The Golden Man Booker Prize

Golden Man Booker Prize 502018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize and the organisers have launched a one-off prize to celebrate the best of the winning novels to date.

Five writers and poets will be choosing what they consider to be the best winner from each decade. The judges and their categories are Robert McCrum (1969-1979), Lemn Sissay (1980s), Kamila Shamsie (1990s), Simon Mayo (2000s) and Hollie McNish (2010s). There were joint winners in 1974 and 1992 hence why there are 51 winning novels to date. The “Golden Five” shortlisted books will go to a public vote between 26th May until 25th June and the winner will be announced at the Man Booker 50 festival at the Southbank Centre in London on 8th July.

The Best of the Booker award was held in 2008 to mark the 40th anniversary and the Booker of Bookers in 1993 for the 25th anniversary with 1981 winner ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie taking the “best of the best” crown on both occasions. However, as there are now a few more titles to choose from, Rushdie may be less likely to dominate the competition on this occasion.

The Man Booker Prize is awarded to “the best novel in the opinion of the judges” and its leading status in the literary world guarantees wide readership and publicity. However, more often than not, the winning books often divide opinion. I have read 18 of them (although this includes two I didn’t finish), the majority of which won the Prize in more recent years, and my views are very mixed too. ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald and The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes are among my personal favourites. I admired Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton for their ambition but I can’t claim I truly adore them. I’m not a fan of ‘The Gathering’ by Anne Enright while ‘Posession’ by A. S. Byatt and ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ by Marlon James are the two I failed to finish. Instead, many of my favourite books are to be found in the shortlists and longlists so I hope some of those titles will be acknowledged as part of the anniversary celebrations too.

I am planning to attend some of the Man Booker 50 festival events at the Southbank in July (the programme and tickets haven’t been released yet). It will be interesting to hear more about the earlier novels over the coming months as these are the ones I am less familiar with. While I won’t be tackling the full list of winners, there are a few more I intend to read including ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner and ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai (and maybe even ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie at some point…).

How many Man Booker Prize-winning novels have you read and which ones would you like to see on the Golden Five shortlist?



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32 responses to “The Golden Man Booker Prize

  1. This is interesting! I’ve read a similar number to you – 17 – but these are strongly concentrated in the period 2000 to 2017. I’m a big fan of The Remains of the Day, Possession, Bring Up the Bodies, The Luminaries, and Lincoln in the Bardo, but this is reminding me how often I disagree with the Booker judges. I feel like the Booker (more so than other literary prizes) seems to be awarded to a pretty mediocre shortlisted title. I’m still very cross about 2005 in particular (The Sea over Never Let Me Go??). I also disliked The Gathering and couldn’t finish A Brief History of Seven Killings.


  2. Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang is one of the very best in my opinion. It just has a brilliantly real authorial voice. Rites of Passage by William Golding is also excellent.


  3. I’ll be so cross if Midnight’s Children wins AGAIN. I’m not a fan.

    I’ve never counted how many winners I’ve read. I’m going to read a handful more winners for my blog and/or Shiny New Books in advance of the anniversary and I’ll be sure to do a full tally then. I would tend to agree that I often like one of the other shortlisted titles much more than the one that wins.


  4. Booker is a hit and miss for me too – I loved “The Remains of the Day” so much I read it three times over the years, I adore Coetzee, but couldn’t get through “Wolf Hall.” I’ve read 10 of the books until now – I guess I have some catch up to do.


  5. I’ve read 20 and agree that my favourites usually come from the long lists, I used to read the winners compulsively for about 20 years in fact, but I’ve been less enamoured with the prize in recent years.

    In terms of sheer enjoyment and brilliant storytelling, I’d have to say Peter Carey, both Oscar and Lucinda and The True History of the Kelly Gang, I loved his novel Jack Maggs too.

    I’m looking forward to seeing who makes the long list in this anniversary year.


  6. I only read 7, my favorite being Wolf Hall


  7. I’ve read a lot of Booker novels, though none of the winners since The Luminaries (which I loved) as none of those recent ones have appealed. I was trying to read them all, and at one point only had about eight left. Then the last four winners have kind of put me off the whole thing. I will probably never read those so will never finish that list now. Some of my favourites: Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, The Gathering, The Bone People, Staying On, Offshore, The Holiday.


