Anna Burns' Milkman (Faber), Esi Edugyan's Washington Black (Serpent's Tail), Daisy Johnson's Everything Under (Jonathan Cape), Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape), Richard Powers' The Overstory (William Heinemann) and Robin Robertson's The Long Take (Picador), make up the shortlist for 2018’s £50,000 Man Booker Prize.
The shortlist pits three UK writers (Burns, Johnson and Robertson) against two Americans (Kushner and Powers) and one Canadian author (Edugyan), and gives Penguin Random House three of the six chosen titles.
Johnson is the youngest writer ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker, at 27, and Everything Under is her debut. Meanwhile Robertson's The Long Take is the first novel in verse, with photographs, to be shortlisted. Edugyan is the one shortlistee this year to have been shortlisted previously, for Half-Blood Blues in 2011.
Not making the shortlist however were two of the longlist's most talked-about inclusions: Nick Drnaso's graphic novel Sabrina (Granta) and crime writer Belinda Bauer's Snap (Bantam).
Chair of the judges Kwame Anthony Appiah said all of the six finalists were "miracles of stylistic invention". He said: "In each of them the language takes centre stage. And yet in every other respect they are remarkably diverse, exploring a multitude of subjects ranging across space and time. From Ireland to California, in Barbados and the Arctic, they inhabit worlds that not everyone will have been to, but which we can all be enriched by getting to know. Each one explores the anatomy of pain — among the incarcerated and on a slave plantation, in a society fractured by sectarian violence, and even in the natural world. But there are also in each of them moments of hope. These books speak very much to our moment, but we believe that they will endure."
Bea Carvalho, newly appointed as Waterstones' Fiction buyer, commented: "This year’s longlist has sparked more conversation than ever and we’ve enjoyed an especially high level of engagement from our customers as a result. We’re thrilled with the shortlist; it is a very strong and commercial one which represents a snapshot of some of the very best of this year’s new fiction publishing. There’s still plenty here to talk about though: the inclusion of poetry in the form of The Long Take offers something unique, and we’re a bit surprised to see Sally Rooney out of the race. We’re looking forward to seeing how our customers respond to this fascinating list."
She added: "Washington Black has been a real highlight for me this year – personally I’ll be rooting for Esi Edugyan but they’d all be very worthy winners.”
The announcement revealing the six shortlisted contenders, whittled down from the Booker “Dozen” of 13, took place at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Man Group in central London this morning (20th September) which was live-streamed on Facebook. Asked at the conference what his views were on the possibility that there could be a US winner this year for the third year in a row, Kwame Anthony Appiah said that if so, it would be because that novel was the best book that the judges read, noting: “The kind of people who read literary fiction do not ask authors for passports."
Meanwhile fellow judge Jacqueline Rose was asked whether The Long Take from Scottish poet Robertson should have qualified as a novel. She replied that that question was part of the reason for its inclusion. “It’s a genre defying book and we celebrate that,” she said.
Also judging were crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.
Each of the shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The 2018 winner will be announced on Tuesday 16th October in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.