The Man Booker Prize is the UK equivalent of America's Pulitzer Prize for books - these are all the finalists from the past 5 years

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Man Booker finalists 4x3Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

  • The Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world.
  • The Prize is awarded to what is, in the judges' opinion, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK. There's also an international award for books translated into English.
  • It's a great way to find the best books of the year, without having to read through hundreds of titles on your own. Below, you'll find the five winners of the last five years, as well as the six titles shortlisted each year.

The Man Booker Prize is one of the literary world's most prestigious awards - and perhaps the one best equipped to help you find your next great read.

To win the Man Booker Prize is to be declared the best fiction book of the year that was written in English and published in the UK and Ireland by a panel of judges meant to represent every side of the book world. In the past, that means that judges haven't been confined to "any in-group of literary critics, authors, and academics," but purposefully handpicked for a tribunal that more accurately represents the "common man" at large - including poets, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, and actors.

Such an endorsement - and the £50,000 prize money awarded to first place - transforms an author's life and career. It correlates with a worldwide audience, drastically increased book sales, and something closer to financial freedom.

For readers, it's also a great place to find your next great read. Instead of thumbing through stacks of books on your own to figure out the top 1%, you can leave the work up to the professionals and reap the benefits of their consensus: the best book of the year, and the six shortlisted titles falling closely behind it.

Below, you'll find the 30 titles shortlisted or ranked number one in the last five years. The 2019 selections will be released later this year: the longlist on July 24, the shortlist on September 3, and the winner on October 14, 2019.

Captions provided by Amazon and lightly edited for length.

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2018 winner: "Milkman" by Anna Burns

2018 winner: "Milkman" by Anna Burns
Buy it here

In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as "the Milkman" begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes "interesting," the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister's attempts to avoid him ― and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend ― rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers.

"Milkman" is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive. Told with ferocious energy and sly, wicked humor, "Milkman" establishes Anna Burns as one of the most consequential voices of our day.

Shortlisted:

2017 winner: "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders

2017 winner: "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders
Buy it here

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it's in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state — called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo — a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Shortlisted:

2016 winner: "The Sellout" by Paul Beatty

2016 winner: "The Sellout" by Paul Beatty
Buy it here

A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's "The Sellout" showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the Holy Grail of racial equality―the black Chinese restaurant.

Shortlisted:

2015 winner: "A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James

2015 winner: "A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James
Buy it here

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven gunmen stormed the singer's house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but much has been whispered, gossiped and sung about in the streets of West Kingston. Rumors abound regarding the assassins' fates, and there are suspicions that the attack was politically motivated.

"A Brief History of Seven Killings" delves deep into that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica's history and beyond. James deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts – over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Along the way, they learn that evil does indeed cast long shadows, that justice and retribution are inextricably linked, and that no one can truly escape their fate.

Shortlisted:

2014 winner: "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Richard Flanagan

2014 winner: "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Richard Flanagan
Buy it here

August, 1943: Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. His life in a brutal Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway is a daily struggle to save the men under his command. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever.

It's a savagely beautiful novel about the many forms of good and evil, of truth and transcendence, as one man comes of age and prospers only to discover all that he has lost.

Shortlisted:
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