Booker Prize 2020: you need to add the shortlist to your autumn reading list

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Hollie Richardson
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Booker Prize 2020 shortlist.

Here are the six authors and novels shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction 2020.

It’s already been another brilliant for books. 

Last week, Maggie O’Farrell was named the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 winner with her novel Hamnet

Now, we’re one step closer to finding out whose taking home the biggest award in the industry: the Booker Prize for Fiction 2020

The shortlist of six books has just been announced, which includes four female writers and four debut novelists. 

Let’s take a look at the novels we should all probably add to our autumn reading list this year…

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The Booker Prize for Fiction 2020 shortlist is:

  • Diane Cook (USA), The New Wilderness, Oneworld Publications
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), This Mournable Body, Faber & Faber
  • Avni Doshi (USA), Burnt Sugar, Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House
  • Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA),  The Shadow King, Canongate Books
  • Douglas Stuart (Scotland/USA), Shuggie Bain, Picador, Pan Macmillan
  • Brandon Taylor (USA), Real Life, Originals, Daunt Books Publishing

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The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges: Margaret Busby (chair), editor, literary critic and former publisher; Lee Child, author; Sameer Rahim, author and critic; Lemn Sissay, writer and broadcaster; and Emily Wilson, classicist and translator.

The winner will follow in the footsteps of Bernardine Evaristo, who took the prize last year with her incredible book Girl, Woman, Other

Here are this year’s shortlisted Booker Prize authors:

Booker Prize 2020: Diane Cook.
Booker Prize 2020: Diane Cook.

Diane Cook, a critically acclaimed short-story writer and former producer for the radio show This American Life, is shortlisted for her debut novel, The New Wilderness. She is currently writing a screenplay based on the novel and Warner Bros. Television has acquired the rights to develop it as a television series. Her first short story collection Man V Nature won the Guardian First Book Award.

Booker Prize 2020: Tsitsi Dangarembga
Booker Prize 2020: Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body is the third book in a trilogy following Nervous Conditions (1988) ― winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize ― and The Book of Not (2006). Dangarembga is a filmmaker and playwright. She was recently arrested in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, during a peaceful protest against government corruption. She is due to be in court on 18 September. English PEN and PEN International are calling for the immediate dropping of all charges.

Booker Prize 2020: Avni Doshi.
Booker Prize 2020: Avni Doshi.

Avni Doshi, who is based in Dubai, wrote eight drafts of her debut novel, Burnt Sugar, before it was first published in India under the title Girl in White Cotton. It won the 2013 Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. There are a number of parallels between her life and the book: it’s set in Pune, where her family is from; both she and her character experienced postpartum depression, although she gave birth after submitting the novel; and she wrote about Alzheimer’s disease after her grandmother was diagnosed with the illness, explaining that she made sense of it through writing the novel.

Booker Prize 2020: Maaza Mengiste.
Booker Prize 2020: Maaza Mengiste.

Maaza Mengiste was born in Ethiopia and is a professor in the MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation programme at Queens College, City University of New York. She is the first writer from Ethiopia to make the shortlist. (Under the original Booker Prize rules, Ethiopian writers would not have been eligible.) She drew on her family history to write The Shadow King: she knew her grandfather had fought against the Italians during the invasion of Ethiopia and she later discovered that her great-grandmother had gone to war too.

Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuart.
Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuart.

Douglas Stuart, who grew up in Glasgow, moved to New York to start his career in fashion design. His writing has appeared in LitHub and The New Yorker, including a recently published short story The Englishman. He has made the shortlist with his debut novel Shuggie Bain. He says the 1994 Booker winner How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman changed his life as it was one of the first times he saw his people and dialect on the page. He is currently finishing his second novel, Loch Awe.

Booker Prize: Brandon Taylor.
Booker Prize 2020: Brandon Taylor.

Brandon Taylor, who attended the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a staff writer at Literary Hub, is shortlisted for his debut novel Real Life. He describes academia — the setting for his book and somewhere he’s spent a lot of time ― as full of human drama and intrigue, but quite hostile at times with “people who had a problem with my blackness or queerness”. He has a short story collection called Filthy Animals due out in America next year.

When is the Booker Prize 2020 winner announced?

The 2020 winner will be announced on Tuesday 17 November in an event broadcast from London’s Roundhouse in collaboration with BBC Arts. The ceremony has been re-imagined, transposing the traditional dinner at the Guildhall to a globally accessible ceremony without walls. The live announcement of the winner will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and the winner interview on BBC News at Ten.

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Images: Supplied by Booker Prize


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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…