by Sheela Reddy
“Perhaps it was 9/11 or an idea whose time had come, but suddenly the writer had liberated the story from the novel. Storytelling, and compelling storytelling at that, no longer needed the camouflage of a novel. The autobiographical no longer needed to be disguised as fictional. The fig leaf of fiction had dropped off facts at last. Instead of going on to write another novel, Mishra started work on a life of Buddha and his relevance, An End to Suffering, and topped it with another work of non-fiction, Temptations of the West.”
“Exactly how blurred the division between fiction and non-fiction has become is best summed up in the words of Booker Man Prize chairperson Hermione Lee last week. What the judges were looking for, Lee said, was books with “storytelling and historical truthfulness”. Is it time for the Booker to include non-fiction in the prize?”
Best English Language Non-American Novel of the Past Twenty-Five Years? by Robert McCrum and the Guardian
Coetzee became the first writer to win the Booker Prize for a second time with this exploration of post- apartheid South Africa, which centres on Professor David Lurie, in self-imposed exile at his daughter’s remote farm after an ill-advised affair with a student.
Super-charged, anarchic and full of narrative acrobatics, Money burst on to the Eighties literary scene leaving a trail of imitators and devotees in its wake, not least because of its formidable, if frequently repulsive narrator, ad director John Self .
Joint third place
Earthly Powers (1980)
Homosexual writer Keith Toomey is asked to write the memoirs of the late Pope Gregory XVII – a commission that takes him on a whirlwind recap of the major events of the 20th century.
Opening in 1935 , Atonement focuses on Briony Tallis , at first as a 13-year-old implicated in the conviction of a family friend for rape and, latterly, an elderly novelist on the brink of losing her memory.
The Blue Flower (1995)
Fitzgerald’s final novel is frequently cited as her masterpiece. It recreates the life of the 18th-century German poet and philosopher Novalis , focusing on his romance with a 12-year-old girl .
The Unconsoled (1995)
Ishiguro’s intricate, dream-like fourth novel marked a radical departure from the more conventional narratives of his earlier work, evoking the great European masters of film as much as fiction.
Midnight’s Children (1981)
Rushdie’s second novel not only won the Booker prize but was also awarded the ‘Booker of Bookers’ in 1993. It unites powerful subject matter – the partition of India – with a dazzling, playful style.
Joint eighth place
The Remains of the Day (1989)
Stevens , a butler at Darlington Hall, takes a trip to the West Country . His memories – particularly of the late Lord Darlington , revealed as a Nazi sympathiser – throw into sharp relief the novel’s themes of collusion, betrayal and repression.
Amongst Women (1990)
A powerful meditation on 20th-century Irish history, particularly focusing on the Troubles, this novel was a runner-up for the Booker prize of 1990, and a national bestseller, confirming its author’s reputation as Ireland’s leading novelist.
That They May Face the Rising Sun (2001)
A study of a rural community in Ireland, the changing seasons and the gradual creep of modernity. A genre-bending fiction that incorporates memoir, history, folklore and a therapeutic reprise of the author’s own career.
