Complete list of Booker Prize Winners

Complete List of Booker Prize Winners

The Booker Prize has long been considered a prestigious award for authors and a guideline for readers across the world. Here is a full list of every winner starting from the beginning in 1969. This reading list should keep you busy for some time to come.

What is the Booker Prize?

In their own words “The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world, and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over five decades.”

Each year the winner receives £50,000 and each of the 6 runner ups receive £2,500. Additionally, the publicity and notoriety from winning the prize almost certainly increases book sales dramatically.

The Booker Prize was previously known as The Booker Prize for Fiction and The Man Booker Prize. There is also the International Booker Prize for books outside of the UK and Ireland.

The award itself has a complex history rife with controversy that they make no attempt to hide. They are honest about their founders and initial backers, The Booker Group, having ties to slavery in the 19th century. This honesty shows their dedication to rejecting that history without deception. They awarded their first black author in 1991. It seems late (it probably is) but consider that this is an award given only to UK and Ireland based authors, countries with a combined 4% black population.

In additional contribution to uplifting black authors the late chairman of Booker plc developed the Caine Prize for excellence in African writing. These winners receive £10,000 and hopefully will eventually receive the same promotions given to other award ceremonies.

Booker Prize Winners

Here’s the grand list of every Booker Prize fiction novel along with their ratings on Goodreads (out of 5, subject to change). I’ve provided a brief synopsis to help you pick your next read! Many of these books are not well received by today’s audiences. The early winners deal with a British history and culture that might not feel impactful or may even come off as offensive through a modern lense.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of these books are out of print so you may have to buy them used. Remember to support physical media so that we don’t lose works of art like these!

Additionally, if you’re not ready to commit these books to your shelves you can search for these books in many places to get free books online.

in order to keep me up to my ears in books please consider using the following links to purchase this product. it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thank you and happy reading!

Something to Answer For by P.H. Newby (1969)

The first Booker Prize was awarded to this historical fiction novel set in 1956 Egypt. An Englishman sets out to discover the truth behind a possible murder. What follows is a complex tale of moral dilemmas.

Readers call this book complex or confusing depending on their tolerance for dense and at some times confusing literature.

Goodreads rating: 3.08

The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens (1970)

The Elected Member is a dark story about what happens when a family member is committed to a mental health institution. The family members each have their own unique reactions to the circumstances but few are actually willing to try and help.

Readers review this book as a dark, troubling, and insightful exploration of mental health and family.

Goodreads rating: 3.66

In a Free State by V.S. Naipal (1971)

A collection of long form short stories, a novella, and journal entries make up this winner. The title story follows a British expat around Africa as he victimises young boys. As a whole the book tackles themes of colonialism, emigration, and how to fit into a broken society.

Goodreads rating: 3.49

G. by John Berger
G. by John Berger

G. by John Berger (1972)

In the Booker Prize’s tradition of awarding controversial novels, G. is about a young man’s career as a prostitute. The novel explores sexuality through the protagonist and his many clients all while a war rages in the background.

Some readers find meaning in this unconventional narrative while others are turned off by the sexual exploits.

Goodreads rating: 3.68

The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell (1973)

Many of these early award winners follow Brits as they make their presence known in foreign lands (stereotypes ringing true I suppose). This book aims to satirise this colonialist habit but many reviewers describe it as “dense” or unreadable.” However, other readers claim it’s a classic of great importance that never bored them.

Goodreads rating: 3.92

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974)

Continuing the pattern of British written novels taking place in Africa is The Conservationist. A wealthy South African Industrialist deals with the ruin and decay of their farm and family against the setting of Apartheid.

Critics call the novel boring or pointless and even one 5 star review based its rating on being a book that is “not read for pleasure.”

Goodreads rating: 3.32

Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1975)

An English woman falls for a corrupt Indian Prince in Heat and Dust. It’s the classic tale of a bored wife getting caught up in a scandal after being suffocated in her position of ornament to a wealthy husband.

