Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.
Books not only evoke imagination; they also take us to a completely new world and enrich our lives in ways that many other things cannot.
This is why literary awards are an exciting time to discover new novels and authors that you may otherwise not reach for, and with the shortlist of the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction announced, you know these will be worthy reads.
Widely regarded as the UK’s most prestigious literary award, the Booker Prize recognises the best fiction written in the English-language and published in the UK and Ireland between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020.
This year’s judges – Margaret Busby (chair of the 2020 judges), editor, literary critic and former publisher; Lemn Sissay, writer and broadcaster; Emily Wilson, classicist and translator; author Lee Child; and Sameer Rahim, author and critic – were tasked with the near-impossible job of whittling a stellar line-up of 162 novels down to a shortlist of six.
But this year’s line-up is packed with surprises and debuts. Included within the list are four debut novelists – Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor – and of the six shortlisted, four of the books have been written by women.
Busby said: “The shortlist of six came together unexpectedly, voices and characters resonating with us all even when very different. We are delighted to help disseminate these chronicles of creative humanity to a global audience.”
“It’s a wondrous and enriching variety of stories, and hugely exciting as well,” she added.
The winning title will be announced on 17 November. But before then, our round-up covers all six books from the shortlist, and are the titles you should add to your reading list now. After all, the autumn and winter months provide the perfect time to curl up with a new novel (or six).
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Diane Cook’s debut novel brings to life a wildly imaginative and terrifying dystopian story of a mother’s battle to save her daughter from a world ravaged by climate change. Touching on humanity and our contempt for nature, this is a timely and compelling novel.
As a hotly anticipated follow up to Nervous Conditions, this book returns to the protagonist, Tambudzai and is searingly honest. Exploring poverty and personhood by highlighting the obstacles women face in Zimbabwe, it is emotionally and socially evocative. Tense and psychologically charged, it reveals how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
A compelling debut about love, betrayal and obsession, this book tells the painstaking story of an angry and sad Antara who is forced to come to terms with the reality of her mother’s memory loss. Sharp and laced with wit, Doshi tests the limits of what we know for certain about the people we are closest to.
Set during Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, this touches on female strength and shines a spotlight on the women soldiers at war. Utterly captivating and inspiring, this is impossible to put down.
Set in Eighties Glasgow, this is the unforgettable story of young Hugh « Shuggie » Bain who spends his pivotal years in run-down public housing. Exploring Thatcher’s politics, it is a heartbreaking story of addiction, love and sexuality. Stuart’s portrayal of a working class family is so rarely seen in fiction, for him to do so in such a powerful and all important way is noteworthy.
A debut coming-of-age novel by Brandon Taylor that is partly autobiographical, Real Life explores a gay, black doctoral student’s experiences in a predominately white, midwestern PhD program. Tender, yet perfectly paced, it touches on solitude, society, race and sexuality. Analysing the past with sympathy, while sensitively dramatising the intricate details of love and grief.
If this shortlisted selection of brilliant books doesn’t satiate your lust for literature, take a look at our guide to the best debut novels released in Super Thursday or our round-up of the Women’s Prize for Fiction winners from the past six years
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
This year’s shortlist is packed with surprises and debuts that you need to get your hands on now
Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel, Short list, Avni Doshi, The Mirror and the Light
Actu monde – GB – The Booker Prize shortlist is in, here’s what to read