The 2020 Booker Prize Longlist was announced yesterday. It consists of 13 novels, which they affectionately refer to as the “Booker’s Dozen” (ha ha). As a reminder, the Booker Prize is awarded for the best original novel, written in the English language, and published in the UK and Ireland.
To be honest, I’m not thrilled with this list.
Some of the books are ones that I specifically didn’t read because the reviews have been a bit unenthusiastic (Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler) or mixed (Apeirogon by Colum McCann). I’ve actually only read one book on this list (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid) and I thought it was pretty mediocre. I’m also surprised Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell didn’t make the cut. It’s on my to-read list, since I know so many people who have loved it.
The panel choosing these books consisted of: Margaret Busby (chair), editor, literary critic and former publisher; Lee Child, author; Sameer Rahim, author and critic; Lemn Sissay, writer and broadcaster; and Emily Wilson, classicist and translator.
The books are listed below if you want to check them out! I’ll update this list with the Shortlist and Winner as they are announced!
What It's About: A debut novel that explores a mother-daughter relationship in a world ravaged by climate change and overpopulation, a suspenseful second book from the author of the story collection, Man V. Nature.
Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the City—an over-populated, over-built metropolis where most of the population lives—is destroying her lungs...Publication Date: July 30, 2020
What It's About: LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE
'As natural as the grass grows.' Chinua Achebe
'[Dangarembga] is a wonderful creator of character.' Doris Lessing
'[A] Masterpiece.' New York Times
'Searing and enlightening.' Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good Will Come
In this tense and psychologically charged novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed...Publication Date: August 7, 2018
What It's About: In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless 'artist' - all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid's wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her...Publication Date: July 30, 2020
What It's About: Who They Was is an electrifying autobiographical British novel: a debut that truly breaks new ground and shines a light on lives that run on parallel, but wildly different tracks.
This life is like being in an ocean. Some people keep swimming towards the bottom. Some people touch the bottom with one foot, or even both, and then push themselves off it to get back up to the top, where you can breathe. Others get to the bottom and decide they want to stay there. I don’t want to get to the bottom because I’m already drowning.
This is a story of a London you won’t find in any guidebooks.Publication Date: September 3, 2020
What It's About: ‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves...Publication Date: March 5, 2020
What It's About: Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of intractable conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to take to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend. Theirs is a life in which children from both sides of the wall throw stones at one another...Publication Date: February 25, 2020
What It's About: A gripping novel set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record.
With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Kidane and his wife Aster’s household...Publication Date: September 24, 2019
What It's About: In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix's efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.See the Full Summary and Review of Such a Fun Age Publication Date: December 31, 2019
What It's About: A FINALIST FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE
“A blistering coming of age story” —O: The Oprah Magazine
A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.
Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree...Publication Date: February 18, 2020
What It's About: From the beloved and best-selling Anne Tyler, a sparkling new novel about misperception, second chances, and the sometimes elusive power of human connection.
Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life...Publication Date: April 7, 2020
What It's About: Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings...Publication Date: February 11, 2020
What It's About: Rachel and Eliza are hoping to have a baby. The couple spend many happy evenings together planning for the future.
One night Rachel wakes up screaming and tells Eliza that an ant has crawled into her eye and is stuck there. She knows it sounds mad - but she also knows it's true. As a scientist, Eliza won't take Rachel's fear seriously and they have a bitter fight...Publication Date: February 6, 2020
What It's About: An electric debut novel set against the twilight of the American gold rush, two siblings are on the run in an unforgiving landscape--trying not just to survive but to find a home.
Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence...Publication Date: April 7, 2020