Goodreads rating: 3.55

Saville by David Storey (1976)

Saville seems to be one of the only early Booker Prize winners to actually take place in England. It’s the coming of age tale of a young man transitioning from his boyhood poor mining town to a middle class grammar school. The novel is influenced by the author’s own real life experiences.

Goodreads rating: 3.51

Staying On by Paul Scott (1977)

Back in India a British married couple decides to not return to their homeland. The novel follows them on their love affair and dealing with cultural clashes.

Readers find the couple charming and the narrative touching.

Goodreads rating: 3.89

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

A theater celebrity retires to a small home on the sea. From his supposedly quiet station he witnesses the world and characters from his past disrupt his life like waves against the shore. Written in what could be described as a melodramatic and over the top style the narrative matches the aging actor’s flair.

Goodreads rating: 3.94

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald (1979)

Offshore seemingly combines many of the themes from other Booker Prize winners. It takes place on the sea in a community of houseboats. Characters include a male prostitute, an ex British military officer, and a disappointed wife. The novel uses humor to bring this unusual group together as a society.

Goodreads rating: 3.59

Rites of Passage by William Golding (1980)

The first book in Golding’s Sea Trilogy takes place entirely on a ship bound for Australia. The narrator catalogues the varied tensions on board as the crew spends too much time locked up together.

Readers seem in agreement that this work of fiction does not compare to his acclaimed Lord of the Flies and is an uneven book that does not make them want to read the sequels.

Goodreads rating: 3.58

booker prize winner midnight's children
booker prize winner midnight’s children

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

The title of this novel refers to the Indian children born at midnight at the moment of India’s independence. These children share a telepathic link that drives this magical realism story.

Although long and dense many readers find the novel engaging, informative, and perhaps even playful.

Goodreads rating: 3.98

Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally (1982)

Schindler’s Ark is the inspiration for the much acclaimed film Schindler’s List. It goes into great detail about the titular character and sets itself apart from the many Nazi Germany fiction novels out there. Although critics have a hard time detangling it from the film, both are considered necessary stories for all audiences.

Goodreads rating: 4.34

Life and Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee (1983)

Michael K wants to take his mother home and away from the heart of war in South Africa. After she dies before he can complete the pilgrimage he is imprisoned and left to decipher what this whole life thing is all about.

Goodreads rating: 3.86

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (1984)

“Why is Love” is the question asked by Edith Hope, a romance novelist who finds her own life mimicking those on her pages. She escapes to the Hotel du Lac to reflect on her life choices.

Readers describe this short novel (184 pages) as immersive and atmospheric but also comment that the main character is drab or somewhat unlikable.

Goodreads rating: 3.60

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (1985)

This Booker Award winning novel combines highly diverse characters that are all of both European and Maori descent. An aesexual/aromantic girl meets a mute boy in this unusual novel written in prose, poetry, and mythology. The untraditional narrative attempts to bridge the divide between these very different cultures.

Goodreads rating: 4.04

The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis (1986)

A group of Welsh married couples are spending their retirement drunk together when an old friend returns with his new wife to create some drama. Although some readers find and enjoy the humor of this situation others claim that it has not aged well and is thoroughly unlikable. It seems to come down to if you enjoy drama and crude humor simply for the sake of it or if you’re already partial to author Amis.

Goodreads rating: 3.33

moon tiger
moon tiger

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (1987)

An elderly woman on her death bed writes her memoirs and reminiscences on her adventures and favorite love affair. Part history, part love story, part mystery, the nonlinear narrative tells a complex story of one woman’s unrepentant life.

Goodreads rating: 3.90

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988)

Two Brits travel to Australia before meeting and falling in love there. Oscar is a gambler and Lucinda is a dreamer together they bring this novel to a controversial ending that polarizes readers. It is often described as “Dickensian” in nature especially in regards to characterization.

