The Booker Shortlisted Novels To Add To Your Reading List

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The top contenders for the £50,000 prize have just been announced

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Wondering what to read this autumn? You’re in luck; the shortlist for 2021 Booker Prize has just been announced.

Judges announced which six longlisted novels had made the final cut at an online event last night. Leading the pack are two previous nominees: Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Powers and South African writer Damon Galgut. Powers caught the judges eye with his moving story of a father-son relationship (Bewilderment), while Galgut was nominated for his account of a family living through post-Apartheid (The Promise).

British-Somali novelist Nadifa Mohamed – nominated for her reimagined historic novel The Fortune Men – is the only British writer to make the shortlist, while Patricia Lockwood’s dizzying depiction of life online No One Is Talking About This is the only shortlisted debut.

Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasm’s second novel about the lasting trauma of his country’s civil war (The Passage North) earned him his first Booker nomination. Rounding out the shortlist is American writer Maggie Shipstead, who’s third novel Great Circle follows a forgotten female aviator and the actress playing her decades later.

As for which book will win the Booker – the bookies can’t say. With literary heavyweight Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017) and bestseller Rachel Cusk both dropped from the longlist, there’s no clear front runners for the £50,000 prize. If you fancy making a decision for yourself, have a read up on the shortlisted books below.


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No One Is Talking About This

No One Is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood

The American poet and memoirist’s first novel is love letter to infinite scroll. A woman catapulted to online fame must confront reality when real life tragedy impinges on her digital existence. Told in what Booker judge Rowan Williams called the “unpromising medium of online prattle”, this is essential reading for anyone who has ever felt stuck down a social media hole. Read our interview with Patricia Lockwood here. Bloomsbury Circus, £12.99

The Promise

The Promise – Damon Galgut

The bestselling book on the shortlist and the ninth novel by celebrated author Damon Galgut. Following the lives of a white South African family, The Promise is a story told in four snapshots – each one centred around a family funeral a decade apart. It’s also a panoramic tale of post-Apartheid that questions whether justice – true justice – is ever really possible. Vintage, £14.99



Bewilderment – Richard Powers

US author Richard Powers won the Pulitser for his last novel The Overstory. Bewilderment follows astrobiologist and widow Theo Byrne, who’s efforts to help his grieving son are – literally – out of this world. Judge Natasha McElholne called this inter-planetary tale of father-son bonding “a clarion call for us all to wake up and realise what our minds might be truly capable of.” High praise indeed. Cornerstone, £16.99

A Passage North

A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasm

Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war was the subject of Anuk Arudpragasm first novel. Here he revisits the conflict through the eyes of Krishan, who is summoned to the north of the island for a funeral, and who’s journey across the war torn landscape is also a journey into his nations troubled past. A poignant memorial for a widely undiscussed war, which Judge Horatia Harrod described as asking “how can you grasp the present, while also trying to make sense of the past?”  Granta Books, £12.99

The Fortune Men

The Fortune Men – Nadifa Mohamed

Born in Somaliland and raised in Britain, Nadifa Mohamed’s third novel reimagines the life of Mahmood Mattan, a Somali sailor wrongly accused of murder in 1952. Set in the docks of post-war Cardiff Bay, The Fortune Men shines a light on a much neglected episode in British history and is, according to judging chair Maya Jasanoff, “a story about the past that has great significance for the present.” Penguin Books, £12.99

Great Circle

Great Circle – Maggie Shipstead

This soaring novel intertwines the lives of two women decades apart. Marian Graves is a fearless aviator daring to do what no man has – fly a great circle around the earth. Meanwhile in 21st century Hollywood, disgraced actress Hadley Baxter is taking on board the come-back role of a lifetime – Marian Graves herself.  A novel that judge Maya Jasanoff says “speaks to ever-present questions about freedom and constraints, particularly in women’s lives.” Transworld Publishers, £14.99

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