Booker Prize Longlist 2019 Announced

The longlist, or ‘Booker Dozen’, for the 2019 Booker Prize was announced on Tuesday 23 July.

The list of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.

“If you only read one book this year, make a leap. Read all 13 of these. There are Nobel candidates and debutants on this list. There are no favourites; they are all credible winners. They imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humour, deep insight and a keen humanity. These writers offer joy and hope. They celebrate the rich complexity of English as a global language. They are exacting, enlightening and entertaining. Really – read all of them.” Peter Florence

Featuring 8 women and 5 men with authors from the UK, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, the United States, Mexico, Italy, India,  South Africa and Turkey, the nominated titles are:

Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)

– the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, fifteen years later, as told by three female characters.

Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)

– sex, death, narcotics, sudden violence and old magic in a Spanish port town

Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)

– a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water.

Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)

– A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster.

Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)

– Generations of women, the people they have loved and unloved – the complexities of race, sex, gender, politics, friendship, love, fear and regret.

John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)

– a chilling fable, dystopian novel that blends the most compelling issues of our time—rising waters, rising fear, rising political division—into a suspenseful story of love, trust, and survival.

Deborah Levy (SouthAfrica/UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)

–  the difficulty of seeing ourselves and others clearly. Specters that come back to haunt old and new love, previous and current incarnations of Europe, conscious and unconscious transgressions, and real and imagined betrayals, while investigating the cyclic nature of history and its reinvention by people in power. And a man crossing Abbey Road.

Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)

– inspired by the experiences of desperate children crossing the desert border between Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona, and the Apache warriors who made their last stand in the desert, told as a family sets off on a road trip.

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)

– contemporary twist on the Odyssey, narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer, a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.

Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)

– an experimental fantasy set in an English village where a child goes missing, highlighting societal issues, history and the environment.

Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)

– a tour-de-force that is both an homage to an immortal work of literature and a modern masterpiece about the quest for love and family, a dazzling Don Quixote for the modern age.

Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

– After death, a woman’s brain remains active for 10 minutes 38 seconds, during which her memories recall significant moments of her life and stories of 5 close friends she met at key stages in her life.

Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

– a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.  Alternating with chapters narrated by 19 year old Mary Shelley, who is writing a story about creating a non-biological life-form.

The list was chosen from 151 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019. The shortlist will be announced Tuesday 3 September.

I like that it’s such an international list, with voices from a variety of different countries and cultures, bringing more depth and diversity to the prize.

I haven’t read any of these titles, but I’m interested in Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities novel, Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and Deborah Levy’s and Bernadine Evaristo’s novelsThat said, I’m only reading #WIT Women in Translation during August, so I’ll be watching and reading the reviews of these longlisted titles to see which really tempt me.

And you? Have you read any of these? Interested in any?

Further Reading

The Guardian article: Not Read Them Yet? A cheat’s guide

24 thoughts on “Booker Prize Longlist 2019 Announced

    • That’s true, interesting to see that literary has expanded to dystopian thriller, not sure I can go there though without pressure for the hidden literary merits, I’m trying to read healthy, if that’s a thing, discerning whether what Im anticipating consuming is nourishing for the reader’s imagination. 😊

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  1. It’s certainly a big improvement on last year’s list, but I note that some of the ‘international’ choices are from authors who’ve been resident in the UK for a very long time
    I’ve read An Orchestra of Minorities and liked it very much, and I have a couple of Elif Shafak’s on the TBR though not that one. But I didn’t get on well with Valeria Luiselli’’s The Story of My teeth – very clever, but I didn’t enjoy it, so I won’t be chasing up this one that’s been nominated.
    Somebody I know has just read My Sister, The Serial Killer, but #frustration I can’t remember who it is! Whoever it was, she liked it:)
    Are you really only going to read #WIT in August? I would go nuts if I tried to be as single-minded as that:)

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    • Well, I never do challenges and it’s true I do go a bit nuts reading from such a narrow pile, so I probably won’t exclusively read #WIT if I encounter resistance I’ll do what I please for sure, and I’ve already read three this month just because I wanted to! But I don’t want to be diverted towards titles that just got a significant boost in publicity while some little known literary gens have patiently been waiting their 5 minutes in my mini literary limelight.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed An Orchestra of Minorities, and yes I noticed that many of the voices are UK educated one might say, but that’s still a start, those authors and their reading choices and their invitations to be on judging panels are what lead the reading public out of the narrow mindset that has existed for too long.

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  2. First time in many years that I get to longlist time and discover I haven’t read any of these books. Ducks is the one I have no interest in reading. 1000 pages of stream of consciousness makes me shudder. I have a sinking feeling it will win.

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  3. I’ve read both the Braithwaite and the Luiselli – both very different, both have earned their place on the list, I think. The Ellman sounds extraordinary but I’m not sure I have either the stamina or the concentration to read it.

    As I read your post, I wondered how the list would look if titles were not nominated by publishers. The judges can call in books, of course, but it would be interesting to see what they came up with of their own volition.

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    • I’ve only read Luiselli’s essays Sidewalks and I really enjoyed them, but I wasn’t drawn to her novel The Story of My Teeth, however I would like to read her essay Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, the inspiration for Lost Children Archive and this novel.

      I see too that she is on the recently announced judging panel for the 2020 Booker International Prize.

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  4. I was so pleased to see such great representation of women writers. I have Girl, Woman other tbr, which I had put on my #20booksofsummer pile but I don’t know that I fancy reading it right now. I have pre-ordered The Testaments and will probably read it as soon as it arrives. I also fancy My Sister the Serial Killer, though several of the others look intriguing too.

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  5. The only one I have read is the Braithwaite, and I seem to be the only person who found it a bit ‘meh’. Perhaps I missed something. A very interesting selection overall though.

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    • A lot of people read the Braithwaite when it made the woman’s prize long list, it doesn’t appeal to me, though I’m always interested by literature coming out of Nigeria, which seems to have inspired a new generation of writers and publishers appear to be taking note.

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  6. I have only read The Wall – and, to be honest, I thought the idea of the book was better than its execution. I am interest in reading the books by Luiselli, Levy, and Evaristo… And I will be looking forward to your reviews of these! 🙂

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  7. I’ve read the Luiselli, which I’m very happy to see with another chance for a prize after it missed the Women’s Prize shortlist, and also the Braithwaite, which I wasn’t expecting to see here but found to be quite a fun read!
    I’m looking forward to checking out the Winterson, Barry, and Obioma books to start with, but I know I won’t manage to complete the entire list this year.

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    • I’m looking forward to reading the Luiselli, which ties in nicely with another I’m planning to read Solito, Solita, Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America.
      I look forward to your thoughts on those you manage to read this year too.

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    • Yes, I’ve been wondering whether I ought to read that without having read the classic. I may wait to read a few reviews, as I’m a little wary of Rushdie and don’t want to get bogged down in something that’s not for me, so I need to see a few who’ve tested the water first. 🙂

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  8. I have quite a few of these as proof copies and am going to try and read a few in the next month or so. I read My Sister The Serial Killer and really enjoyed it, but thought it a bit slight. I’m reading Night Boat to Tangier at the moment and linguistically it’s amazing and highly entertaining, but certainly won’t be for everyone.

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