The Booker 2019 Longlist

by Sunita

This year’s Booker Prize longlist was announced today. I recognized every book on the list, which is a first for me. Booker completists are going to find it difficult to read every book if they’re not tied into the publishing industry (at a minimum through Netgalley) and even then, I doubt anyone that isn’t Very Important to Promotion is getting the Atwood before its very prominent launch in September. The list of 13, from a total of 151 submitted or called in:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

Of the thirteen, ten have already been published in the UK and the other three will be released between 29 August and 9 September (the Levy, Rushdie, and Atwood respectively). If you’re in the US and don’t want to pay import prices and/or wait for Book Depository/Blackwell to send you the print copies, I’ve found seven available either in ebook or hardback form.

I have five books in hand and have read a sixth (Lanny, reviewed here). The other four UK-published books are all available via KoboUK, so I’ll work my way through the five I have and then pick up the others as I go along. As in previous years, I’ll post my thoughts about the books here.

I don’t have strong feelings about the list this year. There’s only one debut novel (the Braithwaite) and while there are no US heavy hitters and only one US-origin author, there are at least three entries which are set in the US. There’s plenty of gender and ethnic diversity, but geographically it’s a heavily UK-origin list. There are plenty of books that I would have loved to see on the list, but there are so many books published every year that there are many more worthy books than slots. And when you remember that publishers have limits on how many they can submit, it’s impossible to know if the other worthy books were even sent in.

I’m looking forward to several quite a bit. The outlier on the list, in every way, is Lucy Ellman’s Ducks, Newburyport, which is 1040 pages, written in a single sentence (after the first page), and published by a tiny press called Galley Beggar. I’m all for unusual books, and I absolutely did not expect to see this on the longlist; the Goldsmiths’ or Republic of Consciousness’ lists, sure, but I didn’t expect it to appeal to a Booker jury. I’m very happy to be wrong! I actually have an ebook copy in hand right now because I preordered the (print) novel on a whim in the spring and the publishers kindly sent an ebook as part of the purchase. I’m hoping against all experience that my gigantic print copy is part of my current held-mail pile at the USPS and will be waiting for me when I return.

I’m also looking forward to the Kevin Barry book, which I put on hold at the library a while ago, and I really enjoyed the excerpt from the Rushdie entry that was published in the New Yorker this week. I rarely read the New Yorker‘s fiction, but I decided to start it yesterday (before the announcement) and didn’t stop until I was done. I’m on the hold list at the library for that one as well but I’ll probably buy it when it’s released. The Luiselli is one I checked out and then returned without reading, but I’ve meant to go back to it, and same with Lanchester’s The Wall. They were both not-now books, not not-ever. And after avoiding it for months, I finally read My Sister the Serial Killer last night. It was great! I shouldn’t have been put off by the serial-killer angle, it is much more than that. Review to come soon.