1. The Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli: an impeccable portrayal of friendships, told with the hope and innocence of young men who are facing danger ahead, the kind only war can bring.
2. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk: a mystery of sorts, with the love of animals at its core, but also including the eccentricities of a woman dismayed by the world around her.
3. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi: a story of several generations living in Oman, showing me life in the Middle East in ways that do not make me feel the need to writhe against their culture, nor defend my own.
4. The Shape of The Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez: a disconcerting view of history as we’ve been taught, reminding us that what we know to be true probably isn’t. Especially if it comes from the hands of the government.
5. The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa: depicting the difficulties of immigration for those who need to leave their country and those who try to help them.
6. The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann: a German man travels through Japan tracing Basho’s footsteps as he describes nature and tries to find himself.
7. At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong: an architect recognizes the mistakes he made for his own growth and profession at the expense of others when it’s too late to do anything about them.
8. The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg: a bitter account of the dreadful life led by Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to kill Andy Warhol.
9. Love In The Time of The Millennium by Can Xue: a bizarre, nonlinear account of characters searching for love and meaning in China.
10. The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran: counts and recounts the bodies of the dead in Santiago, Chile, through the eyes of two friends, hoping to make sense of the city around them.
11. Jokes for The Gunman by Mazen Maarouf: short stories about war, pain, and disappointment told with distressing irony, often from youthful points of view.
12. Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin: incredibly imaginative short stories of the vilest nature with not a shred of hope or redemption in any of them.
13. The Years by Annie Ernaux: one woman’s memoirs, with a particular emphasis on France, ultimately reflecting her disappointment with authority in general and men in particular as she recounts the experiences of her life. Some of which are universal.
And now I await the official announcement of the short list from the Man Booker International Prize judges, due April 9, wondering which six of these thirteen will be the favored ones. Meanwhile, the Shadow Jury finishes their reading of the long list and is compiling a list of our favorite six. Do not expect that my favorites will reflect the Shadow Jury’s favorites. From the comments and scores we have determined in private so far, I can already see that there are large differences of opinion. But, this is what makes reading together so much fun: finding out what is critical to one another in the literary world.