Goodreads rating: 3.73

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

Author Ishiguro tells the story of a butler on vacation. During his brief trip away from responsibility he is able to think about his past, present, and future and what it means to be in the service of others instead of oneself.

Readers suggest this novel for fans of Downton Abbey.

Goodreads rating: 4.14

Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990)

Two young scholars research a Victorian era love affair as they develop their own relationship with each other. The author writes both in the modern style for the modern characters but created the Victorian literature they are researching as well. It’s largely considered a beautifully written work of prose.

I’ve actually read this one and can vouch for its poetry. I don’t typically fall for romances but I recall getting swept up in these pages.

Goodreads rating: 3.89

The Famished Road by Ben Okri (1991)

This Booker Prize winner takes place in Nigeria where a young boy is born as a spirit child. He straddles the line between life and death and his visions show a life of sadness. It’s a magical realism tale that combines fiction with cultural myths and beliefs. The consensus in reviews seems to be if you already like magical realism you’ll like this book, otherwise it will not be for you.

Goodreads rating: 3.74

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

Another of the few books on this long list that I’ve actually read is The English Patient. You may have read the book or seen the movie but you’re at least aware of it from the famous episode of Seinfeld.

The titular patient is a burn victim whose identity has been erased along with his features. His memories of a passionate life enrapture his nurse. The prose is marvelously beautiful with captivating imagery.

Goodreads rating: 3.87

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (1992)

The second winner of 1992 in a historical tie is Sacred Hunger. Now, if this book is as good as The English Patient then I’m really going to have to read it.

A tale of revenge but also a tale of a society built on the knowledge of previous mistakes this poignant novel asks what happens when people have to work together? A series of misfortunes causes a slave ship to veer off course. The surviving sailors and slaves alike build a secret society for themselves as they attempt to escape their boss and owner.

Goodreads rating: 4.12

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle (1993)

A classic coming of age story about a child growing up in Dublin in the 1960s. Told through the voice of a child, some readers find the narrative challenging. Although creative and perhaps true to the thoughts of a young boy the style might make it less than enjoyable to read for some audiences.

Goodreads rating: 3.76

how late it was, how late
how late it was, how late

How late it was, how late by James Kelman (1994)

This dark comedy is about a man for whom nothing goes right. After a drunken night he finds himself blind in a jail cell without a memory of how he ended up wearing someone else’s shoes. What follows is his miserable attempt to navigate bureaucracy through the Scottish working class and welfare systems.

Goodreads rating: 3.59

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995)

As the final book in the Regeneration Trilogy you’ll have to read the previous 2 in order to fully appreciate this Booker Prize winner. The trilogy focuses on the psychological impact of the brutality of World War 1, especially in regards to trench warfare.

Goodreads rating: 4.09

Last Orders by Graham Swift (1996)

Four men set out to bury an old friend’s ashes in the sea. They discuss their relationships with the deceased and discover pieces of themselves along the way. Reviews on average seem to describe this book as “meh.”

Goodreads rating: 3.67

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)

A set of twins show us the happenings of a family in India. Each character with a unique set of traits has their lives disrupted when an English cousin comes to visit. Readers describe the novel as mesmerising, excellent, lyrical, lush, crafty, and sometimes confusing. The writing style appears to be more impactful than the actual story.

Goodreads rating: 3.95

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1998)

2 friends meet outside a crematorium and make a pact that will change the course of their lives. Their bond through the deceased Molly is what brought them together but not what will keep them going.

Reviews seem to boil down to “well, it’s no Atonement.”

Goodreads rating: 3.45

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (1999)

In post apartheid South Africa a meager Professor seduces one of his students. Readers agree that the prose is extremely well written but some struggle with the plot and characters. If you enjoy stories with unlikeable protagonists you may want to pick up this story of disgrace.

Goodreads rating: 3.85

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)

The title is the novel within a novel in this complex story of varying narratives. The outer novel deals with Iris as she grapples with the “accidental” death of her sister and the inner story is a science fiction story about two young lovers. These two strikingly different tales lead to a surprise twist ending.

