Man Booker Prize longlist announced

Barnes, Hollinghurst and four debut novelists make it on to the list

The Man Booker longlist always sparks debate in the publishing world. This year will be no exception as a combination of established and new authors are included on the list. Julian Barnes and Sebastian Barry, despite both being shortlisted twice, have never won, while Alan Hollinghurst - longlisted for The Stranger's Child - won only two years ago for The Line of Beauty. The four debut authors are Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness.

The full list is as follows:

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry, On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch, Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail - Profile)
Yvvette Edwards, A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
A.D. Miller, Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick, Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor, Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)

Chair of judges, Dame Stella Rimington, has commented that, "We are delighted by the quality and breadth of our longlist...[which] ranges from the Wild West to multi-ethnic London via post-Cold War Moscow and Bucharest, and includes four first novels." The shortlist of six authors will be announced on Tuesday 6 September at a press conference at Man Group's London headquarters. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 18 October.

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Toys R Us defined my childhood – 6 of the toys I won't forget

Memories of a now-struggling toy shop. 

For my family, visits to Toys R Us usually took place around Christmas time. Since it was invariably freezing, this first meant being wrapped up by fussy parents in the cheapest and scratchiest of woolly hats, gloves and scarves. 

My Toys R Us was on Old Kent Road in south east London. It has a stupidly big car park, and was opposite a sofa-store which changed its name every few years. 

The store itself was as well-lit as a supermarket, but instead of cabbages, the shelves were lined with colourfully-packaged toys. 

On a street with few constants, Toys R Us has remained ever present. Now, though, the firm is filing for bankruptcy in the US and Canada. UK branches will not be affected for now, but the trends behind its demise are international - the growth of online retailers at the expense of traditional toyshops. 

Each year at Toys R Us is different as each is defined by a different set of best-sellers - the toys which defined my childhood are unlikely to define yours.  

Here is a retrospective catalogue of my Toys (and yes, they deserve capitalisation):

1. Beyblades

Perhaps my most treasured toy. Beyblades were in essence glorified spinning tops. 

The hit TV show about them however, made them anything but. 

On the show, teenagers would battle their spinning tops, which for some reason were possessed by ancient magical monsters, against each other. 

These battles on TV would last for multiple (surprisingly emotional) episode arcs. Alas, in the real world battles with friends would be scuppered by the laws of physics and last no longer than 30 seconds. 

Not so with the remote-controlled Beyblade. An electric motor provided an extra minute or so of flight time. 

It was wild. 

2. Furbies

At aged eight years old, I thought Furbies were stupid. I was wise beyond my years.

3. Barbies

Trips to Toys R Us inevitably also meant buying something for my younger sister. I would choose the ugliest looking doll from the shelves to annoy her. She was always annoyed.

4. Talking Buzz Lightyear

A toy which I will always remember as it led me to the epiphany that Santa Claus wasn't real. How did I figure it out? The Christmas tag was written by someone who had the distinctive handwriting of my father. I for one, am not looking forward to Toy Story 4. 

5. Yu-Gi-Oh Cards 

Yu-Gi-Oh was a card game about magical monsters that actually required a lot of strategy. It was cool to like them for a bit. Then we quickly realised that those who were actually good at the game were the losers and should be made fun of.

I was one of those losers. 

6. Tamagotchi

The first birthday present I ever bought my sister (with my hard earned birthday money, no less). She didn't care for it. Who did?

As much as all these playthings, Toys R Us itself has defined a specific part of childhood for millions. But for those growing up in the US however, that may not be the case any longer.