Facts about The Booker Prize

  • It was called The Booker Prize from 1969 to 2001. PH Newby was the first winner of the prize in 1969 with Something to Answer For
  • From 2002 the prize became The Man Booker Prize when the Man Group plc came on board as sponsor, making Yann Martel the first winner of The Man Booker Prize with Life of Pi. The Man Group ended their sponsorship in 2019.
  • From 2019, the prize went back to being known as the Booker Prize, with Crankstart becoming the new sponsor, making all winners from then on the Booker Prize winners. 
  • The Man Booker International Prize, which was established in 2005, became the International Booker Prize at that stage.
  • Since 1969, 34 men and 18 women have won the prize. 
  • Four authors have won more than once: J.M. Coetzee was the first person to win twice, in 1983 and again in 1999, when he described the Booker as ‘the ultimate prize to win in the English speaking world’. Peter Carey won first in 1988 and then in 2001. Hilary Mantel won in 2009 and 2012 making her the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice and the first person to win the prize for two novels in a trilogy. Margaret Atwood won first in 2000 and then in 2019.
  • The Booker Prize initially awarded £5,000 to its winners. The prize money doubled in 1978 to £10,000, and today the winner receives £50,000. Each of the shortlisted authors receives £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. 
  • In 1974, eyebrows were raised when Kingsley AmisEnding Up appeared on the shortlist chosen by a judging panel that included his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard. In the end, the prize was split between Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton
  • In 1975, there was only a shortlist of two, out of 83 submissions, with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala winning with Heat and Dust.  
  • In 1977, Chair Philip Larkin threatened to jump out of the window if Paul Scott’s Staying On didn’t win. (Luckily it did.)
  • The shortest winning novel in the history of the prize was Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, at 132 pages, in 1979. Ian McEwan’s shortlisted On Chesil Beach and Julian Barnes’ winning The Sense of an Ending were just slightly longer. In terms of length of eligible books, the rules of the prize simply state that the judges must be of the opinion that a book is a unified and substantial work. 
  • The longest winning novel in the prize’s history was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, in 2013, at 832 pages. 
  • The ‘Man Booker Dozen’ was introduced in 2007, limiting the number of books allowed on the longlist to 12 or 13 each year.  There were 13 books on the longlist in 2007, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Previously the numbers were much higher: 19 in 2006; 17 in 2005; 22 in 2004 and 23 in 2003.
  • Eleanor Catton became the youngest winner in 2013, aged just 28. Previously, Ben Okri held this title, winning in 1991 at the age of 32; Aravind Adiga was 33 when he won in 2008. Salman Rushdie was 34 when he won in 1981. Kiran Desai had been the youngest woman to win the prize in 2006, aged 35. Daisy Johnson, nominated in 2018, is the youngest person ever to make the shortlist, aged 27.
  • The prize has been split between joint winners on three occasions. Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton shared the prize in 1974, whilst Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth were joint winners in 1992. As a result, the Booker Prize committee changed the rules so that only one book could win in the future. Nevertheless, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo were announced joint winners in 2019.
  • There are two instances where two members of the same family have been recognised by the prize. Anita Desai has been shortlisted twice since 1980, but has never won. However, her daughter, Kiran, won the acclaimed literary prize in 2006. Martin Amis has been both shortlisted and longlisted, in 1991 and 2003 respectively, whilst his father Kingsley Amis won the Booker in 1986. 
  • Jonathan Cape is the imprint with the highest number of winning titles, with eight winners: The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes in 2011, The Gathering by Anne Enright in 2007, Amsterdam by Ian McEwan in 1998, The Famished Road by Ben Okri in 1991, Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner in 1984, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie in 1981, Saville by David Storey in 1976 and The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer in 1974. Faber follows closely with seven winning titles.
  • One of the bestselling Booker winners is Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, which was adapted into the box office smash Schindler’s List. The film by Steven Spielberg won seven Academy Awards and took $321,306,305 worldwide on original release. A number of other Booker and Man Booker winning novels have been adapted into film. Some of the best-known are Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novel Remains of the Day, Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 novel The English Patient and Yann Martel’s 2002 novel Life of Pi. Other adaptations of winners include: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, AS Byatt’s Possession, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, Peter Carey’s True History Of The Kelly Gang, and most recently Arvind Adiga’s The White Tiger.
  • Six authors have won the prize with their first novels: Keri Hulme, with The Bone People in 1985; Arundhati Roy, with The God of Small Things in 1997; DBC Pierre, with Vernon God Little in 2003, Aravind Adiga, with The White Tiger in 2008; George Saunders, with Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017; and Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain in 2020.
  • Over the years, winners have found different ways of spending their winnings. In 1990, AS Byatt famously announced she would use her money to buy a swimming pool for her house in Provence, whilst Ian McEwan commented in 1998 that he would probably spend the money on ‘something perfectly useless’, rather than fritter it away on things like ‘bus fares and linoleum’. When Howard Jacobson won in 2010, he promised to buy his wife a new handbag. In 2015, Marlon James said: ‘I can go to Gieves & Hawkes, finally get my Ozwald Boateng suit.’ When Anna Burns won in 2018, she said she would ‘clear my debts and live on what’s left.’ 
  • Hilary Mantel was also the first Man Booker author to enter the official UK Top 50 at the number one spot, with the paperback edition of Bring Up the Bodies.
  • 2013 was the first time since the longlist started being released (in 2001) that women outnumbered men on the list. In 2013, bookies William Hill offered odds on whether the winner would be male or female for the first time ever.
  • As of 2018, a new rule was added specifying that any novel written originally in English and published in Ireland by an imprint formally established in Ireland was eligible for the prize, alongside books published in the UK.
  • 2018 also saw the first graphic novel on the longlist, and the first crime novel. Robin Robertson also made the shortlist with the first novel in verse to be nominated for the prize.
  • Three sequels have won the prize in its history: The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995), Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) and The Testaments (2019) by Margaret Atwood.
  • Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman, and first black British author, to win the prize in 2019.
  • Known as ‘The Booker Bounce’ longlisted, shortlisted and winning novels see a dramatic increase in sales. The week following the announcement of the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Milkman sales saw a week on week increase of 880% (963>9446) then a further 99% (9,446>18,786) the following week. For Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, in the week after their joint win in 2019, sales of The Testaments rose from 11,955 to 13,400 copies while Girl, Woman, Other sold 5,980 copies, more than double its lifetime sales up to that point and a 1,340% increase week on week.
  • In the first full week after the 2020 announcement, winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart sold more than 25,000 copies in the UK, a 1900% increase on the week preceding the announcement. Shuggie Bain has been to Number 1 in The Times and the LA Times bestseller lists, Number 2 in The Sunday Times bestseller list, and Number 3 in The New York Times bestseller list. It was chosen as the ‘Book of the Year’ by The Times and the Daily Telegraph and won both ‘Debut of the Year’ and ‘Book of the Year’ at the 2021 British Book Awards. It is now published or forthcoming in 40 territories and has already sold over three-quarters of a million copies in its Picador editions. TV and film rights have been sold for a planned TV series.

