The novels that made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize this year are a diverse group, taking place on multiple continents and written by authors who are new on the scene as well as those who are well-established literary talents.
The six books that made the list are “The Testament of Mary” by Colm Toibin, “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki, “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo, “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton, and “Harvest” by Jim Crace.
The list comes with a couple of firsts: “Mary” is the shortest book ever nominated for the Man Booker at only a little over 100 pages. In addition, Bulawayo is the first black African female author to make the list for her debut novel “Names.”
Crace and Toibin have both made the shortlist of the Booker before – Toibin has made the nominations twice – but Lahiri, Bulawayo, Catton, and Ozeki are all named for the first time.
Chairman of the judging panel Robert Macfarlane said he and his fellow appraisers were searching for “novel novels.”
“We looked for books that sought to extend the power and possibility of the form,” he said in a statement.
The Man Booker Prize will be given out on Oct. 15 and the winner will receive a 50,000 pound (or about $80,000) award. The prize is given to a writer who hails from the UK, Ireland, or one of the countries that is part of the group known as the Commonwealth Nations (this includes Australia, Canada, and others) and whose book is written in English and not self-published.
Last year, Hilary Mantel’s novel “Bring Up the Bodies” was considered the book that was in the lead when the Booker shortlist was announced, but this year may be a little harder to predict, with the Telegraph saying this is an “impossibly tough year to call.”
The literary community seems especially impressed by the six novels vying for the prize, with Guardian writer Sarah Churchwell calling the nominees “perhaps the best shortlist in a decade.”
“[The judges] have not settled for safe mediocrity, or the usual suspects,” she wrote. “It is a marvellous list of books… and it does what it is meant to do: advocate for new fiction in general, and these superb books in particular.”
Telegraph writer Gaby Wood agreed.
“When the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced at a press conference on Tuesday morning, even I was surprised by how happy it made me,” she wrote. “The choices were both brave and solid – each one exceptional yet indisputably skilled; and as a collection, as a joint way of saying ‘this is what the novel can be,’ it was incredibly exciting.”