I was intrigued today when I read the Man Booker Prize announcement of a new award to celebrate 40 years of prizes for the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. “The Best of the Booker” award will be given to the author of one of the Man Booker Prize selections from 1969 — 2007.
Checking the list of Booker Prize winners over the past 40 years turns up some of the top novelists during those four decades. It’s not surprising that some famous names recur in the prize lists and the shortlists for the prize —Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, and such stellar writers as Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) and Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day).
Readers who are movie buffs may want to check out how many of the prize-winning novels were made into films.
The Man Booker Prize is arguably the highest honor for fiction written in English, but, of course, doesn’t include American writers. The National Book Awards in the U.S. do include a category for fiction, and I checked their lists from 1969 on. Here are some of their winners and runner-ups for American fiction over those years: Flannery O’Connor, John Barth, Philip Roth, John Updike, Eudora Welty, John Irving, Saul Bellow, William Styron, Thomas Pynchon, etc.
Quite a list, that. And, I don’t think it’s chauvinistic to wager that if the Booker Prize were for the best novel in the English-speaking world, those American writers would have been hard to beat. (Though I must admit the selections over the past decade haven’t been stellar.)