Goodreads rating: 3.96

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2001)

True History of the Kelly Gang could be considered an Australian set western. It combines a barely literate narrator with Australian slang and tops it off with a highly competent author of strong vocabulary. This results in a unique style to compliment a unique hero.

Goodreads rating: 3.83

man booker prize winning life of pi
man booker prize winning life of pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002)

In the era of the Man Booker Prize we have the bestselling Life of Pi. Everyone I know, myself included, read this book when it came out. If you’re the kind of person who searches for these book lists you’ve probably read it too.

If you’re somehow unfamiliar, it takes place on the ocean in a small boat stranded for the better part of a year. Just a boy and a vicious tiger attempting to survive.

Goodreads rating: 3.93

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (2003)

The first Booker Prize novel to be set in the United States plops the reader in the middle of Texas. The book tackles the subject of a school shooting which back in 2003 was a relatively new phenomenon which has only gotten worse since. It’s billed as a dark comedy but in the light of the absolute horrors of shootings in America I would probably have a hard time laughing.

Some book reviewers find this novel to be a biting satire of American culture while others say it’s an offensive caricature told through a lens of ignorance.

Goodreads rating: 3.60

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)

One of the few explicitly LGBTQ book of the Booker Awards came to us in 2004. The novel tells of a young gay man who sort of inserts himself in an old money family. The family is in pursuit of power and riches while the man strives for comfort and other men. The real villains are Margaret Thatcher and AIDS.

Goodreads rating: 3.74

The Sea by John Banville (2005)

A widower returns to his hometown after the death of his wife. He spends time with past loves and traumas while he experiences grief in his personal way. Reviews are split on this one. While some readers enjoy the flowery prose others find it makes the book overlong and found it hard to get through. Personal preference regarding meandering imagery will decide if this one’s for you.

Goodreads rating: 3.54

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (2006)

The Man Booker Awards cannot and will not escape themes of colonialism. A generational British guilt drives many of these books even into the 21st century. This one takes place from the Himalayas to the US and explores how the effects of colonialism and nationalism can still have a profound effect on individuals living in a modern society.

Goodreads rating: 3.45

The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007)

The gathering in question refers to a family coming together at the wake of a brother who drowned. Past secrets slowly come to light as the estranged siblings reconnect. Readers describe the book as “miserable” but some are using that word in a positive way, others far more negative. The ones who find “miserable” a positive trait enjoy the thought provoking nature of the characters’ despair. The others find it just too depressing to enjoy reading.

Goodreads rating: 3.11

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008)

This fiction piece has some of the most enthusiastic reviews of any of the novels on this list. It’s a rags to riches story set in India akin to the film Slumdog Millionaire but with a more morally gray protagonist. Readers call it an important piece of Indian literature but emphasize the fast pace at which it can be read. Reviews time and time again mention they were so engrossed they finished this page turner in just a few sessions.

Goodreads rating: 3.76

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

Wolf Hall is the kind of book that if you are inclined to read it you will love it. It’s a historical fiction novel about the era of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. If you like the sound of it, this is a well written novel that is just for you. If you’re like me and that sounds boring then this book will not change your mind.

Goodreads rating: 3.90

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (2010)

This is the lowest rated book on this list dropping beneath the 3.0 rating on Goodreads. It’s based around an unusual premise for a main character. Julian has two friends that he desperately wants to be like. They are both Jewish widowers so he fantasizes about finding a wife so that she can die as well as finding his inner “Jewishness.”

Although marketed as a comedy many reviewers claim to find no humor among the perplexingly dismal characters and mixed messaging.

Goodreads rating: 2.82

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

A middle aged man is faced with his past when two childhood friends come for revenge. One of these returns all the way from the grave. This 150 page novella is described as a quick read that you’ll want to devour in one sitting. Many readers go on to use words like extraordinary, amazing, and dazzling to begin their reviews of this award winner.

