The Man Booker Prize 2016 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences

Man Booker Prize 2016 logoAlthough I have been following several major literary awards for the past few years, I have never written a blog post specifically outlining my predictions for the Man Booker Prize… until now. Famously dubbed “posh bingo” by 2011 winner Julian Barnes, predicting which 12 or 13 titles will be on the longlist has always been notoriously difficult. Until 2014, the Prize was previously only open to authors from Commonwealth countries but the eligibility criteria have since been extended to allow any work of fiction written in English and published in the United Kingdom to be entered for the Prize. This only makes the annual guessing game even more challenging.

The main reason why I have been reluctant to write prediction blog posts is that even though I read a fair number of newly published novels, it is always going to be a minuscule amount given that tens of thousands of potentially eligible books are published each year in the UK. Instead, I think of predictions more in terms of possibilities and preferences. In other words, there are books I think are likely or unlikely to make the longlist as well as books I think are deserving or less deserving. These concepts often overlap and also depend on whether or not I’ve read the book yet (or even want to) or if I’m already familiar with an established author’s previous novels.

Ahead of the longlist announcement on Wednesday 27th July at 12pm BST, I have been compiling my own list of possibilities and preferences based on eight books I have already read and eight books I haven’t. I think the majority of the eligible books I have read are possibilities although I’m not sure if all of them are necessarily my preferences.

The Noise of Time Julian Barnes Dmitri Shostakovich The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry The Mandibles Lionel ShriverEileen Ottessa Moshfegh

The Girls Emma ClineThe Reflection Hugo WilckenMy Name is Lucy Barton Elizabeth StroutBeatlebone Kevin Barry










The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes – Barnes won the prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending and his latest novella which is a fictionalised account of the life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is an atmospheric portrait of an intriguing character.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – Perry’s second novel has been a critical and commercial success since its release in the UK last month. An excellent homage to Victorian sensation novels, it strikes a perfect balance between the modern and the classic.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver – the lengthy lectures about economics can be a bit wearing but Shriver’s observations about family dynamics are as sharp as ever in her satire set in near-future America.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh – probably not to everybody’s taste so more of a preference than a possibility but I thought this gripping account of a young woman’s self-loathing and obsession with her work colleague was very effective and genuinely creepy.

The Girls by Emma Cline – the debut novel everyone is talking about loosely based on the Manson family. ‘The Girls’ hasn’t won everyone over but the judges may conclude that it deserves a place on the longlist based on the strength of Cline’s prose.

The Reflection by Hugo Wilcken – this is one of the most atmospheric novels I’ve read in recent months. It tells the story of a paranoid psychiatrist and deserves a much wider audience.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – I read Strout’s novella recently but haven’t written a full review. Longlisted for the Baileys Prize earlier this year, it follows the eponymous character’s relationship with her mother. It didn’t quite pack the emotional punch I had hoped for but it has received strong reviews and could well be a contender.

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry – another short novel I haven’t reviewed, this is a mind-bending, fictionalised account of John Lennon’s attempt to visit a tiny windswept island he owns off the west coast of Ireland in 1978. It could well be popular among fans of surrealist prose which often reads more like poetry although it was a bit too offbeat for my personal taste.

The Tidal Zone Sarah MossDo Not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine ThienBefore The Fall Noah HawleyThis Must Be The Place Maggie O'Farrell






Nutshell Ian McEwanThe Lauras Sara TaylorCommonwealth Ann Patchett






There are many other books which I am looking forward to reading regardless of whether ornot they are longlisted and are among my preferences while there are others I have been putting off for a while and tend to be stronger possibilities.

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss – I have yet to read Sarah Moss’ latest novel which tackles marriage, academia and the NHS amongst other things. Having enjoyed four of her previous books, I very much hope she is longlisted for some major prizes this year.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien – another novel recently published by Granta, I picked up a proof copy of ‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ in an Oxfam shop earlier this week. Her third novel tells the story of a woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – Hawley is the creator, producer and writer of the TV series ‘Fargo’ and has also written five novels, the most recent of which is about the aftermath of a plane crash. I very much hope Hawley’s plotting and characterisation is just as good on the page as it is on the screen.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell – I have read and enjoyed O’Farrell’s six previous novels and there could be room on the longlist for her seventh which has received unanimously strong reviews.

Novels published between 1st October 2015 and 30th September 2016 will be eligible for this year’s Prize. This means that a number of books which haven’t been released yet could appear on the longlist too. One of the biggest titles to watch out for this summer is Nutshell by Ian McEwan. His latest book has been described as “a classic tale of murder and deceit” and could well be his seventh longlisted novel. McEwan won the Booker Prize in 1998 for ‘Amsterdam’ and was last shortlisted in 2007 for ‘In Chesil Beach’.

