From fiction that unravels real-world events to prize winners from years gone by, here are the Booker books that are on our readers’ TBR piles for the year ahead

Written by Donna Mackay-Smith

Publication date and time: Published

As we caught our breath at the close of last year, we invited our readers to tell us which books from the shelves of the Booker Library (the 600+ works that have been longlisted or shortlisted for our prizes over the years) they were hoping to read in the coming year. 

Some of you confessed to neglected gems that had been languishing on your nightstands for simply too long. Others crossed their fingers for new works to unwrap beneath the Christmas tree, while many couldn’t help but mention a favourite author’s work which had ignited a desire for more.

If you find yourself still in the planning stages of your own reading goals or are looking for inspiration, here’s a glimpse into what our readers will be picking up in the months ahead. Of course, this is all before we add 2024’s International Booker Prize and Booker Prize longlisted books (announced in March and July, respectively) to those stacks, because – let’s be honest – as book lovers, what harm is there in adding a few more to our ever-growing TBR piles?

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft

Set across an astonishing 116 vignettes. Olga Tokarczuk’s unique novel interweaves reflections on travel with an exploration of human anatomy – examining life and death, motion and migration. The novel won the International Booker Prize in 2018

What our readers said: ‘I have Flights on my massive TBR pile. I am currently reading Time Shelter and fancied another work in translation and I spied Flights. I also confess to a love of the sleek look of the Fitzcarraldo editions. I might also add that I love the esoteric nature of W. G. Sebald’s works and the blurb on the back of Flights reminded me of them – I am looking forward to finding out.’

Debra Cresswell, Substack


Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

2023 Booker Prize judge Esi Edugyan explores loyalty, betrayal and the horror that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might. And they just might tell it wrong. Set in the aftermath of the fall of Paris in 1940, Half-Blood Blues was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2011

What our readers said: ‘There are so many titles from the Booker Library I would like to get to but I think my priorities for 2024 will be Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan and The Promise by Damon Galgut. I really enjoyed Washington Black by Edugyan and would be interested to read her earlier work.’

Rachel Matthews, Substack

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein

In her accomplished and unsettling second novel, Sarah Bernstein explores themes of prejudice, abuse and guilt through the eyes of a singularly unreliable narrator, who finds herself isolated in a strange and hostile country while looking after her brother. The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2023

What our readers said: ‘Someone compared it to writings by Shirley Jackson and it was on my TBR already!’

Instagraham509, Instagram

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein

The Vivisector by Patrick White

Patrick White explores the inner demons of the artist through Hurtle Duffield, an egotist incapable of loving anything except what he paints. The Vivisector, a 1970 novel, was one of the six books shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker in 2010.

What our readers said: ‘I’ll be enjoying the hot Sydney summer with Patrick White – time to read his classics again, especially The Vivisector, and The Eye of the Storm.’

Amanda Hemmings, Substack

The Vivisector by Patrick White, shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker, in 2010

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Oscar is a young English clergyman who has broken with his past and developed a disturbing talent for gambling. A country girl of singular ambition, Lucinda moves to Sydney, driven by dreams of self-reliance and the building of an industrial Utopia. Together this unlikely pair create and are created by the spectacle of mid-19th-century Australia. A rich and endlessly inventive tale about two unusual, the novel won the Booker Prize in 1988.

What our readers said: ‘I have listened to a bit of the audiobook and I loved the film when it came out; I am keen to read it from the page.’

Kims_reading_whims, Instagram

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Autumn by Ali Smith

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017, Autumn is the first volume of a shape-shifting seasonal quartet from Ali Smith about our time, past time, ageing, love and stories themselves.

What our readers said: ‘I tried How To Be Both but didn’t get very far. I developed a taste for Brexit stories via Jonathan Coe, so am looking forward to another. Also, just about everyone tells me how great it is and I must run with the crowd.’

