Golden Man Booker Prize shortlist

Celebrating five decades of the finest fiction

26 May 2018

The shortlist for the Golden Man Booker Prize was announced today (Saturday 26 May) during a reception at the Hay Festival. This special one-off award for Man Booker Prize’s 50th anniversary celebrations will crown the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the prize.

All 51 previous winners were considered by a panel of five specially appointed judges, each of whom was asked to read the winning novels from one decade of the prize’s history. We can now reveal that that the ‘Golden Five’ – the books thought to have best stood the test of time – are: In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul; Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Judge Year of win Title Author Country Publisher
Robert McCrum 1971 In a Free State V. S. Naipaul UK Picador
Lemn Sissay 1987 Moon Tiger Penelope Lively UK Penguin
Kamila Shamsie 1992 The English Patient Michael Ondaatje Canada Bloomsbury
Simon Mayo 2009 Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel UK Fourth Estate
Hollie McNish 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders USA Bloomsbury

Key dates

26 May to 25 June

Readers are now invited to have their say on which book is their favourite from this shortlist. The month-long public vote on the Man Booker Prize website will close on 25 June. To help the public decide, the website will feature videos of each judge discussing their choice.

8 July

The winner, as chosen by the public, will be announced and presented with a trophy at Golden Man Booker Live, the closing event of the Man Booker 50 Festival at Southbank Centre on 8 July 2018 at 7pm. The star-studded event will feature the five judges debating their shortlisted books, along with readings from actors.  

The Golden Five

In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul represents the first decade of the prize, and was chosen by writer and editor Robert McCrum, who described it as ‘outstandingly the best novel to win the Booker Prize in the 1970s, a disturbing book about displaced people at the dangerous edge of a disrupted world that could have been written yesterday, a classic for all seasons.’ Naipaul, who also received the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the oldest living winner of the Booker Prize.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively was picked by poet Lemn Sissay MBE to represent the best winner of 1980s. Sissay said: ‘Lively’s ability to bring her character and the world she inhabits into full technicolour is beautiful. This is a unique book about a fascinating unpredictable woman way ahead of her time and yet absolutely of her time’. Lively who was twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize before her win with Moon Tiger, will be appearing in an event, ‘Sex, Love & Families’, alongside Anne Enright at the Man Booker 50 Festival at 4.30pm on 7 July.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje was selected by novelist Kamila Shamsie for the 1990s, who called it, ‘that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight.’ The Oscar-winning film adaptation of the novel will be screened at 7.30pm on 7 July at the Man Booker 50 Festival, where Michael Ondaatje will also appear in a one-to-one discussion at 2.30pm on 8 July with Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was chosen as the best winner from the noughties by broadcaster and novelist Simon Mayo. Mantel is the only woman to have won the Man Booker Prize twice and Wolf Hall has since been adapted for TV and stage. Mayo said that ‘in its questioning of what England is and how it can disengage from Rome … [Wolf Hall is a] book as anguished as any essay about Brexit you’ll read in the papers.’ Mantel is taking part in several events at the Man Booker 50 Festival, including the opening event, ‘Rewriting the Past’, with Pat Barker at 7.30pm on Friday 6 July and a sold out BBC World Book Club.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, the most recent winner of the Man Booker Prize, was selected by poet Hollie McNish for the 2010s. Although well-known as a short story writer, the book is Saunders’ first full-length novel. McNish said, ‘I have never read a book like Lincoln in the Bardo … it was so funny, imaginative and tragic, but also a piece of genius in its originality of form and structure.’

The judges’ full comments on their selections can be found in the Notes to Editors.

Tomorrow (27 May) at 10am, Hay Festival is holding a Golden Man Booker Prize panel event, chaired by Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, featuring Elif Shafak, Philippe Sands and Juan Gabriel Vasquez, who will choose their own winner from the shortlist.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, comments:

‘The Golden Man Booker Prize judges have chosen a hugely exciting list of five books from the last 50 years, which showcases what the Man Booker Prize is all about: fiction of the highest quality. I’m confident these wonderfully evocative novels will appeal to the readers of today and hope that this campaign helps to find these authors many new fans. Now it’s over to the public to decide on the overall champion!’

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘This shortlist of five books for the Golden Man Booker Prize celebrates a half century of literary excellence and the contribution of outstanding authors to the world of fiction. We are proud to be supporting the Man Booker Prize in its 50th year, as it continues to play a valuable role in recognising literary talent and creativity.’


The Golden Man Booker Prize is being supported by all major retail chains, 66 independent bookshops and more than 300 libraries across the UK, with point of sale material, displays, newsletters, staff picks, competitions and social media campaigns.

The shortlisted publishers are also getting behind the Golden Five. A spokesperson from Bloomsbury Publishing said: “We are thrilled to be the publisher of two of the five shortlisted titles from the Man Booker’s 50 year history. Bloomsbury Publishing has chosen to reprint The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, honouring the Golden Man Booker by using the original jacket used on the Booker prize-winning hardback edition when it was published in 1992. The photograph of a climber taken on the Almasy Expedition 1932 from a collection at the Royal Geographical Society was styled by photo artist Julian Lee for Bloomsbury’s Booker-winning hardback. Now, Bloomsbury assistant art director Greg Heinimann has recreated this iconic image from scratch and located matching fonts, to create a perfect facsimile of the original cover for this Golden Man Booker shortlisted edition.”

Meanwhile Penguin is reprinting and re-jacketing Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and 4th Estate is re-jacketing Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall with a golden cover.

Since January, readers have been revisiting the previous winners for the #ManBooker50 challenge on Instagram, which encourages them to read as many of the novels as they can by the end of May for the chance to win tickets to the Man Booker 50 Festival.

The Man Booker 50 Festival runs from 6 to 8 July 2018 across Southbank Centre’s 17-acre site in London. Events are being held in a variety of spaces, including the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. They range from interviews and conversations between Man Booker winning and shortlisted authors, to debates and masterclasses. The full programme and tickets are available at

The 50th anniversary is being amplified globally with Man Booker author events at international literary festivals across the world throughout the year and supported through video, livestream and podcasts, alongside an online exhibition on the Man Booker website.

The Man Booker Prize is sponsored by Man Group, an active investment management firm.

To hear the most up-to-date news on the prize, listen to the Man Booker Prize Podcast series, and to learn more about the prize’s history, please visit:
@ManBookerPrize I #FinestFiction I #ManBooker50



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