Elsewhere, The Lauras by Sara Taylor about Alex and her child going on a pilgrimage across the United States to places where she spent her youth is both a possibility and a preference. I really enjoyed Taylor’s debut novel The Shore last year and I have high hopes for her new book out in August. Finally, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett set in 1960s Los Angeles and 1980s Chicago has also been tipped for big awards.

I have no way of knowing if any of these books have even been submitted or called in for consideration. My choices are also biased towards authors who have attracted widespread attention already and I think the proportion of debut novels and books published by small independents will also be higher. Therefore, my only truly solid prediction is that this year’s judges will once again proclaim the longlist to be “the most eclectic and diverse ever”.

Which books do you think are most likely to appear on the Man Booker Prize longlist and which books are among your preferences?


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36 responses to “The Man Booker Prize 2016 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences

  1. Interesting list! We only overlap by one book in our lists. I think The Essex Serpent is a good pick. I didn’t love The Girls. I liked it but I did not care for the writing style (specifically the overuse of sentence fragments) but I am in the minority there.

    I completely forgot about Maggie O’Farrell until I saw her pop up in a few other lists. If I had been thinking correctly she would have made my list too.

    I don’t think Purity will make it but then I’ve never predicted more than 4 out of 12 making the list.


    • Yes there’s a huge amount of variation between other lists I’ve seen and great to see so many books being championed for different reasons. Four books is a good prediction success rate – I’ll be pleased if I get one or two from my list of 16!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you have a really strong list. I am guessing you will do better than me but I liked Barnes’ quote on which books make it. Which reminds me that we actually overlap by two books because I also picked Barnes. I can’t wait to see what makes it

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A couple of recent Irish novels gaining attention (and very good reviews) are Solar Bones by Mike McCormack and Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume. Also, I wouldn’t rule out Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies or Mia Gallagher’s Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland. The Welsh novelist Tom Bullough’s Addlands is brilliant.


  3. Pingback: The Man Booker Prize 2016 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences | The Fluff Is Raging

  4. Interesting list – I like your possibility/preference approach. I’ve long since given up with predictions, sticking with wishes/hopes instead but only including books that I’ve read. We overlap on three – Perry, Strout and Moss – although I hope that I would have included The Lauras if I’d read that, too. Looking forward to seeing what the judges come up with on Wednesday!


  5. I am never sure how long books have been in my pile. I hope the Franzen gives way to some others. I was about to do my hopeful/positive list today. I probably should have done it before reading yours – too late now!! I have changed my gravatar but am still the same blogger.


  6. Nice list 🙂 If I feel like getting a good book or two, I know just where to refer to. These sound fantastic! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for your post. Great to know the summer reading list is coming out on Wednesday! To be honest, I still can’t believe that ‘A Little Life’ didn’t win in 2015, so am inherently distrusting of the judges, but I’ll give your predictions a thought when it’s released.


    • I agree that A Little Life is an incredible book but with hindsight, I can also see why it really divides people and hence why it didn’t win. This year’s judges are different from last year’s panel, so they will probably have completely different taste!


  8. I tried The Essex Serpent but I’ve got a feeling it might end up as a DNF. I found there was a lack of urgency to both plot and character which meant that I never felt any compulsion to return, and I found the author’s many mentions Cora’s masculine characteristics a bit annoying, in an “I got it the first time round” kind of way.
    It was very atmospheric, though, and beautifully written.


    • The Essex Serpent does take a little while to get going but I thought the prose was excellent and I loved the setting. I think Perry was partly trying to emulate the style of Victorian prose which can be quite repetitive.


  9. I haven’t been reading very many newly published titles of late so I feel rather out of touch with the likely contenders for these literary prizes. That said. Lucy Barton seems to be cropping up on several bloggers’ lists of predictions for the Booker – it must have a good chance of making the cut.


  10. I loved The Corrections and hated Freedom! I think The Essex Serpent will definitely be on the Longlist, and Beatlebone.


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  12. Col

    I’ve sort of given up on trying to second guess prize lists as half the time I can’t remember the criteria and 99% of the time I guess incorrectly! However of those on your list I liked though didn’t love The Girls and I loved Lucy Barton. The best I’ve read recently are all Irish – no idea if they qualify or not but if they do I’d go for Edna O’Brien’s Little Red Chairs, Ann Enright’s The Green Road and Donal Ryan’s fab short story collection A Slanting of the Sun! ( so that’s the kiss of Booker-death to those three!!)


    • I think The Green Road was shortlisted last year… I can see how easy it is to think of books which don’t qualify in a particular year – I nearly included Zadie Smith’s new novel until I realised it wasn’t going to be published until November which means it will be eligible next year instead. Hopefully Irish literature will continue to be well represented this year too!


  13. I can’t wait to read The Essex Serpent. It will be interesting to see what makes the cut!


  14. No Helen Oyeyemi’s What is Not Yours is Not Yours? I thought the book got much attention this year, too.


  15. Interesting, I saw the Essex Serpent at the airport and foolishly left it on WH Smiths shelves. I’m with you on This Must Be the Place and The Noise of Time


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