The six must-read novels on this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist

Spoilt for choice.
Spoilt for choice.
Image: Pj Accetturo/Unsplash via CC0
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If you’re searching for a new book to lose yourself in, this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist is the place to look.

The award’s judging panel narrowed this year’s selection down to just six finalists this morning (Sept. 13), with just four weeks to go until the latest winner is announced.

Lincoln in the Bardo, the first novel from acclaimed US short story writer and journalist George Saunders, is joined by Ali Smith’s Autumn, Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1, Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, and Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Saunders’ debut novel is perhaps the most notable pick given its extraordinary year, and is already a favorite with bookmakers. Just five weeks after it was published, it was announced that the story—which follows Abraham Lincoln’s deceased son, living alongside ghosts in the netherworld of a cemetery—was heading to Hollywood under the guidance of power couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, who will co-produce with the author himself.

This is only the fourth year that American authors have been eligible for the prize, after organizers opened it up to authors of any nationality writing in English back in 2014. Saunders is joined on the shortlist by two fellow Americans, Auster and Fridlund. Auster’s 4 3 2 1 follows four parallel lives of a boy called Archibald Isaac Ferguson, while Fridlund’s debut centers a teenager’s coming of age in an isolated commune in the American Midwest.

Smith’s Autumn is the first in a four-part series titled Seasonal, with Winter, Spring and Summer to follow in the coming years. Described as a “post-Brexit masterpiece”, her latest novel is set just after last year’s pivotal EU referendum.

Pakistani novelist, Hamid, best known for 2007’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, offers a “magical vision of the refugee crisis” in his latest novel, Exit West. Meanwhile, Mozley’s Elmet follows a man and his children living in Yorkshire. It’s been described as an “elemental, contemporary rural noir” and is regarded as a wildcard among this year’s novels.

Baroness Lola Young, the chair of this year’s judges, praised the “six unique and intrepid books” on this year’s shortlist. “Playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce: here is a group of novels grown from tradition but also radical and contemporary. The emotional, cultural, political and intellectual range of these books is remarkable, and the ways in which they challenge our thinking is a testament to the power of literature,” she added.

The winner of the prize receives £50,000 ($66,365) as well as a not-so-surprising boom in book sales. Shortlisted authors each claim a £2,500 ($3,318) reward.

The winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be revealed on Tuesday October 17th.