A colleague of mine in the English Department and I have co-founded a school-community literary prize that begins in August. The Mako Prize was designed to get more people in our academic community reading and discussing some of the best novels published in the previous year. We’re using the old World Cup format, because … well … soccer. We’ve identified thirty-two titles that begin the group stage. That stage runs until the end of September. Then we cut the field to sixteen and use a knock-out bracket, with each round lasting two weeks. By early December we’ll have our first Mako Prize winning novel. If you’re part of the NSU University School community (student, staff, faculty, administrator), and you’d like to judge one or all of the rounds, let me know and we’ll include you. Or if you just want to follow along to see how your favorites are doing, please do. Some of my reading in August, then, will be books from our longlist, which you can find on our website: makoprize.org.
But my three pre-set reads for the month are not part of the prize process. My “Essential Novels” selection this month is Robert Graves’s I, Claudius. This one will be new for me, although I’m sure I’ve seen the film version with Derek Jacobi. Claudius survives the political machinations of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula to become emperor of Rome in 41 A.D.
In my journey through all of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, I’m up to #4, his 1995 book The Unconsoled. I haven’t read this one before. In his first two novels, he treated Japanese subjects, but switched to England for his third–and perhaps most famous–novel The Remains of the Day. The Unconsoled is set in an unnamed Central European city and focuses on art, specifically music. Sounds right up my alley!
And my nonfiction selection this month, in addition to all of the audio books I’ve been listening to in the car on my three-week journey from South Florida to Canada and back, I’ll be reading Simon Winchester’s Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles. This isn’t directly related to the research I’m doing for the novel I hope to write this year, but the more I learn about Korea, the more I’ll feel good about writing about it. Happy reading!