Our all-time favourite Booker Prize-winning and nominated novels

We take a look at some of our favourite Booker Prize-winning novels from previous years, and the nominees we love, from Eric Vuillard's International Booker Prize-shortlisted The War of the Poor, to 2020's Booker Prize Winner Shuggie Bain.

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Last year, Douglas Stuart's debut novel Shuggie Bain was announced as the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. Chair of the Booker judges, Margaret Busby, described the book as 'destined to be a classic' and shared that it took just an hour for the judges to come to a unanimous decision.

This year proves to be another astonishing year of literary releases, with Eric Vuillard's tale of one of history's most brutal episodes, War of the Poor,  being selected for the 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist.

Over the years we've been fortunate enough to have four of our authors claim the overall prize, as well as many more on the long and shortlists. So, to celebrate Douglas's inspirational win and Eric's recent shortlist announcement, we decided to take a look at some of our favourite past winners and nominees of the revered Booker Prizes.

'a blazing fire of a book. It's furious, beautiful, full of energy. It actually feels dangerous.'

Shuggie Bain, winner 2020

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain, winner 2020

Douglas Stuart’s blistering, Booker Prize-winning debut is a heartbreaking story which lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town with her three children, and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help her long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. Shuggie is different, fastidious and fussy, and he is picked on by the local children and condemned by adults as 'no’ right’. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can be like other boys and escape this hopeless place.

The War of the Poor, International Booker Prize shortlist 2021

by Eric Vuillard

Book cover for The War of the Poor, International Booker Prize shortlist 2021

Described by this year's judges as 'a blazing fire of a book,' Lucy Hughes-Hallett went on to say: 'It's furious, beautiful, full of energy. It actually feels dangerous.'

The War of the Poor tells the story of a brutal episode from history, not as well known as tales of other popular uprisings, but one that deserves to be told. The story is set in sixteenth-century Europe, against the backdrop of the Protestant Reformation, as the poor, who are still being promised that equality will be granted to them in heaven, begin to ask themselves: and why not equality now, here on earth?

Following a violent struggle, Thomas Müntzer – a complex and controversial figure – emerges and addresses the poor directly, encouraging them to ask why a God who apparently loved the poor seemed to be on the side of the rich.

In this stunning book, Eric Vuillard tells the story of Müntzer's terrible and novelesque life, and through it casts light on the remarkable times in which he lived.

Girl, Woman, Other, joint winner 2019

by Bernardine Evaristo

Book cover for Girl, Woman, Other, joint winner 2019

This joint 2019 Booker Prize winner follows twelve characters on their personal journeys over the last one hundred years. From Newcastle to Cornwall and the beginning of the twentieth century to the modern day, each of them is searching for something. These wonderful interwoven stories address issues of race, identity and womanhood. Bernadine Evaristo shared the prize with Margaret Atwood, who won for The Testaments

A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner 2015

by Marlon James

Book cover for  A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner 2015

Marlon James uses the attempted assassination of Bob Marley as the catalyst for a story spanning several decades, various locations and a huge cast of over 75 characters.

The Year of the Runaways, shortlisted 2015

by Sunjeev Sahota

Book cover for The Year of the Runaways, shortlisted 2015

Derbyshire-born author Sahota’s novel depicts a disparate group of yong Indian men thrown together in a house in Sheffield, each having fled India in search of a new life. The Year of the Runaways spans India and England, the past and the present day, focusing on the pressures and pains of illegal immigration.

A Little Life, shortlisted 2015

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life, shortlisted 2015

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and celebrated as ‘The Great Gay Novel’ by author Garth Greenwell, Hanya Yanagihara’s immensely powerful story of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance has had a visceral impact on many a reader. Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB meet at college in Massachusetts and form a firm friendship, moving to New York upon graduation. Over the years their friendships deepen and darken as they celebrate successes and face failures, but their greatest challenge is Jude himself – an increasingly broken man scarred by an unspeakable childhood.

Bring Up the Bodies, winner 2012

by Hilary Mantel

Book cover for Bring Up the Bodies, winner 2012

The sequel to Mantel's other Booker-winning novel, Wolf Hall in 2009, and the middle chapter in her trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. The final part, The Mirror and the Light, was published in March 2020.

The White Tiger, winner 2008

by Aravind Adiga

Book cover for The White Tiger, winner 2008

The 40th Booker winner, this is Aravind's debut novel and, at 33, he was the second youngest author to win the prize. It tackles themes of globalization, freedom and class struggle through the eyes and words of one young man.

The Sea, winner 2005

by John Banville

Book cover for The Sea, winner 2005

The most recent Picador winner, about an art historian who returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, to both escape a recent loss and confront a distant trauma.

2004: The Line of Beauty, winner 2004

Book cover for 2004: The Line of Beauty, winner 2004

A classic novel about class, politics and sexuality in Margaret Thatcher's 1980s Britain, it follows a young man innocently swept up in an era of endless possibility, while pursuing his own private obsession with beauty.

The Blind Assassin, winner 2000

by Margaret Atwood

Book cover for The Blind Assassin, winner 2000

Another brilliant read from the great Canadian author and poet, The Blind Assassin was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now known as the Baileys prize). Set in Ontario, it spans events that take place throughout the twentieth century and also contains a novel within a novel.

Last Orders, winner 1996

by Graham Swift

Book cover for  Last Orders, winner 1996

Four men gather to carry out their old friend's last wish: to have his ashes scattered into the sea. On the surface the tale of a simple if increasingly bizarre day's outing, Last Orders is Graham Swift's most poignant exploration of the complexity and courage of ordinary lives.

Moon Tiger, winner 1987

by Penelope Lively

Book cover for Moon Tiger, winner 1987

Going back and forth in time from pre, post and during World War II, as a historian on her deathbed explores her own personal history, tackling the passions and pains that have defined who she is.

The Sea, The Sea, winner 1978

by Iris Murdoch

Book cover for The Sea, The Sea, winner 1978

The fourth of Murdoch's books to be shortlisted (and the first to win), it's a classic about a theatre director and playwright working on his memoirs, and the vanity, self-deceit and obsessions that have driven his life, as a romantic figure from his past comes back to affect him.

In a Free State, winner 1971

by V. S. Naipaul

Book cover for In a Free State, winner 1971

The Nobel Prize-winning V.S. Naipaul has sold millions of books in his lifetime, and this is certainly one of his finest. Three parts build to an overall theme of displacement and yearning for the good place in someone else's land.