David Smith, Substack

Autumn by Ali Smith

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2012, Tan Twan Eng’s second novel is a tantalisingly evocative mystery set in Malaya in the late 1940s, a country in recovery from the Second World War.

What our readers said: ‘I read an excerpt and the writing is absolutely exquisite and so atmospheric I want to steep in it. 

Patricia Dussaux, Substack

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

The Book of Evidence by John Banville

John Banville’s novel is the compelling confession of an unlikely killer, trying to make sense of the crime that destroys life - and the career of the friend who unwittingly harbours him. Banville’s novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989

What our readers said: ‘I want to read The Book of Evidence because his interest in language makes for a very rich text, unlike the spare style favoured by many other contemporary novelists.’

Jean Fernandez, Substack

The Book of Evidence by John Banville

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017, Sebastian Barry’s atmospheric portrayal of America in the making is also an intensely poignant story of two men and the hands dealt them by life, where, after signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely 17, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War.

What our readers said: ‘My upcoming choice for the book club I’m in is Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. More and more, I’m becoming a big fan of contemporary Irish writers.’

David Lewis, Substack

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

A haunting meditation on war, violence and memory, which cuts to the heart of the Palestinian experience of dispossession, Minor Detail was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021.

What our readers said:Minor Detail is at the top of my list for January 2024. I see this as a way to better understand [The Israeli–Palestinian conflict]. I listened to an in-depth interview with Ms Shibli and David Naimon and was very impressed with their abilities to see the tragedy for all in this ongoing conflict. The book itself is very intriguing.’

Kathleen Olmstead, Substack

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Born at midnight on August 15, 1947, at the precise moment of India’s independence, the infant Saleem Sinai is celebrated. But this coincidence of birth has consequences for which Saleem is not prepared: telepathic powers that connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ - all born in the initial hour of India’s independence - and an uncanny sense of smell that allows him to sniff out danger imperceptible to others. Salman Rushdie’s masterpiece won the Booker Prize in 1981.

What our readers said: ‘I hope to go back to the early 1980s I think, and Midnight’s Children. It passed me by at the time but my tastes have changed and I’m ready for more magical realism.’

Andy, Substack

Midnight's Children

The Green Road by Anne Enright

Longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2015, Anne Enright’s story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion is a novel about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them.

What our readers said: ‘I had enjoyed reading The Gathering, and later her previous work, The Forgotten Waltz. Both were encouraging with strong nostalgia to something all humans share.’

Saleh Razzouk, Substack

The Green Road by Anne Enright

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999, Ahdaf Soueif expertly weaves together two tales of love across different cultures and generations that reveal startling parallels with each other.

What our readers said: ‘I would like to read The Map of Love. Egypt of 1900 is a time and place I would like to know more about. I also love a story-within-a-story plot. A modern woman seeking details about her grandparents’ lives in an exotic setting sounds ideal.’

Susan Craig, Substack

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2022, and adapted into a Netflix film last year, Claudia Piñeiro’s unique story, a slow-motion odyssey across Buenos Aires, interweaves crime fiction with intimate tales of morality and the search for individual freedom. 

What our readers said: ‘I’ve got the book but haven’t yet read Elena Knows which was a nominee for the International Booker. The movie version was on Netflix recently. I had been very curious about it since I love mysteries and my father had Parkinson’s disease. I thought it was a mystery but it is really a study of a social problem about the difficulty of caring for parents by their children.’

Joyce Deckler, Facebook

Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch turns her microscopic gaze on vanity and obsession in her 19th novel which won the Booker Prize in 1978. A leading light of England’s theatrical set retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea but some strange events and unexpected visitors disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.

What our readers said: I’m adding The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch to my TBR. I became interested in Murdoch because one of her novels (The Black Prince) was mentioned in Louise Kennedy’s novel, Trespasses.

Shirlee Buckley, The Booker Prize Book Club

Some of our readers’ answers have been edited or abridged for clarity. 

The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch