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The Booker Prize Longlist

13 Novels Exploring the Theme of Community

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 03, 2021

First awarded in 1969, the prestigious Booker Prize has a history of marking literary stars. Last year's winner was Douglas Stuart for the heartbreaking novel, Shuggie Bain. In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood shared the £50,000 prize for Girl, Woman, Other and The Testaments, respectively. Here are the thirteen books on this year's longlist:

A Passage North

This sophomore effort from award-winning Sri Lankan Tamil novelist Anuk Arudpragasam follows a young man traveling into the war-torn Northern province for his grandmother's funeral. It is described as a luminous meditation on connection and longing.

Second Place

This is Rachel Cusk's first novel since her much-lauded Outline trilogy. An innovative writer, she has been praised for the quality of her brilliant prose and distinct style. The story centers on a marriage that is upended when a wife invites a young painter to come stay at their remote home.

The Promise

A Booker Prize-finalist for The Good Doctor, South African author Damon Galgut's modern saga follows three siblings who drift apart after the death of their mother. Reunited by four funerals over three decades, the dwindling family reflects the atmosphere of its evolving country.

The Sweetness of Water

The debut novel by Nathan Harris tackles complex issues. Set in Georgia in the waning days of the Civil War, two newly freed brothers find work with a couple grieving the loss of their son to the war. Meanwhile, an illicit romance between two Confederate soldiers unleashes turmoil.

Klara and the Sun

Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro previously won the award in 1989 for The Remains of the Day. His new novel is narrated by Klara, the "artificial friend" for a lonely 14-year-old girl. The book offers a look at our changing world and explores a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

An Island*

Another South African writer, Karen Jennings offers the story of Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. After living alone for a long time, he finds one morning that the unconscious body of a refugee has washed up on his beach. This unsettling event brings up conflicting emotions.
*Unfortunately for us readers, this book is not yet available, but we will be on the lookout!

A Town Called Solace

Bestselling Canadian author Mary Lawson has been praised for her ability to tap into the "wilderness of the human heart." Her timely novel, set in Northern Ontario in 1972, presents a family in crisis. Tenacious eight-year-old Clara holds a daily vigil for the return of her missing older sister, Rose.

No One Is Talking About This

Patricia Lockwood's memoir, Priestdaddy, was one of the NYT Book Review's ten best books of 2017. Her first novel explores life as a social media star. When the unnamed narrator's family emergency demands her attention, she finds herself questioning the value of her extremely online life.

The Fortune Men*

Award-winning Somali-British novelist Nadifa Mohamed gained recognition for earlier novels like 2010's Black Mamba Boy. Her new mystery features rakish petty criminal Mahmood Mattan. When a shopkeeper is brutally killed in his 1950s Welsh community, he is falsely accused of the murder.
*While this book is not yet available, you can pick up the author's previous work while you wait!

Bewilderment

Richard Powers offers an intimate and moving account of a widowed father struggling to save his troubled son. Like previous works, including Pulitzer Prize-winning The Overstory, the plot revolves around the environmental threats to the natural world, particularly endangered animals.

China Room

From British novelist Sunjeev Sahota comes this novel, which interweaves the story of a child bride living in a village in 1920s Punjab with that of her British-born great-grandson, returning to the village in 1999. Sahota's second novel, The Year of the Runaways was a finalist for the Booker in 2015.

Great Circle

American author Maggie Shipstead's novel weaves together the story of a female aviator who disappears while trying to fly around the world and, a century later, the actress tapped to play her onscreen. It is described as epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told.

Light Perpetual

Celebrated English author Francis Spufford traces the infinite possibilities of five children caught up in the World War II bombing raid in southeast London. Who were they? What futures did they lose? The inventive novel imagines the life arcs of these five souls.

All of these titles, according to lead judge Maya Jasanoff, have something to do with the nature of community—a resonant theme this year due to the isolation of the pandemic.

The Booker Prize shortlist will be announced September 14th and the winner will be announced November 3rd. We can't wait!

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