Our friends at the Emirates Literature Foundation share must-read novels from the Booker Prize shortlist…

The team at the Emirates Literature Foundation is all aflutter about the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist. Every year, the Booker Prize is awarded to the best original novel written in English and published in the UK. The longlist of 13 is whittled down to a shortlist of six, with much debate and discussion over who should win, who will win, and why. The winner will be announced on November 19, but regardless of the outcome, here are four of the six shortlisted books, you absolutely must read.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi 

booker prize burnt sugar

Dubai resident Avni Doshi has written an emotionally charged, sparse novel that stays with you for a long time after you finish reading the book. The key conflict at the heart of Burnt Sugar stems from our protagonist, Antara, having to care for her mother who neglected her as a child. Set in contemporary Pune, India, the fraught mother-daughter relationship flits between Antara’s present-day looking after a mother with Alzheimer’s and her childhood, where she was abandoned at an ashram and a boarding school.

The Shadow King by Mazaa Mengiste 

booker prize the shadow king

Set during Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, this novel shines a light on what it means to be a woman at war. Orphaned servant Hirut struggles to adapt to a new household as a maid. While her employer mobilises the army, Hirut longs to do more than care for the wounded, and ultimately takes up arms against Italian officers.

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

booker prize the new wilderness

Diane Cook presents a world in which pollution and overpopulation is the new normal, and in this post-apocalyptic story a group is sent to an unforgiving wilderness state as an experiment. Among this group are a mother and daughter – Bea and Agnes – whose relationship is tested by landscape, circumstances and what it means to be human.

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

booker prize this mournable body

Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga tells the story of a woman embittered by her failed potential, starting out in a run-down youth hostel in Zimbabwe’s capital. Told in the second person, the novel is tense and immediate as it explores Zimbabwe’s legacy of colonial history.

For more recommendations and to hear the team discuss these books and more in detail, tune in the podcast, the Boundless Book Club, from the Emirates Literature Foundation team and guests. Check out the website regularly for author interviews, news, views, and more, and don’t miss all the literary videos on the YouTube channel.