If you haven’t heard of the Man Booker Prize before, it is a literary award for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the UK. A panel of judges reads hundreds of submissions, whittling the entries down to a long list of notable novels which have shown flair and ingenuity.
From this list, a shortlist is drawn, and finally one author wins £50,000. Winning the prize is a huge accolade and has transformed the winners’ careers over the last fifty years. Even to reach the Man Booker Prize longlist, also known as the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ is a huge achievement many authors dream of.
If you’re not sure where to start with this year’s longlist, we’re here to help. We have copies of the books in our libraries for you to read in your own time, and there’s something for everyone on this list.
Snap takes a compelling look at family and trauma, through the eyes of three children abandoned by their mother. Belinda Bauer is definitely a writer to check out: she grew up between England and South Africa and worked as a journalist before coming to writing novels.
If you want a book which experiments with form, take a look at ‘Milkman’. Centred around the troubles in Northern Ireland, the novel is an original take on recent Irish history, seeing the events through the eyes of a young girl.
Sabrina is a graphic novel, which is a first for the Man Booker Prize longlist. It tells the story of how an intimate, ‘everyday’ tragedy gets sucked into the 24-hour news cycle and spirals out of control. The result sheds light on our capacity for empathy but also judgement as humans, making this an important read for our times.
Washington Black combines a fascinating plot with important issues about race in the Atlantic world. It follows two English brothers who run a sugar plantation in Barbados, but who find themselves in mortal danger. Esi Edugyan has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize once before with ‘Half Blood Blues’, making her a writer well-worth checking out.
One of four debut novels on this year’s longlist, examining social trauma across generations, and studying the outsider in the busy city-scape. Set in a British council estate, the book confronts radicalism, riots and religion in a clever, compelling way.
At 27 years-old, Daisy Johnson is the youngest writer on the longlist, along with Sally Rooney. With her debut, Everything Under, Johnson tells a hypnotic story of the past catching up with you and family ties. With a distinctive voice, this is one to read if you love discovering new and exciting authors.
An unflinching look at the American prison system, The Mars Room is a tough but necessary read. Following Romy Hall, who is serving two life sentences, we get a glimpse into the everyday trials of prison life, and the moment where everything changes for Romy.
Another debut novel, The Water Cure is an arresting read. If you like books which examine power and gender relations, then start with this one. The story imagines a world not unlike our own, where women are not safe in their bodies, and raising a daughter requires desperate measures.
You may have heard of Michael Ondaatje as he has previously won the Booker Prize for his novel, The English Patient. Now, he returns to the longlist with Warlight, a story about post-second world war Britain and its impact on children. Reality and imagination clash in this beautifully written novel.
With five stories which ultimately converge into one powerful narrative, keen readers will enjoy this book. The book centres around how we are destroying and saving our trees, and where human responsibility ties into this. Richard Powers is an extremely accomplished author, having written twelve novels and previously been longlisted for the prize, making him a top pick.
If you enjoy poetry, then this is the book for you. Robin Robertson’s debut novel is written entirely in verse and reads like a film noir. Following a D-Day veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder against the backdrop of the American dream crumbling. Asking important questions about war and reparations, ‘The Long Take’ is an unusual but rewarding read.
Sally Rooney is one of Ireland’s most exciting up and coming authors, making her mark with her debut, ‘Conversations with Friends’. With ‘Normal People’ Rooney gives us a character study of two young people trying to figure out love. Rooney’s prose is distinctive for how straight-forward and compressed it is, allowing the reader to fly with their own imagination.
‘From A Low and Quiet Sea’ introduces us to three men washed up in small-town Ireland from war-torn Syria. All scarred by having loved and lost in their own way, the novel follows these men’s search for home.