The 2020 Booker Prize saved my life.

Listen to the waves before reading this blog.  It’s 4am. I am juxtaposed on the edge of a moonless night dangling my feet in the sea. Listen…..

Thank you for all your kind and heartfelt messages about the film.  It connected with many people. Thank you to Alan Yentob, John O’Rouke & Tanya Hudson.

But above all The most exciting news  is that I stopped smoking. It is all connected to The Booker Prize and Allan not Alan. Below is the The Booker Prize long-list on my kitchen wall.

After reading over 150 books as a ‘judge’ I realised I could quite easily read Allan Carr’s Easyway to stop smoking.  Allan not Alan. So I read it in 2 hours and stopped smoking. No stress no withdrawal pangs.  There’s no way I would have read the book had judging The Booker not taught me  how to read at a pace.

I’ve judged many prizes: The Ted Hughes Prize, The forward poetry prize, The National Poetry Prize, The Arvon Prize,  Cardiff poetry prize, John Llewellyn Rhys Prize,  Bridport Prize,  The Golden Man Booker…. etc.    “Judging”,  for want of a better term, is an opportunity to give service to writers.  But The Booker Prize  is the only prize that has saved my life.

Photo by Pascal Meier from

The Booker is the best of all the prizes. It’s  a game changer for the long-listed and short listed authors. But IMHO  the winner, over their career, with book sales appearance fees and broadcast possibilities could earn a million pounds from The Booker.   Talking of winners….. Emily Wilson Margaret Busby Sameer Rahim Lee Child and myself are  re-reading  each of the  thirteen long-listed books.  On September 8th we will decide on a shortlist of six.   This is my screensaver for that  zoom meeting.

Photo by  Birmingham Museums Trust from

It isn’t the sea you heard at the start of this blog.  Listen again.

It is the sound of traffic outside my apartment at 4am. Since I stopped smoking my sleeping patterns have kaleidoscoped so I write. 
My home is slowly coming together.  I have been here a year.  I blog as a place-holder for memory in lieu of the beautiful and characteristically unreliable narrator of family. It’s that simple. The facts of memory – there’s an oxymoron –  are like the acts of family.   Have a wonderful  sunshine Sunday.  Be kind.

36 thoughts on “The 2020 Booker Prize saved my life.

  1. Excellent work on the smoking front. My GP recommended the same book. Worked for him. That was what l I needed to hear: “I’ve been there.” Three years in October. Enjoy your newfound freedom.

  2. This weekend, i’ve reconnected with my grandchildren. Nothing and everything has changed : how we greet each other, how we spend our time. We still hug (differently), we still kiss (differently), we still love each other (differently but so much more). I will change my way of living, if only to keep them in it <3

  3. I stopped smoking after reading Allen Carr too. The bits about cigarettes causing your stress, and supporting unethical business (from memory – it was a while ago now) really clicked for me. Also Adam Curtis ‘Century of the self’ really made me think about what I consume and how I think things or image defines me. Long may you succeed Lemn! And continue to inspire and lift those around you.

  4. Sunshiny Sunday to you too. Today’s news, I have a glut of tomatoes so I’m spending the day making sauce! Smells delicious x

  5. Your home is looking beautiful. This year for the first time I have actually read some of the Booker shortlust before they were selected, you will have a difficult time selecting the winner for sure. Enjoy the process.

  6. I don’t envy you shortlisting 6 from that lot! Congrats on giving up smoking. I did it years ago by reusing 7 patches – a doctor’s idea. It had to be all done in two weeks because a third week would have meant new patches, therefore an increased dose of nicotine. Clever, and it worked.
    I just wish I could do it with food (she said, as she made french toast for brekkie).
    Best to you from the west coast of Ireland.

  7. I love the Booker prize. Long and Shortlist are both my go to places when I need a book to read. It’s always fascinated me how the judges manage to get through so many books and how in the end you pick the winner from such an abundance of riches to choose from. Well done stopping smoking. Word of warning I had to do it twice after I once started again after 10 years clean!!! Never think “I’ll just have the odd one”!!

  8. Hi Lemèn, you dear treasure! I was waiting early on for any sign of life of you, feeling a bit lost, and then – with immense joy- I discovered on youtube YOU reciting your beautiful poem ‘Ayres Road’ with it’s deep unforgettable and magnificent end lines. Oh yes ‘Man, life is beautiful’!! Then the inspired idea of letting young people write verse, their project at Stretford High, your visit and all the energy and enthusiasm bursting open there with your foreword, your presence.. Fabulous, thank you dear Lemn for once more making my day❗️
    Congratulations for your exquisite taste in decorating, and for not smoking, love to the human ánd great Poet-of-my-Dreams, Eva

  9. This is a brilliant post Lemn. Creative as ever and really made me smile. Would love to know how to read at pace. I’m so slow. Looking forward to the short list! Today I’m eating paella and watching Summerland with my daughter. Have a great Sunday.

