The Best Fiction of 2021: The Booker Prize Shortlist, recommended by Maya Jasanoff

This year the Booker Prize finalists include new work from previous shortlistees Richard Powers and Damon Galgut, a sweeping historical novel by Maggie Shipstead, and a fragmentary account of a life lived ‘extremely online.’ Maya Jasanoff, Harvard historian and chair of the 2021 judging panel, talks us through the best fiction of the past year.

The Best Fiction of 2019, recommended by Peter Florence

Each year, a panel of esteemed judges reads over 100 novels to determine which titles will vie for the award of the Booker Prize for Fiction. Peter Florence, chair of the 2019 judges and founder of the famous Hay Festival, tells us why the books on this year’s shortlist are gripping, enthralling must-reads.

The Best Fiction of 2018, recommended by Kwame Anthony Appiah

Looking for the best novels of the year? Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at New York University and chair of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for fiction, gives an in-depth breakdown of the six books that made this year’s shortlist, and reflects on why the novel as a form is stronger than ever.

Rachel Kushner on Books That Influenced Her

Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers and The Mars Room, which has been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, discusses the five books that have most influenced her writing, from Dostoyevsky to Marguerite Duras. She muses on the question of what fiction can offer: “A novel itself, if it is good, and effective at whatever its particular aesthetic and philosophical aim is, can answer the question best, so that a novelist doesn’t have to.”

Robin Robertson on Books that Influenced Him

“That’s what writing is: a struggle with oneself.” Scottish poet Robin Robertson—author of the verse novel The Long Take, shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize—lists the five works that have most influenced his writing, from Ulysses to Heaney.

Daisy Johnson on Books That Influenced Her

Daisy Johnson—short story writer, novelist, and the youngest author to be shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize—chooses the five books that most inspired her novel Everything Under and shares some of her writing rituals and philosophy.

Essential Norwegian Fiction, recommended by Roy Jacobsen

Sagas old and new, from Gisli Sursson’s trials to Knausgård’s struggle, form the backbone of Roy Jacobsen’s selection of essential fiction from Norway, a country that is like ‘a black and not very polished diamond’, and where writers and readers seek out the human, ‘no matter how awkward, grandiose, sentimental, nostalgic, embarrassing, hyperbolic, stupid, hilarious or dangerous it may be’

Mathias Enard on The ‘Orient’ and Orientalism

Study of the ‘Orient’ and Orientalism has evolved considerably since Edward Said's seminal study of 1978. Here, the multi-award winning French novelist Mathias Enard, whose own novel, Compass, draws on this rich history, discusses five books that capture key aspects of this ever-shifting terrain

Dorthe Nors on the best Contemporary Scandinavian Literature

Minimalism is big with the Danes while Icelanders favour magical realism; the Swedes keep it classical while the Norwegians get emotional. Man Booker International shortlistee Dorthe Nors takes us on a tour of the most exciting voices in contemporary Scandinavian literature.