Goodreads rating: 3.73

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

Oh look, another book about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. This is the sequel to the previously mentioned Wolf Hall. Fans seem to like it even more than the first so if you still haven’t had your fill of these historical characters, dive in.

Goodreads rating: 4.28

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (2013)

A missing rich man, a suicidal prostitute, and a drunk with an accidental fortune are at the heart of this 1866 placed mystery. Even at a whopping 848 pages readers still describe this on as a page turner. The novel covers extensive ground with a diverse cast of characters and even a few supernatural elements.

Goodreads rating: 3.74

the narrow road to the deep north
the narrow road to the deep north

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (2014)

This is the tale of one man and his experiences with war and love. Although readers all seem to agree that the war part is horrific but actualized they are split on the love part. The main character has a rich and full tale but some critics believe the women of the novel are underwritten at best.

The positive remarks exalt the poetic prose and complex storytelling of a life filled with conflict.

Goodreads rating: 4.02

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (2015)

Another historical fiction novel based on real events but this one is much more modern. It’s the story of the assassination attempt of Bob Marley and how that reflects greater conflicts on Jamaica as a whole. The “brief” title is a bit misleading with a page count of 688 but many readers say it’s worth sticking it out to the end.

Goodreads rating: 3.89

The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2016)

Oddly enough this is the second Booker Prize winner about a shooting in America billed as a comedy. (Is this a thing, are they over there laughing at our problems with gun violence?) However, readers do seem to find the humor in this satire which already places it in a far more intelligent category.

Charged with racial commentary this novel has a lot to say about race relations, class struggles, and the broken systems making up our societies.

Goodreads rating: 3.75

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)

This unusually told story is based on a grain of history. After the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Lincoln returns to the graveyard to mourn. On one of these nights the voices of the dead tell their own stories of loss, love, redemption, fate, anything and everything there is to tell. Over 160 individuals speak from the beyond in short clips loosely tied to the American Civil War.

Goodreads rating: 3.75

Milkman by Anna Burns (2018)

A stream of consciousness novel with unnamed characters tells of the dangers of standing out in a small town. Middle Sister is involved with Milkman and despite her efforts the secret is out. Based on the many polarized reviews either you can get into the style or you won’t finish it. Stream of consciousness is notoriously challenging so make sure your ready for the task.

Goodreads rating: 3.54

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)

This modern work of fiction gives voice to twelve unique black British women and what it’s like living there today. The book covers as many different angles as it can in under 500 pages so that audiences everywhere can get a broad perspective of how different women can be. But that does not mean that we all don’t have something in common.

Goodreads rating: 4.30

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (2019)

The long awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is a generally well received work of feminist literature. Told through 3 points of view it is the story after the end of the previous book in totally different settings. Although some readers are still blown away with Atwood’s story many others describe this sequel as “unnecessary.” As someone who hates that everything gets a reboot now I was wondering if that might be the case.

Goodreads rating: 4.19

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (2020)

Another novel to add to this long list of award winners that is frequently described as dark, depressing, heavy, and uncomfortable to get through. This time we see a young boy in Glasgow left to take care of his alcoholic mother when everyone else leaves her as helpless. It’s a coming of age in the lower class under Thatcher’s reign.

Goodreads rating: 4.31

The Promise by Damon Galgut (2021)

A white South African family once promised their black servant a better life. That promise remains unfulfilled and causes a generational split through the family. The younger generation resents the older for their racism and hate while the older perceives disrespect for tradition. Galgut provides an unflinching look into racial politics and the roles people are born into.

Goodreads rating: 3.89

booker prize winner the seven moons of maali
booker prize winner the seven moons of maali

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (2022)

A Sri Lankan war photographer wakes up to find himself dead in a sort of afterlife waiting room. He has seven moons to expose some photographs that will shape history forever. Readers say they enjoy learning about Sri Lanka’s culture and politics through the lens of this closeted gay man.

Goodreads rating: 3.97

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