Literary Hub

The Man Booker Prize: By the Numbers

The Man Booker Prize is turning 50. Established in 1968 and first awarded in 1969 (as the Booker–McConnell Prize), the Booker has, over many years and much drama, become the most prestigious literary prize in the UK, and recently one of the biggest for Americans as well (though not without copious grumbling and think-piecing). Today is the last day to vote for the Golden Man Booker, a unique prize designed to commemorate the prize’s 50th anniversary, and more specifically to “showcase the winning books from Man Booker history that have best stood the test of time.”

The five judges—Robert McCrum, Lemn Sissay, Kamila Shamsie, Simon Mayo, and Hollie McNish—have chosen five Booker Prize-winning books for the shortlist: V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State (1971), Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger (1987), Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992), Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (2009), and George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo (2017). It’s now up to the public to vote for their favorites.

I find this list perplexing for a number of reasons: was Midnight’s Children disqualified because it won the “Booker of Bookers” (1993) and the “Best of the Bookers” (2008)? Fair enough, if so. But when looking at the best Booker winners of all time, how to honestly ignore it? Or Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea? Or J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace? Or that fantastic three-year stretch that gave us Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road all in a row? Of course these are merely my own preferences, but being my own, I feel confident that they are correct.

Alas, we must vote on the shortlist we are given. So in case you need some help picking favorites for the Golden Booker, or just want to reminisce about Bookers past on this, its biggest birthday yet, here are some stats to keep you grounded. Not all of them are good stats. But that’s how these things go:

Booker Prizes awarded in 50 years: 52 (the prize was split in two years: 1974, between Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist and Stanley Middleton’s Holiday, and 1992, between Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger; an additional prize, the Lost Man Booker, was awarded in 2010 to books published in 1970)

Booker Prizes awarded to male authors: 35

Booker Prizes awarded to female authors: 17

Booker Prizes awarded to writers of color: 9

Shortlisted books by male authors: 178

Shortlisted books by female authors: 113

Shortlisted books by writers of color: 51

Number of years the shortlist featured 0 women: 2

Number of years the shortlist featured 0 men: 0

Number of years the shortlist featured 0 writers of color: 16

Short story collections to make the shortlist: 1 (Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid, 1980)

Age of youngest person to win the Booker: 28 (Eleanor Catton, in 2013)

Age of oldest person to win the Booker: 69 (William Golding, in 1980) Nice.

Number of winners from the United Kingdom: 29

Number of winners from Australia: 5

Years Americans have been eligible to win: 4

Years Americans have won: 2

Most Booker Prizes won by a single publisher: 8 (Jonathan Cape)

Number of authors with multiple wins: 4 (Peter Carey, 1988, 2001; J.M. Coetzee 1983, 1999; J.G. Farrell, 1970 LB, 1973; Hilary Mantel, 2009, 2012)

Most shortlists any author has been on: 6 (Iris Murdoch)

Number of authors shortlisted 3 times or more: 24

Iris Murdoch, 6 shortlists, 1 win (1969, 1970, 1973, 1978*, 1985, 1987)
Margaret Atwood, 5 shortlists, 1 win (1986, 1989, 1996, 2000*, 2003)
Ian McEwan, 5 shortlists, 1 win (1981, 1992, 1998*, 2001, 2007)
Beryl Bainbridge, 5 shortlists (1973, 1974, 1990, 1996, 1998)
Peter Carey, 4 shortlists, 2 wins (1985, 1988*, 2001*, 2010)
Julian Barnes, 4 shortlists, 1 win (1984, 1998, 2005, 2011*)
Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 shortlists, 1 win (1978, 1979*, 1988, 1990)
Kazuo Ishiguro, 4 shortlists, 1 win (1986, 1989*, 2000, 2005)
Thomas Keneally, 4 shortlists, 1 win (1972, 1975, 1979, 1982*)
Salman Rushdie, 4 shortlists, 1 win (1981*, 1983, 1988, 1995)
Ali Smith, 4 shortlists (2001, 2005, 2014, 2017)
William Trevor, 4 shortlists (1970, 1976, 1991, 2002)
J. M. Coetzee, 3 shortlists, 2 wins (1983*, 1999*, 2009)
Kingsley Amis, 3 shortlists, 1 win (1974, 1978, 1986*)
Penelope Lively, 3 shortlists, 1 win (1977, 1985, 1987*)
Barry Unsworth, 3 shortlists, 1 win (1980, 1992*, 1995)
Anita Desai, 3 shortlists (1980, 1984, 1999)
Doris Lessing, 3 shortlists (1971, 1981, 1985)
Rohinton Mistry, 3 shortlists (1991, 1996, 2002)
Timothy Mo, 3 shortlists (1982, 1986, 1991)
Brian Moore, 3 shortlists (1976, 1987, 1990)
Muriel Spark, 3 shortlists (1969, 1970 LB, 1981)
Colm Tóibín, 3 shortlists (1999, 2004, 2013)
Sarah Waters, 3 shortlists (2002, 2006, 2009)

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