Last year, the Man Booker Prize broadened their entry requirements to include authors from any nationality, provided their books are written in English. This global expansion is strongly reflected in this year’s shortlisted entries, with authors from the US, UK, Nigeria and Jamaica. The diversity of terrain covered within the books is reflected in the inclusion of authors young and old, established and up-and-coming, and even by introducing independent publishers to the mix.
Discover more about this year’s hopefuls below.
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Satin Island is McCarthy’s second novel to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, with his sixth book C featured on the list in 2010. A modern masterpiece of stream-of-consciousness narration, Satin Island details the musings of U., an employee of “The Company” who obsesses over everything from the texture of jeans to the existence of meaning — or lack thereof. Set in the recognizable landscape of contemporary London, McCarthy’s fascination with the way we live today strikes a chord in a world dominated by technology and commercialization.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The first Jamaican writer to be shortlisted for the prize, James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings is set in the violent landscape of Jamaica in the ’70s and ’80s and tells the story of the attempted assassination of reggae singer Bob Marley. With three novels published since 2010, James is a relative newcomer on the literary scene. His recognition on this shortlist demonstrates his talent and ambition, propelling him into the critical and commercial spotlight.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Spool of Blue Thread is, remarkably, Anne Tyler’s 20th novel. A prolific American novelist who has steadily released book after book for almost half a century, her latest offering delves headfirst into the domestic sphere of the American family. The novel spans three generations and explores themes of familial identity, belonging and resentment, and is one of the best-selling books on the list.
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
With immigration at the forefront of the UK’s media and political discourse, Sahota’s novel The Year of the Runaways tells the story of the people demonized by tabloid headlines. Set in the unassuming city of Sheffield (but fluctuating back and forth to their past in India), a house of laborers struggle to get by in a country that is often cruel and condemning, while navigating their own issues of life and love.
The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma
In Obioma’s debut novel, four brothers go fishing and meet a “prophet,” who predicts that one brother will eventually murder the other. Elements of tragedy and the presence of fate underscore relentless, often disturbing prose, with heavily detailed corporeal descriptions frequently running for pages on end. Obioma’s coming-of-age novel alludes to Nigerian society and history in a clever and symbolic way.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
Admirably, Yanigahara manages to make the story of four 20-somethings who move to New York to start their lives anything but cliché. A Little Life tells the tale of protagonist Jude and his attempt to overcome a horrifically abusive past, while demonstrating the extent of friendship and selflessness against the want for personal success and achievement. Described as “uneven, unusual, unrelenting,” Yanigahara’s novel is an unflinching account of pain and endurance.
By Grace Beard