On this page

The Best of the Booker

The Booker Prize longlist has been announced.  The Vision Australia Library thought it the perfect time and uncover some facts, figures and controversies over the course of the prestigious prize’s 54 years.

All of the books mentioned are in the library with links provided.

Women of the Booker

Since 1969, 35 men and 18 women have won the prize.

A relatively unknown Bernice Ruben was the first woman to win the Booker in 1970, for The Elected Member. She followed up with a nomination in 1978 for A  Five-Year Sentence

Hilary Mantel won in 2009 for Wolf Hall and 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies making her the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice and the first person to win the prize for two novels in a trilogy.

Margaret Atwood won first in 2000 for The Blind Assassin and then in 2019 for The Testaments – a dual winner with Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other . Everisto was also the first black woman to win.

Australians and the Booker

Due to changes in the Booker rule book (a book must be published in UK or Ireland which complicates matters under Commonwealth rights) it’s a long dry spell for Australians having not won since 2014 for Richard Flannagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Before then, Australia-born DBC Pierre won for Vernon God Little, and Indian-Australian Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger.

Thomas Keneally was nominated three times before finally winning for Schindler’s Ark.  Peter Carey won for Oscar and Lucinda and for True History of the Kelly Gang.

A matter of age

Eleanor Catton became the youngest winner in 2013, aged just 28 for The Luminaries (which at 832 pages is the longest winning novel in the prize’s history). Previously, Ben Okri held this title, winning in 1991 for The Famished Road at the age of 32, he was also the first black person to win.

Attwood at 79 was the oldest winner while Alan Garner, 88, is the oldest nominee for Treacle Walker.


The  prize has raised it’s fair share of hullabaloo over the years most notably when Kingsley Amis’ Ending Up appeared on the shortlist chosen by a judging panel that included his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard. In the end, the prize was split between Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist and Stanley Middleton’s Holiday.

Chair Philip Larkin threatened to jump out of the window if Paul Scott’s Staying On didn’t win (it did).

Anthony Burgess’ refused to attend the ceremony unless guaranteed a win for his Earthly Powers but he lost out to William Golding’s Rites of Passage.

Not a member of the Vision Australia Library?

The Library is a free national public library for anyone who is blind, has low vision or a print disability.  Join the library today!