The judges produced the longlist from reading 151 books published between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019. (How the 151 are selected is a modernist short story in itself.)
- Eight longlisted women authors, five men.
- Two former Booker winners – Atwood and Rushdie.
- Just one debut novel – My Sister, The Serial Killer
- A very international field: the UK does not dominate, and there is just one American author (there were three last year, and two US winners since the rules were controversially changed in 2014, to ignore the Atlantic).
- Three authors with Nigerian parentage.
- Five books from independent publishers: Faber & Faber (The Wall and Lanny), Canongate (Night Boat to Tangier), Atlantic (My Sister, The Serial Killer) and the smallest – Norwich publisher Galley Beggar Press, with the biggest book, the 1,000-page Ducks, Newburyport.
- Two books with commas in their titles; only one such has ever been Booker shortlisted – The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch, which won in 1978.
The books in glib summary
The Testaments A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, set 15 years later and narrated by three female characters – but not published until September.
Night Boat to Tangier Two woebegone Irish gangsters hang around reviewing their lives: a tragicomedy about sex, death and narcotics .
My Sister, The Serial Killer A darkly comic thriller set in Lagos; two sisters are entangled in the the loves of one and the crimes of the other.
Ducks, Newburyport A troubled monologue from an Ohio housewife: an indictment of domesticity and American barbarity, full of Joycean wordplay.
Girl, Woman, Other A free verse novel following the lives of mainly black British women through the years; humorous and challenging .
The Wall A dystopic thriller about politics, but also a story about love, war and a voyaging across borders; why the young should mistrust the old.
The Man Who Saw Everything Ambitiously structured and playful (a character dies twice…) about Europe and how we cope with the weight of history.
Lost Children Archive The problems during a family’s road trip are contrasted with the perils encountered by refugee children heading for the US southern border.
An Orchestra of Minorities The Odyssey roughly retold in Nigeria: a farmer falls for a wealthy woman in a mythic epic about love and destiny.
Lanny Modernity and myth combine as a boy’s rural life is seen through the eyes of parents, and others, but especially the newly awoken Dead Papa Toothwort.
Quichotte A quixotic ageing salesman drives across America to prove himself to the TV star he’s fallen for; a tragicomedy about siblings, racism, the opioid crisis etc.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World A sex worker remembers her life in the Istanbul unederworld – humane, hard-hitting; an optimistic heroine.
Frankissstein A transgender doctor is the vehicle for a comedy exploring sex, AI, identity technology and Romanticism, set in the present and the past.
Margaret Atwood Canadian author of over 50 works of fiction and poetry, Booker shortlisted four times and won it in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.
Kevin Barry The once-nomadic Irish author of two previous prize-winning novels, City of Bohane and Beatlebone; claims to be ‘a raving egomaniac.’
Oyinkan Braithwaite Born in Nigeria; came to the UK as a child; creative writing and law graduate. She has written short stories, but this is her first novel.
Lucy Ellmann US born, now living in Edinburgh; has written six other novels including her award-winning 1988 debut, Sweet Desserts
Bernardine Evaristo London-born Anglo-.Nigerian author of seven other books of fiction and verse exploring the African diaspora; also an academic.
John Lanchester London-based contributor to London Review of Books and New Yorker; author of non-fiction as well as four other novels, including the televised Capital.
Deborah Levy South African born, London-based British playwright, poet and author of seven novels including two Booker shortlisted – Swimming Home and Hot Milk
Valeria Luiselli Mexican-born, US-based academic, activist and author; her novels include The Story of my Teeth. Lost Children Archive is her first novel written in English
Chigozie Obioma Nigerian-born, US-based creative writing academic and author. His debut novel, The Fisherman, was Booker shortlisted
Max Porter Bath-based author of the multi-award-winning Grief is the Thing with Feathers; as an editor he worked on the 2013 Booker winner, The Luminaries.
Salman Rushdie Indian-born, New York-based author of 12 novels, many Booker-nominated including Midnight’s Children (the winner in 1981) and The Satanic Verses.
Elif Shafak One of Turkey’s most famous authors, based now in Istanbul and London; author of 11 novels, some written in Turkish, some English
Jeanette Winterson Author of 10 novels (her first, the award-winning Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) as well as a memoir, non-fiction and screenplays.