  10. Hey Lemn, I’m so happy you’ve stopped smoking. I’ve been doing focused breathing practice and I hadn’t realised how essential good breathing is for our central nervous system, vestibular system, all those intricate systems that we have within our bodies. I’ve been learning about the vagus nerve and how when I keep it cool my limbs works better and don’t get as spastic and spasm-ey. The more I learn about my inner world, the more I feel connected to the outer world. I used to feel like MS was making my world so small but now I see I just had to keep still and breathe. So that’s my news. Love you Lemn xx

  11. Your cabinet is very interesting. Is there something inside or is it a reflection.
    Your home looks beautiful, cosy and welcoming. And you are a non smoker.
    You speak of books, I think Allan Carr’s book must be one of the most influential publications ever printed.
    Good luck with your adjudication, what a privilege to be asked and an honour for them that you accepted.
    News: I sent a copy of your book to New Zealand and it is being read by my sister ( who saw you at the Bradford Literary Festival a few years ago), her family and friends.
    Enjoy your week. XKX

  12. Beautiful sun filled day in Cornwall. Watching little sparrows forage around the garden x feelingg blessed. This week I took my grandsons to the village I grew up in. to play in the park where I as a child once climbed swang,skipped just at times sat quietly.My time there tinged with happiness,sadness, fear,sorrow and joy. Such is life for us all. But what gives me heart is that love carries on,knows no boundaries x I am still here. I can share with the boys the loveliest of times x store those memories. They too can do the same x share ,in the passage of time those we have now. Have a fabulous Sunday Lemn.

  13. The pictures and sound you shared are beautiful, and telling. Thank you.
    On smoking: I agree with you that Allen Carr’s book opens a door – many testimonies concur on this.
    At the time I read it, a very long time ago, it opened a door to a particular fear regarding smoking: the fear to quit cigarette smoking – I was already well aware of the fear (terror) of smoking! I stopped for a while. What the book did not do at the time for me was questioning fear – what is fear? Because when I looked at why I smoked the very first time, maybe it was because of fear. The fear of feeling so lonely and powerless. What addictions really questioned in me was the idea of “libre arbitre” “free will” – the idea of a “decision-maker”, a “chooser”. I so badly wanted to stop smoking, why couldn’t I? It wasn’t the nicotine of course – I had experienced the same disempowerment with thumb sucking or broken relationships I craved to re-etablish. And then at some point, that craving would disappear – only to be replaced by another. There certainly was a part in “me” that wanted to smoke, and very badly so. Why? The answer to that question could not be biased by the “pro-smoking” and the “anti-smoking” in me – although it needed to fully acknowledge both. To understand something one has to come to it with a curious eye, not a judgemental one.The fear of dying from something one is doing to oneself is based on the belief that “I” can “choose”. The fear that “I” can do nothing about it is the real fear in addiction – the loss of “control”. Who controls who? Addictions force us to question long-held assumptions, I think. Jiddu Krishnamurti helped me quite a lot.
    Sending you a big hug

  14. I gave up smoking in 1994 and never looked back. Well done. Having watched the “Memory of Me” from the link on this blog I was moved to tears. You inspire me brother.

  15. Hi Lemn,
    Books saved my life when Mom was homeschooling me in the Ethiopian outback and she was too depressed to focus. Back then I read a lot of inspirational stories about missionaries who had braved the wild or explorers or pioneers. I know how corny( or even racist) that sounds now but they showed me that I would have choices as an adult.

    I wish I understood fantasy and science fiction , which I generally struggle with. Now someone I know just complained that the Penn books are too dark. I have usually loved the dark stories , but we’re all looking for humor and light and hope now. I’ve ordered two of the 13 and will be curious to see if they are among the six.

    PS missionaries should stay home and mind their own business
    Love to you and your awesome success with the cigs

  16. Hi Lemn, On behalf of Allen Carr’s Easyway teams around the world thank you for shining a light on his wonderful method. It’s estimated to have helped more than 50 million people worldwide and we have just been asked to support the World Health Organisation’s efforts for smoking cessation in 2021 We’re a small London-based organisation with an amazing global footprint in 50 countries across the globe and flourish almost entirely on the strength of “word of mouth” recommendations from former smokers who used the method successfully. Thank you again for shining that light on our work Lemin. Best wishes John at Allen Carr

    • Thankyou John. I have the book. I have bought it many times and read it many times. I have the CD (remember them) and I also have Easyway on audible.
      I have attended the course five times at Raynes Park and once in Manchester. I know it is the only way and that it is the Easyway.
      I know half the people on the walls of Raynes Park and it’s an inspiring place! Thanks for everything you have done and everyone you have saved.
      Best Wishes Lemn

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