The Booker Prize – everything you need to know: history, criteria, politics and all

Booker Prize in Literature everything you need to know award English novel

In this article, you will know everything about the Booker Prize, a coveted award for fiction authors (novelists) that is given every year. You will get its history, policies for the award, eligibility criteria and also the criticism associated with this award, voiced by some notable authors and critics. So, if you want to know all about the Booker Prize in literature, look no further! This is the article you will need to read to understand everything about this literary award. We will dive into all the good that Booker Prize has done for literature and also all the wrongs with the award and the injustice it has involved in. Yes, no literary award is free from controversies and biases. And there are many authors, critics and journalists who have called out the ‘biased and politically motivated’ jury that recognises the books for the award. It is going to be an interesting article, friends! So, just read on!

The Booker Prize, earlier known as the Booker Prize for Fiction and also the Man Booker Prize, is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world. It has a significant impact on both authors and readers and holds a special place in the world of literature. First, let’s begin with the history of this award. It has a rich history that dates back to 1968 when it was established by Booker McConnell Ltd., a British food distribution company with interests in the Caribbean and Canada. The company’s chairman, Sir Michael Caine, proposed the idea of creating a literary award to boost the profile of ‘contemporary fiction’ in the ‘English-speaking’ world. The inaugural Booker Prize was awarded in 1969 to P.H. Newby for his novel Something to Answer For. Initially, the prize was open to authors from the UK and the Commonwealth nations, including countries like Australia, Canada, and India. It aimed to recognise and promote the best fiction written in the English language. Over the years, the Booker Prize has evolved and adapted to the changing literary landscape. Notably, in 1971, the rules were amended to allow authors from Ireland to be eligible for the prize. In 2013, the rules were further modified to include all authors writing in English, regardless of their nationality, as long as their work is ‘published in the UK’.

It is no longer a secret that the Booker Prize has played a significant role in elevating the careers of many acclaimed authors and introducing readers to exceptional works of fiction. It has also been a platform for promoting diverse voices, bringing attention to literature from different cultural backgrounds and regions. In 2002, the Booker Prize Foundation launched the Man Booker International Prize, a separate award that honoured the overall contribution of an author’s work to world literature. The Man Booker International Prize was later merged with the International Prize for Fiction to create a single award known as the International Booker Prize. In 2019, the Booker Prize celebrated its 50th anniversary, marking half a century of celebrating excellence in contemporary fiction.

Moreover, we also need to acknowledge that throughout its history, the Booker Prize has been surrounded by discussions, debates, and controversies over its selection process and the books it chooses to recognise. In this article, we will look into all those aspects.


Now, we will take a look at the process – Eligibility, Selection, Lists & other details as conveyed by the Booker Prize Foundation.

Authors can participate in the Booker Prize by having their eligible works submitted for consideration. The process typically involves publishers submitting books on behalf of authors, and it follows a set of guidelines and deadlines established by the Booker Prize Foundation. Here is an overview of how authors participate in the Booker Prize:

1. Eligibility: To be considered for the Booker Prize, a book must meet certain eligibility criteria. Historically, the prize was open to authors from the UK, the Commonwealth, and Ireland. However, in 2013, the eligibility criteria were expanded to include authors from all countries writing in English, as long as the book is published in the UK.

2. Publisher Submissions: Publishers play a crucial role in the submission process. They select the books they believe are worthy contenders for the prize and submit them to the Booker Prize Foundation for consideration. Each publisher is allowed to submit a limited number of books per year, and they must carefully choose the works they believe have the best chance of meeting the award’s criteria.

3. The Longlist: Once the submission period ends, the judging panel reviews the submitted books and creates a long list of novels that they believe are the most outstanding works of fiction from the eligible submissions. The longlist typically consists of around 12 to 13 books.

4. The Shortlist: From the longlist, the judging panel then narrows down the selection to create a shortlist of approximately six books. These shortlisted books are considered the finalists for the Booker Prize and represent the best works of fiction of the year according to the judging panel.

5. The Winner: After the shortlist is announced, the judging panel conducts further deliberations to select the ultimate winner of the Booker Prize. The winning author is then announced at a special ceremony, and the book receives the prestigious award.

6. Publicity and Recognition (the result): Winning the Booker Prize brings significant publicity and recognition to the author and their work. It can lead to increased book sales, media coverage, and opportunities for the author to engage with readers and the literary community.

The entire process is overseen by the Booker Prize Foundation, which is responsible for establishing the rules, selecting the judging panel, and ensuring the transparency and integrity of the prize. The judging panel, composed of literary experts, authors, and critics, plays a crucial role in selecting the longlist, shortlist, and eventual winner. However, we will discuss the controversies involved with the judging panel and their choices.


Now, we may take a look at how winning the booker prize helps the authors. It also influences readers in several ways.

1. Recognition and Prestige for Authors: Winning the Booker Prize is a remarkable achievement for any author. It brings recognition, prestige, and acclaim to their work, often propelling them into the literary limelight. It can lead to increased media attention, book sales, and opportunities for the author to reach a broader audience.

2. Increased Book Sales: Winning or even being shortlisted for the Booker Prize can have a substantial impact on book sales. Books that receive the prize often experience a significant surge in sales immediately after the announcement. This boost in sales can extend beyond the initial period, as the award acts as a seal of approval and encourages readers to explore the book.

3. Validation of Literary Merit: The Booker Prize is known for honouring works of exceptional literary merit. When a book receives this award, it is considered to have met the high standards set by the literary community, which can encourage readers to trust the book’s quality and storytelling. However, is it ‘right’ all the time? Does winning a Booker ensure the literary merit an author possesses? We will discuss this aspect later.

4. Literary Discussions and Critical Analysis: The Booker Prize generates extensive discussions and critical analysis in the literary world. Winning books are often subject to detailed reviews, book club discussions, and academic analysis. This increased scrutiny fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of the winning work.

5. Influence on Buying Choices: The Booker Prize can indeed influence the buying choices of readers. Many readers actively seek out and read books that have won or been shortlisted for the prize, as they consider it a mark of excellence. Bookstores often prominently display Booker Prize-winning books, further increasing their visibility and attracting potential readers.

6. Promotion of Diverse Voices: It is generally believed that the Booker Prize has been instrumental in promoting diverse voices and international literature. The award’s longlist and shortlist often feature authors from various backgrounds and countries, introducing readers to new perspectives and narratives they may not have encountered otherwise.

7. Cultural Impact: The Booker Prize has a broader cultural impact beyond the literary world. It contributes to shaping the literary canon and influencing which books become a part of the public consciousness. Winning books often become classics and are studied in schools and universities.

So, we can clearly see that the Booker Prize is very important for authors. It brings direct cash awards and several other literary incentives. However, is it all flowers and no thorns? Let’s discuss what’s wrong with the Booker Prize. We will also discuss some of the most poignant critical opinions about the Booker Prize that led to debates and discussions about the selection process of the books for shortlists, longlists and also the winners.


Keep Reading: Criticism of the Booker Prize for Literature


Article by AM for Literature News