haven’t had much luck with Booker books in the past. That being said, I look forward to following you on your adventure! God speed.

  6. Kristilyn

    Some of these look interesting but I think I’ll wait until the short list is announced. Like I said, my library has none and I hate how expensive ebooks are!

  7. Naomi

    This sounds adventurous and fun! I’m looking forward to following along and finding out which ones are your favourites. Good luck finding everything!

  8. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

    Procuring these books in rural Nova Scotia would no doubt be even more difficult, so I’m going to wait at least for the short list before even trying. Even then, I’ll probably narrow it down to one or two, depending on the reviews by book bloggers I trust.

    Like Naomi, I’m interested in following your reactions to them. Have fun!

  9. The Bald Librarian

    Hey Laura,
    I’m not exactly sure what ‘Man Booker’ is, but it sounds grammatically incorrect! Anyway, I wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your site of late. I’m new to blogging, but love books as much as you seem to. Might I add you site to my blog-list? Thanks for you indulgence.
    Kind Thoughts

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