Hawksmoor (1985) Peter Ackroyd
The Old Devils (1986) Kingsley Amis
Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995) Kate Atkinson
The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) Margaret Atwood
An Awfully Big Adventure (1989) Beryl Bainbridge
The Wasp Factory (1984) Iain Banks
The Untouchable (1997) John Banville
The Regeneration Trilogy (1991-95) Pat Barker
Flaubert’s Parrot (1984) Julian Barnes
A Long, Long Way (2005) Sebastian Barry
Ill Seen Ill Said (1981) Samuel Beckett
Possession: A Romance (1990) AS Byatt
True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) Peter Carey
A Perfect Spy (1986) John le Carre
Nights at the Circus (1984), Wise Children (1991) Angela Carter
Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), Age of Iron (1990), Masters of Petersburg (1994) JM Coetzee
The Barrytown Trilogy (1987-91) Roddy Doyle
Gwendolen (1989) Buchi Emecheta
Birdsong (1993) Sebastian Faulks
The Beginning of Spring (1988) Penelope Fitzgerald
To the Ends of the Earth: A Sea Trilogy (1980-89) William Golding
Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1983), 1982, Janine (1984) Alasdair Gray
Transit of Venus (1981) Shirley Hazzard
Ridley Walker (1980) Russell Hoban
The Line of Beauty (2004) Alan Hollinghurst
Never Let Me Go (2005) Kazuo Ishiguro
A Disaffection (1989), How Late It Was, How Late (1994) James Kelman
The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) Hanif Kureishi
English Passengers (2004) Matthew Kneale
The Life of Pi (2002) Yann Martel
As Meat Loves Salt (2001) Maria McCann
The Comfort of Strangers (1981), Enduring Love (1997) Ian McEwan
No Great Mischief (1999) Alistair MacLeod
Fugitive Pieces (1996) Anne Michaels
The Restraint of Beasts (1998) Magnus Mills
A Fine Balance (1995) Rohinton Mistry
Mother London (1988) Michael Moorcock
The Enigma of Arrival (1987) VS Naipaul
After You’d Gone (2000) Maggie O’Farrell
His Dark Materials Trilogy (1995-2000) Philip Pullman
I Was Dora Suarez (1990) Derek Raymond
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005) JK Rowling
The God of Small Things (1997) Arundhati Roy
A Suitable Boy (1993) Vikram Seth
Hotel World (2001) Ali Smith
A Far Cry From Kensington (1988) Muriel Spark
The White Hotel (1981) DM Thomas
Restoration (1989) Sacred Country (1992) Rose Tremain
Omeros (1990) Derek Walcott
The Passion (1987) Jeanette Winterson
Tim Adams; Monica Ali; Hephzibah Anderson; Michael Arditti; Kate Atkinson; David Baddiel; Joan Bakewell; JG Ballard; Lynn Barber; Nicola Barker; Julian Barnes; Sebastian Barry; Ronan Bennett; Nicholas Blincoe; Will Boyd; Melvyn Bragg; Sylvia Brownrigg; John Burnside; AS Byatt; John Carey; Peter Carey; Justin Cartwright; Susannah Clapp; Jonathan Coe; Cressida Connolly; Rachel Cooke; Jason Cowley; Alain de Botton; Margaret Drabble; Sarah Dunant; Douglas Dunn; Geoff Dyer; Will Eaves; David Eldridge; Helen Fielding; Amanda Foreman; Philip French; Brian Friel; Fi Glover; Bonnie Greer; Kate Grenville; Niall Griffiths; Kirsty Gunn; Christopher Hampton; David Hare; Joanne Harris; Robert Harris; Philip Hensher; Peter Ho Davies; Philip Hoare; Anthony Holden; Christopher Hope; Nick Hornby; Kathryn Hughes; MJ Hyland; Ian Jack; Jackie Kay; Kate Kellaway; Frank Kermode; Marian Keyes; Hari Kunzru; Hanif Kureishi; Hermione Lee; Doris Lessing; Jonathan Lethem; Andrea Levy; Marina Lewycka; Toby Litt; David Lodge; Adam Mars Jones; Hisham Matar; Frank McCourt; Ian McEwan; Patrick McGrath; Sarah Emily Miano; Andrew Miller; Rebecca Miller; Deborah Moggach; Rick Moody; Jan Morris; J ohn Mortimer; Kate Mosse; Andrew Motion; Jenni Murray; Patrick Neate; Edna O’Brien; Maggie O’Farrell; Andrew O’Hagan; Helen Oyeyemi; Jay Parini; Adam Phillips; Caryl Phillips; DBC Pierre; Philip Pullman; Craig Raine; Dan Rhodes; Keith Ridgway; Jane Rogers; Salman Rushdie; Jonathan Safran Foer; Simon Schama; Anita Shreve; Lionel Shriver; Iain Sinclair; Ali Smith; Zadie Smith; Hilary Spurling; Adam Thirlwell; Rupert Thomson; Colin Thubron; Colm Toibin; Joanna Trollope; Jenny Uglow; Salley Vickers; Erica Wagner; Marina Warner; Sarah Waters; Fay Weldon; Edmund White; Nigel Williams
For thoughts on the New York Times’ take on “the best” of American Fiction, see here.