At a “ceremony without walls,” the Booker Prize for Fiction announced Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart as the best book of 2020 on Thursday, November 19. The Booker Prize is awarded by a panel of judges to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.
Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain is the story of a young boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s and watching his family struggle with poverty, addiction, and infidelity. Shuggie Bain was also named a National Book Award finalist this year.
Debut novelists dominated this year’s Booker Prize shortlist. Four of the six finalists were first-time authors. The shortlisted authors each received £2,500, and the winner received an additional £50,000.
Below is the winner as well as the shortlist, with descriptions from the Booker Prize. Congratulations to Douglas Stuart!
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Winner of the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction
Said judge Margaret Busby, when announcing the winner, “Shuggie Bain is destined to be a classic—a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people, and its values.” Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
A daring, passionate, and terrifying novel about a mother’s battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change.
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
In this tense and psychologically charged novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
This is a love story and it is a story about betrayal. But not between lovers—between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Avni Doshi tests the limits of what we can know for certain about those we are closest to, and by extension, about ourselves. (Available in the US on January 26, 2021.)
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
Ethiopia. 1935. With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. The Shadow King casts light on the women soldiers written out of African and European history. It is a captivating exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Deftly zooming in and out of focus, Real Life is a deeply affecting story about the emotional cost of reckoning with desire, and overcoming pain.
The legendary Booker Prize names a debut novel as the best work of fiction of 2020.