Book of the Month

The Man Booker Prize turns 40 this year. As expected, there's been a fair bit of reminiscing and a wave of nostalgia for the old days when punches were thrown and feuds were rife, and, of course, the ultimate question: which is the best book overall? Forty masterpieces were whittled down to a shortlist of six. Only one can add Mumsnet Book of the Month to its mantelpiece. So, which one? Vote for our October book of the month to choose your best Booker ever.

J.G Farrell: The Siege of Krishnapur (winner in 1973)
Skim through the past judges' tears, tiffs and triumphs, and you'll notice most Booker judges chose this as their personal Best of Booker. The 1857 Indian uprising is the backdrop, but there's no dusty historical stuffiness. Brilliantly black comedy and sharp wit show the colonial Brits in their true colours as the siege forces their 'civilised' habits and hierarchies to crumble. An excellent Raj story that manages to avoid all stereotypes.

Salman Rushdie:  Midnight's Children (winner in 1981)
Crowned as official best Booker by the voting public. Do we agree? It was wildly explosive and new and inventive when first published almost 30 years ago, and all those things still apply. It's now common for authors to mix it up, blending different cultures and fantasies and language, but this book was the forerunner and remains unsurpassed in its energy. I won't give a plot synopsis (I can't even begin); this is all about the language and super-saturated, multi-faceted imagery that assaults your senses from every angle. You'll either be enchanted or completely confounded - there's no middle ground.

Pat Barker: The Ghost Road (winner in 1995)
This is the final book in the famous Regneration trilogy, tackling the horrors of the First World War and the psychological shock waves it flung into every corner of society. William Rivers is the psychiatrist who has to watch the men he has treated return for the last battles of 1918. Two of his most vulnerable patients, Billy Prior and young poet Wilfred Owen, are at the front. Mixing fact and fiction, Barker exposes the personal and political devastation of the institution of war and how it affects us all.

Peter Carey: Oscar and Lucinda (winner in 1988)
Onboard an ocean liner travelling to Australia in 1864, the exceptionally eccentric Oscar and Lucinda meet, fall in love and make a bet on whether a glass church can be transported across the world. Both of them gamblers, and highly unconventional, their story is absurd and definitely outside the Victorian norm. With vivacious language and beautiful playfulness, Peter Carey creates a most unusual romance.

  JM Coetzee: Disgrace (winner in 1999)
Written with austere clarity, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression. Living in Mandela's South Africa is no less harsh than the apartheid years, and academic David Lurie suffers both psychological and physical torment until he is left with nothing. And he realises that having nothing may be the only way to survive. Not exactly uplifting, but arresting, vivid, unflinching and thought provoking.

Nadine Gordimer: The Conservationist (winner in 1974)
Another story set amidst the crumbling of apartheid. When Mehring, a businessman who owns a "hobby" farm in South Africa, is made aware that a body has been found on his property, it forces him to examine his own life and mortality. The style may be too flat for some - there's no lushness or inventiveness here - but Gordimer won the 1991 Nobel Literature prize and is showered with accolades.

Find out more about the Best of Booker and 40th anniversary and then vote for Mumsnet October book of the month. The poll closes at 8pm on Tuesday 30 September.

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