My 2021 Booker Wish List

Booker Prizes logo When I first started this year’s Booker Prize wish list, I found it a bit of a struggle. Several of the books I’ve loved most this year have been translations – Jhumpa Lahiri’s Wherabouts, for instance – and obviously those don’t qualify. Then I read a novel I wanted to include at the last minute and found myself reluctant to drop any of the twelve I’d picked, ending up with a baker’s dozen after all. As regular readers will know, any similarity between my list and the judges’ longlist is likely to be entirely coincidental – more fun to indulge in wishes than predictions, for me – although last year I hit the jackpot with Shuggie Bain.

To be eligible for the prize all novels must be published in the UK between October 1st 2020 and 30th September 2021 and have been written in English. The judges usually stick to twelve although sometimes, like me, stretch to thirteen. Their list will be revealed on Tuesday, 27th but here’s mine in no particular order, with links to my reviews.

Cover image for Memorial by Bryan Washington Cover image for Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan Cover for Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden

Memorial                                          Luckenbooth                 Mrs Death Misses Death

Cover image for Harvest by Georgina Harding Cover image for Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor Cover image for Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane

Harvest                                        Lean Fall Stand                          Highway Blue

Cover image for Assembly by Natasha Brown Cover image for China Room by Sunjeev Sahota Cover image for Unsettles Ground by Claire Fuller

Assembly                                        China Room                       Unsettled Ground

Cover image for The Great Mistake by Joanathan Lee Cover image for Paul by daisy Lafarge Cover image for The Magician by Colm Toibin

The Great Mistake                               Paul                                   The Magician

Cover image for Matrix by Lauren Groff


It’s quite possible that I’ll read another gem I’d loved to have included here published before mid-September when the shortlist is announced but I’m sticking to the tried and tested. And if I had to choose one? It would be a toss up between Lean Fall Stand, Assembly and Luckenbooth.

What about you? What would you like to see on the list, and what do you think the judges will plump for?

50 thoughts on “My 2021 Booker Wish List”

  1. As usual, I haven’t read any of these, although I hope to read Unsettled Ground shortly. However, I recognize a few of the titles and I think you may have a good chance with some of them based on reviews I’ve read.

  2. Gosh – I hadn’t even started to think about the Booker! I’ve only read the Claire Fuller of this lot, which I enjoyed but isn’t my favourite of her books. I do have five of your choices on my shelves, which means I do have a lot of good reading ahead of me though.

    1. Ha! Well, I suspect if you’re thinking of shadowing my list won’t put you ahead of the game. I do have hopes for a few on here that have attracted some attention, though.

  3. Is it really that time of year already?! I’ll be so interested to see what the judges choose — especially since Rowan Williams is on the panel this year. I’m a great admirer of his intellect. I think Memorial and Mrs Death Misses Death would be fantastic contenders, and I am so looking forward to the Groff and Toibin. If I were to add in a couple of picks of my own, they would be A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself by Peter Ho Davies and The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan. Do you think any of the crop of tech-themed novels, e.g. No One Is Talking About This, could make the cut?

    1. I know! My sense of time has been even more odd over the past eighteen months. I’ve not read the Davies although I’m keen to do so. Hard to say about those tech-themed titles but it will be interesting to see what they come up with next Tuesday.

          1. I had mixed feelings about both myself, so they’re predictions rather than wishes. I think the Spufford would particularly appeal to Rowan Williams, though. I’m halfway through Klara and the Sun and not particularly enjoying it, but Ishiguro would also seem a shoo-in for the Booker longlist.

      1. I’d be happy to see Brood by Jackie Polzin or any of the ones mentioned in my original comment recognized. But knowing how prize judging works, I will probably find I’ve not read or even heard of many of the nominees!

  4. I haven’t actually read any of these books, although several of the titles are on my TBR list and I’ve read other works by some of these authors. Following the Booker nominations, and reading the long list, used to be one of my summer hobbies and a nice way to keep up, if only a little, with Commonwealth writers. Oddly enough, I stopped doing this about the time U.S. writers became eligible for the prize. Also, there were several years where the most of the nominees just didn’t interest me.
    Regardless of the “official” outcome, I like your list. I’m really looking forward to the novels by Lauren Groff (I’ve read a few of her other novels and liked them) and Toíbin, who’s a big favorite of mine. I have a copy of Memorial, which I haven’t gotten to; Unsettled Ground and Luckenbooth are on the TBR. I don’t know anything about Paul or Assembly but I’ll check them out!

