A recap of our Booker Prize shortlist dinner

Readings Foundation Grants Officer Gabrielle Williams shares a brief recap of a special event we hosted last night to celebrate the Booker Prize and to raise money for the Readings Foundation.


Last night a group of like-minded Melbournians gathered at Tolarno’s to eat delicious food, drink delicious wine, and debate the likely winner of the Booker Prize.

Everyone put forward their picks of ‘Which Book We Thought Would Win’, ‘Which Book We Thought Should Win’, and ‘Which Book Would Win Over our Collective Dead Bodies’! It was a very lively night of discussion, with even these categories being debated – a number of people thought it was unfair to have this final category, considering the high calibre of the authors on the shortlist and how impressive it is to make it onto the shortlist in the first place.

Mark Rubbo, Readings’ Managing Director confessed that he hadn’t read ANY of the shortlist (bad Mark!) and Jane Sullivan, literary journalist with The Age confessed that she’d only read half of one of the books (bad Jane! However, better effort than Mark, so well done Jane!).

One thing we didn’t discuss was the chance of the judges splitting the prize between two winners, so of course we all got that wrong. In case you haven’t heard the news, the Booker Prize for 2019 was awarded jointly to Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernadine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.

Mark and Jane discussed the politics and personalities that come into play when judging literary awards; mused on the difficulties for the judges to have such a hugely prominent book as The Testaments on the shortlist; and then chatted about their favourite childhood books – a topic that Jane Sullivan has delved into most charmingly in her new book, Storytime.

The picks for the night were…

Should win:
The overwhelming majority picked Quichotte by Salman Rushdie, with The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other coming in close behind.

Will win:
Most people picked The Testaments for this category – it was impossible to avoid the hype – with Girl, Woman, Other coming in a close second.

Over my dead body:
Taking on board the comments of various guests, we won’t publish which book was most firmly in this category. Let’s just say, considering the high calibre of the shortlisted authors, it’s impressive to have made it onto it in the first place.

The night was an enormous success, great fun, and had the added bonus of raising funds for the Readings Foundation. It’ll be happening again next year, so mark it in your diaries and come join us.

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The Testaments

The Testaments

Margaret Atwood

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