    • Of the most recent winners, I haven’t read Flanagan or Beatty (and unlikely to in the near future), didn’t finish Marlon James and didn’t love Lincoln in the Bardo, so it feels like a long time since there’s been a winner I really like. It’s also been a while since there have been any female winners – hopefully that will change too.


  8. I’ve read 26 and gave up The Finkler Question which I wanted to hurl across the room! My favourite is Oscar and Lucinda with one of yours, The Remains of the Day, as runner up but in all honesty it’s far from my favourite prize. Many of the winners have been read for work.


  9. I’ve actually surprised myself by finding I’ve read nine previous winners. The Remains of the Day would probably be my favourite (admittedly partly because I adore the film version) followed by, unsurprisingly for a historical fiction fanatic, Wolf Hall. Like a lot of others, Midnight’s Children sits on my bookshelf as yet unread.


  10. At Shiny, between all our reviewing team, we’re aiming to read/revisit as many of the books as we can by Golden Booker announcement – something we starting planning before this announcement. We’ll be having decade by decade round-up post in the week before – with a couple of paragraphs each on as many of the books as we’ve got through.

    Plenty on our list with no takers yet… do contact me if you or any other readers here would like to join in.


  11. I have followed the Booker Prize since its inception, largely as a result of favouring a single independent bookshop – firstly the one in Hampstead (now defunct I fear, proprietor Ian Norrie) and latterly Primrose Hill Books (proprietors Jessica and Marek). Looking down this list of favourites I agree with many of them – I loved Oscar and Lucinda, Rites of Passage (which is part of a trilogy) Wolf Hall (part of an unfinished trilogy) and Luminaries. Luminaries and Possession remain the only titles which I wanted to win, which in the end did succeed. I have been reading the longlist since it was first published and can only say that in recent years I have found it deeply unsettling. I very, very often disagree with the list in the first place and then go on to completely disagree with the winner. BUT along with blogs like this one, it does keep me abreast of modern fiction often by writers I would not ordinarily be reading. The History of Seven Killings being a case in point, I finished it, disliked it but it opened me up to Jamaican writing, the same can be said of African writers. Not Coetzee only (whose books I do not like) but Ben Okri, Andre Brink and many others and Indian writers, Sri Lankan writers etc.etc So thank you Booker. I hope there will be a new hardback publication (there has been one) of all the winners and losers to celebrate the 50 year mark.


    • There seems to be a lot of love for Oscar and Lucinda so I will definitely look into that. And I agree that even if the winners themselves are not always brilliant, the MBP still has an important role promoting unknown books/genres/authors etc to a wide readership.


  12. This makes me realize how much more reading I need to do!!! Great that you will be able to attend some events!


  13. Hotel du Lac and Midnight’s Children would be on my shortlist.


  14. I’ve read 40 of them but I gave up collecting Bookers when they opened to prize up to the US, and #DuckingForCover and #NotTryingToBeAWetBlanket I really can’t get interested in this event. There are so many wonderful, wonderful books to read from around the world, and yet the publicity for this prize is going to suck up all the air for books that have already had their place in the sun. In the same year that Kasuo Ishiguro in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech called for more diversity in our reading, this prize just makes it harder for new books from new authors to get any attention…


  15. I didn’t know about this prize. I think I deserve a medal for getting through History of Seven Killings. What an ordeal! I’m glad you think so much of Sense of an Ending, my book group hated it, I told them I thought it was an “important” book and they didn’t agree! I would like The Remains of the Day to win, as much for the breadth of Ishiguro’s work as for the breadth of the book itself. I did like Possession as a teenager, as I did all Byatt’s work, but these days I think she feels a bit dated.


  16. I’ve read 19 of the Booker winners – no. 20 would have The Narrow Road to the Deep North but it was a DNF for me. Instead of a best of the best, I’d like to see a best of the longlists to highlight some of those fab books that didn’t get the final prize, but were just as good, if not better.

    Like Lisa, I’m disappointed by the loss of diversity with the new & improved Booker and have found myself seeking out individual country’s literary prizes and translation awards to find new authors.

    As always, having enough time to actually read all these books is the biggest problem!!


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