Tom Sutcliffe: A thirst for reading is needed – and I should know

My resolution was defeated by a swords-and-sorcery epic set in a primeval world before the invention of grammar

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There's a lot to be said for the thin end of a wedge – particularly if you're going to find yourself on the outside of it in the near future. And, for the moment at least, the new Booker judges have only the thin end of the wedge to deal with – a mere trickle of titles in comparison with the cataract that will inevitably follow.

Just now it's still a phony war. You can almost feel that you've jumped the gun in getting some books read before "your" Booker year has even started and, because of the eligibility rules, you can start with the good stuff (any writer recently short-listed gets an automatic entry). But it isn't long before the wedge starts to thicken and it dawns on you that things might get uncomfortable.

Towards the end of January the unread pile starts to teeter ominously above the read pile, and the influx isn't slowing. You start to do arithmetic. It's a simple sum to divide the number of books to be read by the days left before the announcement of the short-list but the answer is usually unnerving.

Your resolution to read every line of every contender may begin to fray. In my case it was defeated by a self-published swords-and-sorcery epic set in a primeval world before the invention of grammar.

That's the time when you have to remember that there isn't just one answer to the question you've implicitly been asked. The best you can hope to do is come up with one that you and your fellow judges can defend in good faith – and which involves a book you can bear to read three times. Oh, and when the wedge is finally withdrawn you'll really enjoy the space it leaves behind it.

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