Facts about the International Booker Prize

  • The Man Booker International Prize was established in 2005 and became The International Booker Prize in 2019.
  • The inaugural Man Booker International Prize was the culmination of many years of discussion about a possible new global prize. It recognised an author’s body of work and was to be awarded every two years. The first winner, Ismail Kadare, was celebrated in Edinburgh in 2005.
  • Chinua Achebe’s win of the 2007 Man Booker International Prize was celebrated at a range of public and private events in Oxford.
  • The winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize, Alice Munro, was the first to go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • The list of finalists for the 2011 Man Booker international Prize was announced at the University of Sydney. John Le Carré asked for his name to be removed from the list. One of the judges, Carmen Callil, resigned from the judging panel when Philip Roth was chosen as winner.
  • The Jaipur Literature Festival was the setting for the announcement of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize list of finalists, with a party at the City Palace at which guests were welcomed by a parade of elephants.
  • In the original iteration of the prize, if the winner wrote in a language other than English, they could decide which of their English translators should be awarded the £15,000 translators prize. In 2015 Laszlo Krasznahorkai chose his two translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet, to share it.
  • In 2016, the Man Booker International Prize evolved into an annual award for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK. Having joined forces with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, both novels and collections of short stories became eligible. The prize money would from now on be split equally between the winning author and translator. The Guardian called it ‘a new annual super-prize.
  • The Korean edition of the 2016 winner The Vegetarian had sold 20,000 copies in the decade following publication. Two weeks after the win the Korean publisher had had orders for almost half a million copies.
  • Translator Jessica Cohen, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2017, gave half of her winnings to B’Tselem, a Jerusalem-based organisation which, at the time documented Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank.
  • The 2018 Man Booker International Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2018, which was awarded in 2019.
  • Jokha Alharthi, the first Omani woman to be published in English and the first Arabic writer to win the Man Booker International Prize, received a hero’s welcome on her return to Muscat International Airport in 2019.
  • Winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, who combines writing with dairy farming, said they were ‘as proud as a cow with seven udders’ to win the prize.
  • The winners of the 2021 International Booker Prize, David Diop and Anna Moschkovakis, were announced at a ceremony filmed at Coventry Cathedral, as part of the Coventry UK City of Culture celebrations: appropriate, as Coventry is famed as a city of peace and reconciliation and At Night All Blood is Black recounts the horrors of war.

Rules

Each year two panels of five judges are chosen for The Booker Prize and The International Booker Prize with the advice of The Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee and appointed by The Booker Prize Foundation. 
For each prize, the judges read the submissions and are responsible for compiling a longlist of 12 or 13 books, and from this a shortlist of six books from which they then choose a winner.  
The Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded annually to the author of the best (in the opinion of the judges) eligible work of long-form fiction. The work must be published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October of the year prior, and 30 September of the year of that award. Submissions deadlines are staggered between December and April.  
The International Booker Prize for fiction translated into English is awarded annually to the author and translator of the best (in the opinion of the judges) eligible novel or collection of short stories. The work must be published in the UK or Ireland between 1 May of the year prior and 30 April of the year of that award. Submissions must be made between July and early October.  
Download a copy of the 2021 Booker Prize rules here.
Download a copy of the 2022 International Booker Prize rules here.