    1. It’s not my favourite prize but I can’t resist the pull of the wish list! Interesting that you turned away from it after the inclusion of American writers. I know some people feel they’ve come to dominate the prize.

      I’m glad you like my list. Matrix was wonderful as was The Magician, both very different from anything I’ve read by either author before. I hope you enjoy the other titles, too, if you get to them.

  5. This makes me realise I haven’t read all that much new fiction in English that would qualify for the Booker this past year… Although Mrs Death Misses Death is one that I am setting aside for a rainy day, as I know I will like it.

  6. Looks like a very strong selection of books, Susan, based on various reviews and social media chat! The only one I’ve experienced personally is the Jon McGregor, which I listened to (abridged) on R4’s Book at Bedtime – a shoo-in for the longlist, and a strong contender for the prize itself, I suspect. Have you read the new Damon Galgut, The Promise? I’d be surprised not to see it on the list, based on the reports I’ve seen so far – that’s assuming it’s eligible?

    1. I’d be thrilled if McGregor bagged the prize, Jacqui, as I’m sure you won’t be at all surprised to hear. I’ve not read the Galgut but it is eligible as far as I can see.

  7. Well I haven’t read any of the books you’ve selected so can’t comment on them. I always like to follow the progress of the Booker, though I have fallen out of love with it recently. I haven’t read Shuggie Bain from last year, but my Sister and the Between the Covers tv programme, have practically convinced me I should give it a try.

  8. Oh man, I think Memorial, Lean Fall Stand, Mrs Death, and Assembly would all make me very happy to see. I’d also quite like the judges to acknowledge Maggie Shipstead’s marvelous Great Circle!

    1. I’d be delighted if any of those four caught the judges’ eye. I shyed away from Great Circle, given it’s chunkster proportions, but it seems I missed a treat.

  9. I look forward to your Booker picks as much as the real thing! This is a cracking selection and I look forward to comparing it with Tuesday’s reveal.

  10. if only you were on the judging panel then we’d get some decent contenders. Sadly I think the judges have a diversity agenda (or at least they did last year) so this might be too mainstream for them.

    I’ve not read any of these though have four on my shelves waiting to be read – I did start the Jon McGregor earlier on and was so blown away by the opening chapter I was reluctant to put it down to start cooking dinner

    1. Thank you, Karen, although I don’t envy them their task. Delighted to hear that the McGregor hits the spot. He’s surpassed even his own incredibly high stanadard with Lean Fall Stand.

      1. It can’t be easy to read 100 plus books and remember them in enough detail to argue for/against their inclusion and then to have to read the selected books all over again. Exhausting

        1. Absolutely! And worse if you’re chairing it, trying to get a decision from a group of people, each of whom may be passionate about different novels. Anyway, no one is going to ask me any time soon!

  11. I’d love to see Lean Fall Stand on the list as I thought it was wonderful. It will be interesting to see what makes the list this year, I found last year’s a little underwhelming.

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  13. I’m not sure if the Booker does it, but I appreciate the fact that the Giller Prize in (the land currently called) Canada lists the books which have been submitted for the prize ahead of the prize announcement. There are restrictions here about how many submissions a publisher can put forth for a prize, so sometimes choices have to be made and, as such, some titles simply aren’t in the running and we readers don’t necessarily know that, and similarly, some very small presses might find the submission fees or requirements too challenging or have budgeted for marketing rather than prize submissions so might have to bow out even with a book that’s been successful for them. Nonetheless, I can see where this would be fun, even if only one of your choices matches up. Maybe this means you’ll discover some new favourites?

    1. That’s so interesting. No, we have no idea about what’s been submitted, although numbers for each publisher are limited, which is part of the reason I’m so emphatic about ‘wishes’ rather then ‘predictions’. The judges came up with an interesting list, several of which I’ve read and although I didn’t ‘wish’ for them, I’m not sorry they made the cut.

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