Booker Prize 2019 Longlist: Novels in English From Nine Countries

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2019 Booker Prize longlist comprises the work of a particularly international collection of authors, including two former laureates.

Longlisted authors in the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction are, top row from left, Margaret Atwood (image: Liam Sharp); Kevin Barry (image: Conor O’Mahony); Oyinkan Braithwaite (image: Amaal Said); Lucy Ellmann; and Bernardine Evaristo (image: Jennie Scott). On the middle row from left are John Lanchester; Deborah Levy; Valeria Luiselli (image: Diego Berruecos); Chigozie Obioma (image: Jason Keith); and Max Porter (image: Lucy Dickens). And on the third row from left are Salman Rushdie (image: Beowulf Sheehan); Elif Shafak (image: Oliver Hess), and Jeanette Winterson (image: Sam Churchill)

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Gaby Wood: Literature in English as ‘a Global Endeavor’
It takes only a slight edit to create what may be the bookish line of the year to date, offered by the chair of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction, Hay Festival founder Peter Florence: “If you only read one book this year … read all 13 of these.”

Eight women and five men have been named today (July 24) to the “Booker Dozen” longlist of 13 titles in the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction cycle.

In an announcement released just after midnight BST, the Booker Foundation has named a roster that includes two former Booker winners—Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie—and one debut, written by Oyinkan Braithwaite, one of two Nigerian authors on the list.

And the tone of the commentary around the announcement emphasizes the Booker’s commitment to its “evolved” state, open to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth, providing they were writing novels in English and published in the UK.

This is the change made at the end of 2013, intended, according to the foundation, “to embrace the English language in all its vigor, its vitality, its versatility and its glory.” The program has endured sharp criticism at times for its expanded footing, but with its new US-based sponsorship from the California-based Crankstart charity created by Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, there’s no sign of a retreat to the earlier, less internationalized approach.

Authors in this round of the 2019 program alone are from the UK, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, the United States, Mexico, Italy, India, and Turkey.

The new longlist for the world’s leading prize for fiction in English was chosen from 151 novels published in the UK or Ireland between October 1, 2018, and September 30 of this year. The Booker Prize for Fiction, first awarded in 1969, is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The winner of the 2019 Booker Prize receives £50,000 (US$62,180) and normally benefits from a significant boost in sales and visibility, of course. In the week following the 2018 winner announcement—you’ll find Publishing Perspectives’ coverage here—sales of Milkman by Anna Burns increased by 880 percent from 963 in the week prior to the announcement to 9,446 in the week following the announcement, then a further 99 percent (9,446 to 18,786) the following week.

“There are Nobel candidates and debutants on this list. There are no favorites; they are all credible winners.”Peter Florence

The total number of copies of Milkman sold, across all formats, is currently 546,500. Milkman has also now sold into nearly 40 languages, in Europe and many parts of Asia.

The shortlist of six books is scheduled to be announced on September 3 at a morning news conference in the British capital.

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 (US$3,109) and a specially bound edition of their book.

The 2019 winner is to be announced on October 14, shortly before this year’s Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20) at an awards ceremony once more set at London’s Guildhall. The ceremony is expected to be broadcast by the BBC.

Booker Prize 2019 Longlist
Author Country Title Publisher/Imprint
Margaret Atwood Canada The Testaments Vintage, Chatto & Windus
Kevin Barry Ireland Night Boat to Tangier Canongate Books
Oyinkan Braithwaite Nigeria My Sister, The Serial Killer Atlantic Books
Lucy Ellmann USA/UK Ducks, Newburyport Galley Beggar Press
Bernardine Evfaristo UK Girl, Woman, Other Hamish Hamilton
John Lanchester UK The Wall Faber & Faber
Deborah Levy UK The Man Who Saw Everything Hamish Hamilton
Valeria Luiselli Mexico/Italy Lost Children Archive 4th Estate
Chigozie Obioma Nigeria An Orchestra of Minorities Little, Brown
Max Porter UK Lanny Faber & Faber
Salman Rushdie UK/India Quichotte Jonathan Cape
Elif Shafak UK/Turkey 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World Viking
Jeanette Winterson UK Frankissstein Jonathan Cape
Peter Florence: ‘English as a Global Language’

In his key commentary on the announcement of the longlist, jury chair Florence says, “If you only read one book this year, make a leap. Read all 13 of these.

Peter Florence

“There are Nobel candidates and debutants on this list. There are no favorites; they are all credible winners.

“They imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humor, deep insight, and a keen humanity. These writers offer joy and hope. They celebrate the rich complexity of English as a global language. They are exacting, enlightening, and entertaining. Really–read all of them.”

And Gaby Wood, who is the Booker Foundation’s literary director, says, “Watching the 2019 Booker Prize judges arrive at this wonderful list has been an invigorating experience.

Gaby Wood

“Firstly because they deemed the caliber of the submissions to be extremely high overall.

“Secondly because they reached far and wide in their search for the best fiction of the year, calling in (among others) Young Adult novels and books that are sometimes dismissed as ‘commercial.’

“Thirdly because they effortlessly absorbed the quality of the writing without ever considering the passport of its author.

“And lastly because, exercising their sharp minds and varied tastes, the judges weighed up each book individually yet produced a collection that shows the incredible range of what’s being written today.

“There are familiar names here writing at the height of their powers, there are young writers of exceptional imagination and daring, there is wit, incisive political thought, stillness and thrill. And there is a plurality that shows the making of literature in English to be a global endeavor. The 2019 longlist is a testament to its extremely good health.”

Florence is joined on this year’s jury by:

  • Liz Calder, the former fiction publisher and editor of Gollancz, Jonathan Cape, and Bloomsbury
  • Xiaolu Guo, the Chinese-British novelist and filmmaker of work including this year’s Five Men and a Caravaggio
  • Afua Hirsch, journalist, broadcaster and former attorney
  • Joanna MacGregor, composer, pianist, and recording artist

Five of this year’s 13 longlisted books come from independent publishers including Faber & Faber (with two titles), Atlantic Books, Canongate Books and Galley Beggar Press.

They are joined by Penguin Random House imprints Chatto & Windus, Hamish Hamilton (with two titles), Jonathan Cape (with two titles) and Viking; Harper Collins imprint 4th Estate; and Hachette imprint Little Brown.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Booker Prize for Fiction is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.