The longlist for the 2021 Booker Prize is announced today, Tuesday 27 July 2021.
The 13 books on this year’s longlist were chosen by the 2021 judging panel: historian Maya Jasanoff (chair); writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams.
The list was chosen from 158 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021.The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to works by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.
‘One thing that unites these books is their power to absorb the reader in an unusual story, and to do so in an artful, distinctive voice. Many of them consider how people grapple with the past — whether personal experiences of grief or dislocation or the historical legacies of enslavement, apartheid, and civil war. Many examine intimate relationships placed under stress, and through them meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human. It’s particularly resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of community, from the tiny and secluded to the unmeasurable expanse of cyberspace.’
‘Reading in lockdown fostered a powerful sense of connection with the books, and of shared enterprise among the judges. Though we didn’t always respond in the same way to an author’s choices, every book on this list sparked long discussions amongst ourselves that led in unexpected and enlightening directions. We are excited to share a list that will appeal to many tastes, and, we hope, generate many more conversations as readers dig in.’
‘In recent years Booker Prize longlists have drawn attention to various elements of novelty in the novel: experimentalism of form, work in unprecedented genres, debut authors. This year’s list is more notable for the engrossing stories within it, for the geographical range of its points of view and for its recognition of writers who have been working at an exceptionally high standard for many years. Some have already been rewarded with prizes (a Nobel here, a Pulitzer there). Two are debut novelists. Many have fallen within the Booker’s orbit before. To see them brought together, and to hear from them in these books, is to know that literature is in the most capable and creative of hands.’
Five novelists have been recognised by the prize before: Damon Galgut (shortlisted twice in 2006 for The Good Doctor and in 2010 for In a Strange Room); Kazuo Ishiguro (won in 1989 for The Remains of the Day; shortlisted in 2005 for Never Let Me Go, in 2000 for When we were Orphans and in 1986 for An Artist of the Floating World); Mary Lawson (longlisted in 2006 for The Other Side of the Bridge); Richard Powers (shortlisted in 2018 for The Overstory and longlisted in 2014 for Orfeo); and Sunjeev Sahota (shortlisted in 2015 for The Year of the Runaways).
Six of the longlisted books come from independent publishers: Bloomsbury, Granta, Faber, and Holland House Books. Faber has won the prize seven times before — the second highest number of wins for any publisher, just behind PRH imprint Jonathan Cape which has won eight times.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 14 September. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.
The 2021 winner will be announced on Wednesday 3 November in an award ceremony held in partnership with the BBC at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre. It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, BBC iPlayer, BBC Arts, and BBC News Channel. The winner of the 2021 Booker Prize receives £50,000 and can expect international recognition.
The 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction was won by Douglas Stuart for his debut novel Shuggie Bain. In the first full week after the announcement, the book 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 to Scott Rudin/A24 for a planned TV series.
First awarded in 1969, The Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction written in English. The list of former winners features many of the literary giants of the last five decades: from Iris Murdoch to Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul to Hilary Mantel.
The rules of the prize were changed at the end of 2013 to embrace the English language ‘in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory’, opening it up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth, providing they were writing novels in English and published in the UK.
The Booker Prize is supported by Crankstart, a charitable foundation.