We’ve created a bespoke shortlist for the five winners of our Christmas competition, each containing six titles from the Booker Library inspired by a loved one’s favourite reads

Written by Donna Mackay-Smith

Publication date and time: Published

Whether it’s a Secret Santa or a stocking filler, there’s no better gift at Christmas than a new book - except perhaps several books. There’s a particular joy to hunkering down with an extra-special new read, cracking the spine and turning those crisp new pages as the light fades on a day of festivities. 

With this in mind, last month we launched the ultimate Christmas competition for book lovers around the world. We offered you the chance to win one of five individually curated Booker shortlists for a loved one, each made up of six books from the Booker Library and inspired by their favourite reads. 

To enter, you simply had to tell us who you would like to win the prize for and list some of their favourite books, as well as some of their other interests. We then selected five winners at random at the beginning of December, to receive these Christmas-themed parcels. 

Here are the winners and the bespoke shortlists that Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, has chosen for them. Perhaps you’ll be inspired by some of these recommendations for your own reading pile, too.

Gift wrapped books for Christmas

Our first winner is based in India, and entered on behalf of their partner who they told us was particularly fond of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Booker winner Midnight’s Children, as well as the winners of the 2022 Booker and International Booker prizes, Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree and The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka. They also love sci-fi films. Here is the bespoke Booker shortlist that we selected for them: 

  • Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa: Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020, a haunting Orwellian-style novel about the terrifying power of state surveillance and the lingering trauma of loss, from one of Japan’s greatest writers.
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: James explores the story behind the near-mythical attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976, which won the 2015 Booker Prize.
  • The New Wilderness by Diane Cook: A deeply moving mother-daughter survival tale with an apocalyptic edge, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020.
  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung: A collection of short stories that tip-toe between sci-fi, horror and magical realism while subtly pointing a finger at the patriarchy and capitalism. It was shortlisted for the International Prize in 2022. 
  • Briefing for a Descent into Hell by Doris Lessing: An unsettling voyage into the inner workings of a mind on the brink, by the Nobel Prize winner, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1971. 
  • In a Free State by VS Naipaul: Five connected tales which explore alienation, disruption and racial tension in a perilously unpredictable world. In a Free State won the prize in 1971.
Bora Chung, author of Cursed Bunny

Our second winner is based in Canada, and selected books for their partner whose favourite novels were Bernardine Evaristo’s 2021 Booker Prize winner Girl, Woman, Other; Mieko Kawakami’s debut Breasts and Eggs; and Booker-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun. They also enjoyed hiking, knitting and yoga.  Here are the books that were selected for them. 

  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami: Kawakami’s multi-layered tale of a 14-year-old suffering in silence through relentless bullying, which was shortlisted for the International Prize in 2022. 
  • Bewilderment by Richard Powers: A beautifully crafted sci-fi novel about parental love in a dying world that grapples with the climate crisis, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith: Smith’s deeply human story about love and its effects on the people around us is a deeply moving satire that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005. 
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk: The 2018 winner of the International Prize is a reflection on travel alongside what it is to be human - life, death, and everything in between. 
  • The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark: One woman’s life takes a dark turn in this psychological thriller that is by turns a journey of self-destruction. The Driver’s seat was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker, a one-off prize to honour the books that missed out on the opportunity to win the Booker Prize in 1970.
  • This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga: A tense novel laced with the disillusionment and the dashed hopes of a young girl on the brink. Dangarembga’s heartbreaking read was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.
Richard Powers in a yellow shirt leaning against a wall.

Our third winner, based in Australia, chose books for their mother, who cited Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Booker Prize winner The Luminaries as one of their top reads, alongside Hilary Mantel’s 2009 winner Wolf Hall. They also enjoy Agatha Christie, sports, and cooking. Here are the books we choose for this winner. 

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: In a wickedly funny read that was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize, Braithwaite has rewritten the slasher novel and shows that through misplaced loyalty, blood can be thicker than water.
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood: The imitable author of The Handmaid’s Tale won the Booker Prize in 2000 with this multi-layered drama that weaves its narrative threads across past and present, fiction and reality.
  • Beyond Black by Hilary Mantell: Mantel’s 2005 longlisted novel that is part ghost story, part suburban noir.
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan: Shortlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize, a sweeping historical epic that viscerally depictions of horrors of slavery while questioning what it really means to be free. 
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan: An intensely moving read that tells the story of one man’s reckoning with the truth against the backdrop of WW11. It won the Booker Prize in 2014.
  • A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson: A poignantly-written story about three people, intertwined and brought together by fate. Lawson deftly conveys the complexities of human existence in her 2021 longlisted novel. 
Oyinkan Braithwaite

Our fourth winner, based in the UK, selected books for their partner who referenced Booker Prize-winning author Pat Barker’s novel The Silence of the Girls as one of their favourite books, alongside If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. In their spare time, they also enjoy running, baking and travelling. Here are the books we chose for this winner. 

  • The Ghost Road by Pat Barker: The third book in Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, which won the prize in 1995, is an unforgettable account of the devastating final months of WW1.
  • The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy: An electrifying novel about how a single moment in time can change the trajectory of a life. It was longlisted for the prize in 2019.
  • Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald: The 1979 winner of the Booker Prize set amid the houseboat community of London’s River Thames, depicts the searing loneliness that can consume within the heart of a community. 
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: The 2016 longlisted novel that introduced us to the beloved character of Lucy Barton while illuminating a troubled mother-daughter relationship. 
  • Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively: The winner of the 1987 Booker Prize explores the shifting nature of reality and identity through the many lives of its narrator.
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien: Shortlisted for the Booker in 2016, Madeleine Thein brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy.
Elizabeth Strout

Our fifth winner, based in the Netherlands, entered the competition for their boyfriend, whose favourite books are 2021 Booker Prize-winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart and 2015 winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, alongside Panchiko by Min Jin Lee. Their interests include beer, synthesizers and bonsai. Here are the books that we chose for this winner. 

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: An otherworldly exploration of grief starring Abraham Lincoln’s son and narrated by a chorus of voices, Saunders’ original novel won the Booker Prize in 2017. 
  • The Promise by Damon Galgut: A stunning family epic, charting the rise and fall of four generations of a South African family, while the country itself is in crisis. It won the Booker Prize in 2021. 
  • The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka: The winner of the 2022 Booker Prize, set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War, that is full of ghosts, gags and a deep humanity. 
  • The Trees by Percival Everett: An immensely powerful novel that revisits the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till while condemning racism and police violence, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022.
  • Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi: Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020, Doshni’s debut is a whip-smart read about the fractured love between a mother and daughter. 
  • Trust by Hernan Diaz: A genre-bending read about the empires built by New York City’s elite in the 1920s. This 2022 longlisted novel shows the streets of Wall Street may be paved with gold, but they’re also riddled with greed, misery and deceit.
Hernan Diaz