My 2023 Booker Wish List

Not my favourite prize but I seem unable to resist putting together a wish list for the Booker, quite possibly because I know very few will be fulfilled but I’m keen to give some more neglected titles an airing even though they’re unlikely to have been nominated let alone make the judges’ grade.

To be eligible for the prize all books must be written in English and published in the UK between 1st October 2022 and 30th September 2023. The judges usually stick to twelve although sometimes stretch to thirteen. Their list will be revealed on Tuesday 1st August but here’s mine – wishes not predictions, see above – in no particular order, with links to my reviews for all but Though the Bodies Fall and Prophet Song, to be reviewed nearer publication date.


Cover image for Bourneville by Jonathan Coe Cover image for Limberlost by Robbie Arnott Cover image for For Thy Great PainHave Mercy on My Little Pain by Victoria Mackenzie

Bournville                                  Limberlost             For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little Pain


Cover image for Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry Cover image for Close to Home by Michael Magee Cover image for Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Old God’s Time                           Close to Home                          Small Worlds

Cover image for Falling Animals by Sheila Armstrong Cover image for The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor Cover image for Kala by Colin Walsh

Falling Animals                              Late Americans                          Kala

Cover image for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett Cover image for Though the Bodies Fall by Noel O'Hagan Cover image for Prophet Song by Paula Lynch

Tom Lake                                   Though the Bodies Fall                    Prophet Song

Several of these stand no hope whatsoever, although I think they should. It’s quite possible that I’ll read a gem I’d loved to have included here before mid-September when the shortlist is announced but I’m sticking to the tried and tested. And if I had to choose one? Impossible as ever but it would be a tossup between Small Worlds and Old God’s Time. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that half my titles are Irish.

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

36 thoughts on “My 2023 Booker Wish List”

  1. Yes to Old God’s Time. If that doesn’t make the list I give up. I haven’t read Limberlost but want to because of reviews I’ve read – including yours – so I think that has a chance. Irish writing seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment so possibly Prophet Song which I hadn’t heard of before now. I read his earlier book Grace when it was nominated for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. What about Demon Copperhead that won the Women’s Prize for Fiction & Pulitzer Prize? Published 18th October 2022 so just squeezes into the criteria.

    1. I haven’t read the Kingsolver yet but you may well be right about it, Cathy. Absolutely agree about Old God’s Time. Prophet Song is excellent if harrowing. Hope you enjoy Limberlost when you get to it.

  2. I’m terrible I rarely read any of the ‘popular’ books until years later. I have one I could suggest The Bookbinder Of Jericho by Pip Williams, but only because I know she’s been high up on listings before.

    1. I’ll check out the Williams, Rosie. I’m pretty sure that the judges’ list will be almost entirely different mine although I may have to find a hat to eat if Sebastian Barry isn’t on it!

  3. It’s always fun to predict prize lists, or, better still, come up with one’s own, as here! I’m ashamed to say I’m familiar with only a very few of your candidates and have no suggestions to make (although I did enjoy browsing your list). I used to follow the Booker very closely, actually reading the long list a time or two, but in recent years I’ve pretty much lost interest. That won’t, however, keeping me from clicking next week to see the novels under consideration!

    1. That’s about the same level as my own interest. I tend to use it as a prompt to look back over my reading and much prefer to list my wishes rather than predictions particularly as I may well not have read the obvious contenders.

  4. I’ve never bothered making a Booker (or any other prize) wishlist, and of your twelve have only read the Coe (which I loved) so far. I still have Nelson and Walsh on my shelves, and am very keen on the Arnott and Armstrong. However, one novel I’d love to see longlisted would be The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman, a superb Dickensian historical epic with a feel of TV series Taboo about it.

    1. I can’t seem to help myself. Must be the old bookseller in me! I’ll search out my proof of The Ghost Theatre. It sounds like a good winter read, although, looking out of the window, that might not be inappropriate.

  5. I’ve not read any of these but several are on my radar! I’d not seen the cover of the Patchett yet, I quite like it although it’s not my usual taste at all. Hope some of your wishes are included Susan!

  6. Small Worlds and Kala have made it to my reading list from your reviews. As for Limberlost–I hope by the next time I see this in one of your posts I actually have got to it.

  7. I’ve seen a lot of praise for the Sebastian Barry, especially from well-respected fellow writers, so that’s probably got a good chance of making the longlist. It’s always fun to see these predictions, even when some of the books are unfamiliar!

  8. Like you I am always interested in seeing what’s on the Booker list. I sometimes read a winner or shortlisted title, but I definitely used to read them more often than I do now. Not sure why that is. I probably haven’t read enough published during the qualifying period to make predictions. Though there are some on your list that I would be interested in reading.

    1. Not hugely hopeful that the judges’ list will feature many of these although I think Old God’s Time stands an excellent chance. I’ll be very cross if it’s not there!

  9. Yes to Limberlost, For Thy Great Pain, Falling Animals, Old God’s Time and Small Worlds. Several of the others are very much on my list of Must Reads. I might come up with other suggestions when I’m not knee-deep in granddaughter and family!

  10. You’ve got a wonderful longlist! The Sebastian Barry is on my TBR table. This is a good reminder to move it up. Overall, I so hope Limberlost is nominated. Love love love that novel.

  11. I do like your recommendations and all the supportive comments, I have Small World’s and Tom Lake to read, and I’m tempted by a few others here for sure. Let’s see what they go with.

    I’d like to see Things They Lost by Okwiri Odour make the cut, it was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and may well become my one outstanding read of 2023.

  12. I haven’t read the Sebastian Barry but thought it was a fairly safe bet and included it in my predictions list too. I’m now wondering if it will be left off the longlist completely which would surprise a lot of people!

    1. It’s an extraordinary book in so many ways, and so beautifully written. It would be such a disappointment if it doesn’t appear although long years of sorry ommissions have prepared me for that!

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