So what’s the Booker Prize? The Booker Prize is Britain’s most prestigious literary award. It’s also a very lucrative one. The winner receives 50,000 pounds in addition to a considerable sales boost. Each of the six short-listed authors receives 2,500 pounds. In Britain, it’s the World Series. The award ceremony is televised. Bookies assign odds.
The Booker Prize was launched in 1968 and sponsored by Booker-McConnell Company, an agribusiness giant. It’s now officially known as the Man Booker Prize, as the investment company the Man Group has assumed the sponsorship. Originally, eligible writers were limited to citizens of the Commonwealth, Ireland, and Zimbabwe, so long as the work was written in English and published in the United Kingdom. This was a convoluted way of saying that American authors need not apply. That changed in 2013. The prize is now open to all authors so long as the book is written in English and published in the United Kingdom.
Like all literary awards, the Booker Prize has caused controversy. Celebrated authors like J.G. Ballard have been overlooked. Some winners have not stood the test of time. The tug between readability and literary innovation persists. In 1993, the sponsors honored the twenty-fifth anniversary of the award by choosing the Bookers of Bookers, the best book among previous recipients. The winner: Salmon Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Rushdie’s novel repeated on the fortieth anniversary in 2008 when it was crowned Best of the Booker.