This is the first stage of the process, and it’s good when it’s over. Stage two happens without your noticing. As the weeks tick on, a list of books forms in your mind, one to which you grow unreasonably attached. Once this has happened, you’re already at the beginning of stage three: the Great Letting Go. It sounds dumb now, but I agreed to judge the Folio prize thinking it would be simple. We judges had merely to find the best book; excellence would be our only standard. Somehow, I failed to register that I would not be sitting in a room with four other Rachels, all with the same likes and dislikes as me. At the first judges’ meeting, during which we drew up our long list, I felt something close to panic as my darlings were thrown out, scythed by the passionate dislike or, worse, the indifference of my colleagues William Fiennes, Mohsin Hamid, AM Homes and Deborah Levy. After the shortlist meeting, I had to walk home the long way to burn off the adrenaline. Not even knowing that everyone else was feeling exactly same – we all sustained casualties – made it any the less excruciating.