The Booker Prize has been around since 1969 and its annual longlist is taken from hundreds of English-language novels published in the UK and Ireland.
2020 chair of judges, Margaret Busby, explained that each of the titles on the 2020 list was “deserving of wide readership”.
“Included are novels carried by the sweep of history with memorable characters brought to life and given visibility, novels that represent a moment of cultural change, or the pressures an individual faces in pre- and post-dystopian society. Some of the books focus on interpersonal relationships that are complex, nuanced, emotionally charged. There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing.”
“The best fiction enables the reader to relate to other people’s lives; sharing experiences that we could not ourselves have imagined is as powerful as being able to identify with characters,” she added
The shortlist of six books will be announced on the of 15th September.
The £50,000-prize winner will be revealed in November.
Diane Cook – The New Wilderness
Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the overdeveloped, overpopulated metropolis they call home is ravaging her lungs. Bea knows she cannot stay in the City, but there is only one alternative: The Wilderness State. Mankind has never been allowed to venture into this vast expanse of untamed land. Until now.
Bea and Agnes join eighteen other volunteers who agree to take part in a radical experiment. They must slowly learn how to live in the unpredictable, often dangerous Wilderness, leaving no trace on their surroundings in their quest to survive. But as Agnes embraces this new existence, Bea realises that saving her daughter’s life might mean losing her in ways she hadn’t foreseen.
At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary, urgent novel from a celebrated new literary voice.
Tsitsi Dangarembga – This Mournable Body
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.
Here we meet Tambudzai, living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare and anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job. At every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.
Avni Doshi – Burnt Suga
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.
This is a love story and a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery cords of memory and myth that bind two women together, and hold them apart.
Gabriel Krauze – Who They Was
This is a story of a London you won’t find in any guidebooks.
This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys too eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way.
This is a story of reputations made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost.
This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police stations and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal.
This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fear and the hope. This is about what’s left behind.
Hilary Mantel – The Mirror & The Light
Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?
With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.
Colum McCann – Apeirogon
Rami’s thirteen-year-old girl Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber while out shopping with her friends. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter Abir was shot and killed by a member of the border police outside her school. There was a candy bracelet in her pocket she hadn’t had time to eat yet.
The men become the best of friends.
In this epic novel – named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides – Colum McCann crosses centuries and continents, stitching time, art, history, nature and politics into a tapestry of friendship, love, loss and belonging. Musical, muscular, delicate and soaring, Apeirogon is the novel for our times.
Maaza Mengiste – The Shadow King
With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilise his strongest men before the Italians invade. Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms. But how could she have predicted her own personal war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers?
The Shadow King is a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.
Kiley Reid – Such a Fun Age
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.
Brandon Taylor – Real Life
Wallace has spent his summer in the lab breeding a strain of microscopic worms. He is four years into a biochemistry degree at a lakeside Midwestern university, a life that’s a world away from his childhood in Alabama.His father died a few weeks ago, but Wallace didn’t go back for the funeral, and he hasn’t told his friends Miller, Yngve, Cole and Emma. For reasons of self-preservation, he has become used to keeping a wary distance even from those closest to him. But, over the course of one blustery end-of-summer weekend, the destruction of his work and a series of intense confrontations force Wallace to grapple with both the trauma of the past, and the question of the future.
Elegant, brutal and startlingly intimate, Real Life is a campus novel about learning to live from an electric new voice in fiction.
Anne Tyler – Redhead by The Side of The Road
Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. He measures out his days running errands for work – his TECH HERMIT sign cheerily displayed on the roof of his car – maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is content with the steady balance of his life. But then the order of things starts to tilt. His woman friend Cassia (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a ‘girlfriend’) tells him she’s facing eviction because of a cat. And when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.
Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique.
Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain
Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.
Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. A counterpart to the privileged Thatcher-era London of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, it also recalls the work of Édouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.
Sophie Ward – Love and Other Thought Experiments
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. Suddenly their entire relationship is called into question.
Inspired by some of the best-known thought experiments in philosophy, particularly philosophy of mind, Love and Other Thought Experiments is a story of love lost and found across the universe.
C Pam Zhang – How Much of These Hills is Gold
Ba dies in the night, Ma is already gone. Lucy and Sam, twelve and eleven, are suddenly alone and on the run. With their father’s body on their backs, they roam an unforgiving landscape dotted with giant buffalo bones and tiger paw prints, searching for a place to give him a proper burial.
How Much of These Hills is Gold is a sweeping adventure tale, an unforgettable sibling story and a remarkable novel about a family bound and divided by its memories.