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The 2018 Man Booker Prize Winner is Milkman! Congrats to Anna Burns and the Other Shortlist Authors

By Beth Clark • October 16, 2018

The Man Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize for fiction was first awarded in 1969 and is open to writers of any nationality who write in English and are published in the UK and Ireland. As one of the most prestigious prizes for literary fiction written in English, the list of winners over the last five decades includes authors like Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, and Salman Rushdie. In fact, Rushdie’s novel Midnight's Children won the 1993 "Booker of Bookers" prize for the best novel to win the award in its first 25 years. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje won the Golden Man Booker Prize that commemorated its second 25 years and its 50th anniversary (that shortlist is included at the end).

Shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book, and the winner receives £50,000, plus the international recognition that immediately follows the announcement (including the possibility of being mentioned in a future ThriftBooks blog post...#goals).

2018 Man Booker Judges

Being chosen as a judge is also a great honor, and the panel of five who selected the 2018 shortlist was comprised of:

Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah (Chair)
Crime writer Val McDermid
Cultural critic Leo Robson
Feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose
Artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton

The 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Judge Kwame Anthony Appiah said of the shortlist novels: "From Ireland to California, in Barbados and the Arctic, they inhabit worlds that not everyone will have been to, but which we can all be enriched by getting to know. Each one explores the anatomy of pain—among the incarcerated and on a slave plantation, in a society fractured by sectarian violence, and even in the natural world. But there are also in each of them moments of hope."

Milkman* by Anna Burns (the 2018 winner, and the first from Northern Ireland, btw!)

Milkman is the story of Middle sister, who is attempting to keep her mother from discovering her nearly-boyfriend and keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with milkman (which she herself for the life of her cannot work out how it came about). But when her family finds out, she becomes 'interesting,' which is the last thing she wants to be in a world of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness, and inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black is an 11-year-old field slave in Barbados who only knows sugar plantation life. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified. But Titch is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist. He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky and a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. Titch abandons everything to save Wash when a bounty is placed on his head, and from the cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again.

Everything Under* by Daisy Johnson

As a child, Gretel lived on a canal boat with her mother, and they invented a language that was just their own, so words are important to her. Now working as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature, she hasn't seen her mother since the age of 16. A phone call from the hospital interrupts her isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood, along with other things like the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water—a canal thief?—swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end, the only thing for Gretel to do is go back.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room is a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America. It's 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California's Central Valley. Severed from the outside life of San Francisco and her young son, her new inside reality is thousands of women hustling for the bare survival essentials, the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners, and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living. Simultaneously humorous, stunning, and unsentimental, it’s also audacious and tragic, and propulsive yet beautifully refined.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

A Vietnam War Air Force loadmaster is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a century of photo portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergrad in the late 80s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. Nine strangers summoned in different ways by trees are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest and The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings as a handful of people learn how to see that world and are drawn into its unfolding catastrophe. If the trees of Earth could speak, they would say, "Listen. There's something you need to hear."

The Long Take* by Robin Robertson

Walker is a D-Day veteran with PTSD who can't return home to rural Nova Scotia, and instead heads to the city for freedom, anonymity, and repair. He moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, exposing a crucial period of fracture in American history that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had withered but the country needed outsiders to study and dramatize its new anxieties. While Walker tries to piece his life together, America becomes deeply paranoid, doubting itself, plagued by social and racial division, spiraling corruption, and inner-city collapse. The Long Take is about a good man haunted by violence and doomed to return to it yet resolved to find kindness in the world and in himself again.

The Rest of the 2018 Man Booker Prize Longlist

The other seven novels that made up the Booker Dozen were:

  1. Snap by Belinda Bauer
  2. Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
  3. In Our Mad and Furious City* by Guy Gunaratne
  4. The Water Cure* by Sophie Mackintosh
  5. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  6. Normal People* by Sally Rooney
  7. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

The Golden Man Booker Prize Shortlist

The special 50th anniversary Golden Man Booker Prize winner was announced on July 8, 2018 during the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival in the UK. The longlist of all 51 previous winners was narrowed down to five by a panel of judges, and the winner was then chosen by public vote. Michael Ondaajte's "The English Patient" won, and the other titles were:

*Not currently in stock, but if you’re a ThriftBooks.com first-time shopper, this is the trade-off for ridiculously low-priced used books and discounted new ones, so create a profile and save the titles you want to your Wish List! (Be sure to sign up for our ReadingRewards program too.)

Read more by Beth Clark

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