As you can see from my treasured collection of bookmarks and leaflets, I’ve been a fan of the Orange Prize for Fiction for a number of years.

In fact if memory serves me right, my interest in the Orange Prize began back in 1997, the year after the first ever winner was announced (Helen Dunmore for A Spell of Winter), and the year I first began working as a bookseller, for Dillons the Bookstore, in Milton Keynes.

Over the years I’ve had a variety of different “experiences” with the prize. In 2001 for example, I was the member of staff tasked with promoting the prize in a relatively busy branch library, and so I took it upon myself to read the entire longlist. And in 2003 I was involved with a library reading group that decided to shadow the prize, so that year I ended up reading all of the books on the shortlist.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not claiming to have read every title picked out by the Orange Prize judges ever. Indeed, there have been some years when all I’ve done is select a couple of books from the shortlist to read, and there have been other years when I’ve just made a note of the titles that have appealed to me, with a vow to read them at some point later down the line.

The best thing about following the prize for me is that I’ve been introduced to, and enjoyed, some fantastic writers and books; books that I know I wouldn’t ever have chosen to read if they hadn’t been on the Orange list.

My personal favourites down the years have been:

Ark Baby byLiz Jensen (longlisted 1998)

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen (longlisted 1998)

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (shortlisted 1999)

Paradise by Toni Morrison (shortlisted 1999)

A History of Silence by Barbara Neil (longlisted 1999)

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (longlisted 2001)

From Caucasia, with Love by Danzy Senna (longlisted 2001)

The Siege by Helen Dunmore (shorlisted 2002)

Sister Crazy by Emma Richler (shortlisted 2002)

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (longlisted 2003)

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (shortlisted 2003)

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (longlisted 2004)

Ice Road by Gillian Slovo (shortlisted 2004)

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (longlisted 2005)

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (winner 2005)

Rape A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates (longlisted 2006)

Watch Me Disappear by Jill Dawson (longlisted 2006)

Carry Me Down by M J Hyland (longlisted 2007)

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (longlisted 2007)

Anyway, this year’s shortlist is due to be announced on Tuesday, and I’ve decided that once again I’ll be reading all the books on it. I’ll let you know how I get on with them. Meanwhile, Kirsty at Other Stories has been ploughing her way through the longlist – you can find her reviews here.

And before anyone asks: no, I don’t think the Orange Prize is sexist or discriminatory; no, I don’t think women’s writing is too “domestic” or dull, and yes, I do also read (and enjoy) books written by men.

Oh, and fwiw, I think the Man Booker is a load of old toss.

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