The Man Booker Prize longlist for 2017 is out – and it’s taking the literary world by storm.
Arguably the most prestigious prize in literature, the Man Booker Prize aims to showcase the finest fiction written in English and published in the UK. Since its launch in 1969, it’s certainly done that.
Judging the prize is no mean feat. The judges had to whittle down a longlist of 13 from 144 books (plus ten additional ones they called in), and will have to reduce that further to a six-strong shortlist and eventual winner. Not an easy task.
Here’s what the judges said about the process:
The Man Booker dozen
So, I hear you cry, what made the list? Well, these 13 books did:
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)
Newbies and familiar faces
I wasn’t surprised to see a few of these books on the list. Days Without End, which won the Costa Prize in January, has been aligned with the Man Booker Prize for months. Zadie Smith’s Swing Time has also been talked about as a Man Booker contender for a while, and Arundhati Roy’s long-awaited second novel was destined to be picked.
Five authors have been shortlisted previously; Roy won the prize in 1997 while Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Sebastian Barry and Mohsin Hamid have been shortlised between 2001 to 2011. Jon McGregor was a longlisted author in 2002 and 2006, too.
There is room for new authors on the Man Booker Prize longlist, though, and three debut novels appear. Fiona Mozley, Emily Fridlund and George Saunders are all making their first appearance with their first books. What a way to launch a writing career, eh?
Being nominated for a Man Booker Prize results in an increase in sales and profile for the author, book and its publisher. Publishers invest a huge amount of time and money on submitting their books for prizes, and in the subsequent campaigns to keep their titles in the forefront of the judges’ minds until the winner is selected. Featuring on a longlist is therefore equally significant for the publisher as it is for the author.
I was really pleased to see the Man Booker Prize select books from some fantastic independent and new publishers. New imprints JM Originals and Fleet have bagged their first nominations on the list, while established independents Canongate, Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury appear again.
Big publishing houses are represented by 4th Estate, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and Hamish Hamilton (a Penguin Random House imprint). Hamish Hamilton represents four of the 13 titles – an astounding achievement.
Chair of the 2017 judges, Baroness Lola Young, described the longlist as a “tonic for our times” and I think that’s a great way to describe the list. While they all deal with differing subjects and timeframes there is a shared narrative about identity and belonging throughout them all. Whether it’s growing up, sexual identity or understanding your cultural identity in a post-Brexit world, these books focus on how identities are formed, eroded and maintained.
There is a mixture of contemporary and historical fiction in this list, too. Ali Smith’s Autumn is immediately contemporary while titles like Days Without End, Lincoln on the Bardo and The Underground Railroad explore historical events, with a particular focus on the United States (perhaps a reflection on the identity crisis the country is experiencing at the moment!).
These 13 novels reflect a diverse and eclectic range of subjects and narrative styles, wrapped in some of the best writing around. I can’t wait to dive in a read my way through.
The Man Booker Prize shortlist of six books will be announced on 13 September and the winner will be chosen on 17 October.