by Audrey Magee
As the Booker Prize 2022 longlist is announced, we’ve pulled together the most interesting facts and trends that have emerged in this year’s selection
Forget cinnamon buns and bread rolls, every year’s best baker’s dozen is the Booker Prize longlist - 13 outstanding novels that will introduce you to absorbing new worlds.
With apologies to our triskaidekaphobic readers, to chime in numerically with the longlist here are 13 essential facts to know about this year’s books and authors.
1. Of the 13 books, three are debut novels: Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer, Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley and After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz.
2. Unusual narrators feature in two of the books: Glory is narrated by a vivid chorus of animal voices, while Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is partly told by the malevolent cancer travelling through the body of protagonist Lia.
3. There’s little sign of the ‘difficult second novel’ syndrome in this longlist, with two sophomore attempts making the cut: Hernan Diaz’s Trust and Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.
4. Independent publishers dominate the longlist: eight are from indies. Faber has two on the list (The Colony and Small Things Like These) - while really tiny publishers also make the cut, including Galley Beggar Press (After Sappho), Sort of Books (The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida), Saraband (Case Study) and Influx Press (The Trees).
5. Both youth and experience feature among the longlisted authors. If he goes on to win, Alan Garner will, at 88, become the oldest Booker winner (Margaret Atwood currently holds the record, at 79). If she goes on to win, Leila Mottley will become the youngest winner; she is currently just 20. (The record is held by Eleanor Catton, who was 28 when she won with The Luminaries in 2013.)
6. If it goes on to win the Booker Prize, Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan would become the shortest book to win, at a petite 116 pages. The most concise winner so far is Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald (1979), at a marginally less terse 132 pages.
7. Historical figures hover in and around several of this year’s longlist. Emmett Till’s shadow hangs over The Trees, while Booth explores the backstory of the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. After Sappho features a multitude of famous radical female voices - such as Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Radclyffe Hall. And psychiatrist R. D. Laing and actor Dirk Bogarde appear in cameo in Burnet’s Case Study.
8. Real-life stories serve as the inspiration for two of the books on the list. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is partly inspired by the author’s mother, who died of cancer when Mortimer was a child, while Nightcrawling takes its inspiration from a real-life case of police officers in California sexually exploiting a young woman.
9. Four of the authors on this year’s longlist are part of the Booker family already: Bulawayo, Burnet and Fowler have previously been shortlisted, while Elizabeth Strout has been longlisted.
We are delighted to announce the #BookerPrize2022 longlist! From debut novels to returning Booker Prize authors, find out more about the longlisted books and authors: https://t.co/LYjnUXSbzk@ShahidhaBari @hrcastor @amabanckou @mjohnharrison pic.twitter.com/dVqm0l02Ub— The Booker Prizes (@TheBookerPrizes) July 26, 2022
10. Between them, the longlisted authors hold a wealth of accolades, titles and awards, but perhaps the most unusual belongs to Karunatilaka. His debut novel, Chinaman, was named in 2019 by Wisden (yes, the cricketing bible) as the second greatest book about cricket to ever be written.
11. Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida was originally published in India with the title Chats with the Dead.
12. Strout returns to her beloved Lucy Barton with Oh William! Her first book about the same character, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was longlisted for the prize in 2016. She joins a select group of authors who have had multiple books set in the same world nominated. Others include Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies and The Mirror & the Light) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments).
13. While the Booker Prize is for adult novels, many of this year’s longlisted authors are creating the readers of the future with their work in children’s literature. Garner is still perhaps best known for his 1967 book The Owl Service, which saw him become the first author to win both the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal. Everett is the author of the picture book The One That Got Away, illustrated by Dick Zimmer, while Karunatilaka worked with his artist/illustrator brother Lalith on Please Don’t Put That in Your Mouth. Meanwhile, Mottley has helped promote poetry to young people in her role as Oakland Youth Poet Laureate.