Booker Prize 2023 shortlist: 6 ‘electric’ books picked

Booker Prize 2023 shortlist: 6 ‘electric’ books picked

by Suswati Basu

Literary enthusiasts around the globe gathered in anticipation as the shortlist for the prestigious Booker Prize 2023 was revealed. The announcement, made by the Chair of judges, Esi Edugyan, took place at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London and was simultaneously livestreamed, welcoming readers from all corners of the world to join in the celebration of literature.

Read: Booker Prize 2023 longlist: 13 fresh books on our startling reality

The Booker Prize stands as the preeminent accolade for exceptional works of fiction crafted in English by authors hailing from any part of the world and published in either the UK or Ireland. This year’s shortlist, however, brought a fresh and exhilarating twist, as none of the six authors had previously graced the Booker shortlist. In a nod to burgeoning talent, two of these authors made their debut appearances on this highly coveted roster.

Diversity in authorship marked the 2023 shortlist. It encompassed one British, one Canadian, two Irish, and two American authors, showcasing the global reach of this esteemed literary prize. While the books themselves exuded hope, humour, and humanity, they fearlessly tackled some of the most pressing issues of our time. Topics ranging from climate change and immigration to financial hardships, persecution of minorities, political extremism, and the erosion of personal freedoms found their place within these narratives.

These books introduced readers to characters on quests for peace and belonging, as well as those mourning lost loves. In a display of literary versatility, the shortlist included works grounded in contemporary reality, shedding light on shameful chapters of history, and conjuring chilling visions of the future.

Booker Prize 2023 shortlist:

The 2023 Booker Prize shortlist comprises the following compelling titles and authors:

  • Study for Obedience” by Sarah Bernstein (Canadian) from Granta Books. The book places its central character in an unnamed country where her ancestors have been persecuted.
  • “If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery (American) from 4th Estate. Trelawny, born in America to Jamaican parents, struggles to work out how he fits into his own family and to society in general.
  • This Other Eden” by Paul Harding (American) from Hutchinson Heinemann. An isolated community faces an existential crisis when white outsiders arrive to educate, study and eventually destroy them
  • Prophet Song” by Paul Lynch (Irish) from Oneworld. Prophet Song takes Syria’s tyranny, unrest and refugee crisis and places it in a reimagined Ireland.
  • Western Lane” by Chetna Maroo (British) from Picador. Three British-Indian sisters are coming to terms with the death of their mother.
  • The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray (Irish) from Hamish Hamilton. Financial problems and dark secrets threaten to shatter an entire family.
Read: Polari First Book Prize: 12 thrilling debut reads on longlist

Heading the distinguished panel of judges for 2023 is Esi Edugyan, a twice-shortlisted novelist. She is joined by a diverse lineup of luminaries, including actor, writer, and director Adjoa Andoh; poet, lecturer, editor, and critic Mary Jean Chan; author and professor James Shapiro; and actor and writer Robert Webb.

Selecting these final six novels from a longlist of thirteen, known as the ‘Booker dozen,’ was no small feat. These longlisted titles were curated from a pool of 163 books published between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, and submitted by publishers. It’s worth noting that all the shortlisted authors will receive £2,500 and a bespoke bound edition of their book, catapulting their works onto a global stage and significantly boosting sales.

The ultimate moment of revelation, when the 2023 Booker Prize winner is unveiled, will occur on November 26, 2023, at an award ceremony held at Old Billingsgate in London. The fortunate recipient of this prestigious honor will receive a prize of £50,000 and a trophy named ‘Iris,’ designed in homage to the 1978 Booker winner Iris Murdoch, by the late Jan Pieńkowski.

What the judges said

Esi Edugyan, the Chair of the 2023 judges, poignantly described this year’s finalists as “vibrant, nervy, electric.” She underscored the profound impact of these novels, which, despite delving into the depths of trauma and society’s challenges, maintain a thread of humour, decency, and grace.

“They are vibrant, nervy, electric. In these novelists’ hands, form is pushed hard to see what it yields, and it is always something astonishing. Language – indeed, life itself – is thrust to its outer limits.”

Esi Edugyan, Booker Prize 2023 Judge

Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, celebrated the diversity of the shortlist, highlighting the inclusion of authors from various backgrounds, all of whom had received recognition for their literary prowess elsewhere.

Read: Bulgarian first to win International Booker Prize

The countdown to the Booker Prize 2023 award ceremony has begun, promising an evening of literary celebration on November 26, 2023. The event will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s special half-hour edition of “Front Row” at 9.30 pm, and it will also be livestreamed by the ‘internet’s resident librarian,’ YouTuber Jack Edwards, across the Booker Prizes’ social channels and his own YouTube account.

As we eagerly await the crowning of the 2023 Booker Prize winner, the literary world celebrates the vibrant and electric stories brought forth by this year’s talented authors. These novels not only reflect our shared journey but also redefine the boundaries of what world literature can achieve, making them deserving contenders for one of the most prestigious literary honours on the planet.

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