Booker Prize Facts And Why You Should Care Who Wins

On Tuesday, the latest winner of The Man Booker Prize will be announced. It's one of the most important literary prizes in the English language - but why does it matter? Here's what you need to know about the prize, and why this year's is unusually controversial.

What is it?

First awarded in 1969, The Man Booker Prize is an annual award given to the best original full-length novel in English, as decided by a panel of judges.

Can American authors win it?

It is only open to citizens of the Commonwealth, Ireland or Zimbabwe. However, every two years since 2005, the Booker Prize also gives out an International award to a worthy author not eligible for the Booker Prize, based on their entire body of work. The prize was won this year by American author Philip Roth.

This year's shortlist for the main Man Booker Prize, however, features four British writers, and two Canadians.

Why is it called The Man Booker Prize?

The prize was originally sponsored by a food distribution company called Booker-McConnell, and quickly became known as “The Booker” for short. The name stuck, even after Booker-McConnell's sponsorship ended. The current sponsor is investment company Man - and so, Man Booker Prize.

Why is it so important?

The prize is seen as a mark of literary quality - which means a guaranteed rise in book sales.

Winning books are often optioned for movies, they get a huge amount of international press coverage. and the winning author is also given a check for £50,000, making it one of the most valuable literary prizes in the world.

Which famous books have won it in the past?

"Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie (1981)
"Schindler's Ark" by Thomas Keneally (1982) – made into the movie Schindler's List
"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) – made into a movie of the same name
"The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje (1992) - made into a movie of the same name
"The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood (2000)
"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel (2002)

Well-known authors whose books have also won the prize include Iris Murdoch, VS Naipaul, William Golding, Kingsley Amis, AS Byatt, JM Coetzee, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Ian McEwan, Peter Carey and Pat Barker.

What's different about this year's prize?

Under the chairmanship of former spy chief and novelist Dame Stella Rimington, the panel of judges has been criticized for prioritizing "readability" in this year's selection. Many highly regarded authors who were expected to be on the shortlist did not make it.

As the controversy grew, a rival prize called The Literature Prize was recently announced, though the details of that remain unclear.

What books are on the shortlist?

"The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes (UK)
"Jamrach's Menagerie" by Carol Birch (UK)
"The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick deWitt (Canada)
"Half Blood Blues" by Esi Edugyan (Canada)
"Pigeon English" by Stephen Kelman (UK) - his first book
"Snowdrops" by A. D. Miller (UK) - his first book

Who is going to win this year?

The sports book companies' favorite is "The Sense of an Ending" - but gamblers are not always right. Here is what we think.

We'll be liveblogging the award tomorrow afternoon; the prize will be announced at a ceremony in London at 4.48pm EST.