Audies Book Prizes Booker Prize Commonwealth Writer's Prize Nobel Prize Orange Prize Other Other Prizes Pulitzer Prize

My Favourite Book Awards

There are hundreds of book awards in existence around the world. I love reading award winning fiction, as although I am not guaranteed to enjoy them, they are normally of a higher standard than ones chosen at random.

I have discovered many of my favourite authors by picking up books knowing nothing about them, other than the fact they have won an award. With some prizes I have now taken this to the next level, and am trying to read every book which has won, or in some cases been short listed for the award.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain which awards I follow and why.

The Man Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize is awarded to the best novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. I find the books chosen for this award to be a very mixed bag. Some are outstanding, but a lot of the winning books are picked based upon the quality of the writing, at the expense of a good plot. Overall I find reading the Bookers to be a very satisfying undertaking. I am trying to read all books which have won or been short listed for the prize.

So far I have read 37/241 books from the Booker Prize short list  + 2009 longlist .

The Complete Booker blog is a great place to find other people who are reading the Bookers.


The Orange Prize

The Orange Prize is awarded to the best novel written by a woman. The books tend to be lighter, and easier to read than those of the Booker prize, although that wasn’t the case this year! I enjoy reading the Orange books so much that I am also trying to read the short list.

So far I have read 20/88 books from Orange Prize short list.

The Orange Prize Project is a blog for other people who love Orange books as much as me.


The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize is awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. I have only recently commited to reading all the books from this prize, but have consistently enjoyed the ones which I have read.

So far I have read 8/87 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The Pulitzer Project is a blog for everyone trying to read all the winners of this prize.


The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English. At the moment I am not purposefully trying to complete the list, but this may change soon. I love the way that the short list is divided into four regions (Africa, The Caribbean and Canada, Europe and South Asia, and South East Asia and South Pacific) This ensures that a wide range of cultures are always reflected in the nominees. It is a great place to look if you are after books from a certain region of the world.

So far I have read 5/25 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winners


The Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize is awarded annually to an author, based on the body of work they have produced. I am not trying to read all Nobel winning authors at the moment, but have enjoyed a lot of books written by the winners. The Nobel authors write literary fiction, which is often difficult to read. This means that the books have less general appeal, but with a bit of concentration they can be rewarding reads.

The Nobel Prize blog is one which I am tempted to join in the future.


Other Prizes

I am always interested in the Costa Book Awards. This is awarded to the best fiction from the UK and Ireland, but I have been disappointed by a few of the past winners. The books tend to be lighter reads, which although enjoyable, do not contain the standard of writing present in the awards mentioned previously.

I have recently rediscovered the joy of the audio book and so love browsing the list of Audie winners.

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is open to books written in any language, from anywhere in the world. I love the variety of books it contains, but this also means that they vary in their appeal to me.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is a great place to look for books in translation.

I keep an eye out for numerous other book awards, but these are the ones which interest me the most.

Which book awards do you follow?

Are there any others which you feel I am missing out on?

2008 Books in Translation

Voice Over – Celine Curiol

Translated from the French by Sam Richard

Voice Over was the latest choice for our book group, but while there was a lot to discuss, it wasn’t an enjoyable read for me.

The central character in the book is an unnamed woman who announces the train times at the Gare du Nord in Paris. The main theme appears to be her struggle to be noticed:

Her voice fills the entire station, soaring over the platforms, the halls, sailing into corners, crashing into glass walls. She is present everywhere, and yet no one recognises her.

She lacks self esteem, and so, in an effort to bring meaning to her life, she ends up in a series of difficult situations.

I felt little empathy for the woman; she seemed to bring all the misery on her self, and the majority of her problems could easily have been avoided with a little forethought. Despite the subject matter of the book, there is very little emotion. I felt distanced from the characters and so never connected with them.

The writing style makes this a difficult book to read. There is no speech and little to break up the writing, so you are often confronted with an entire page of words, which means a great deal of concentration is required. With effort, some insightful passages could be discovered:

Whenever she is in a park, she is always faced with the same dilemma. All those orderly paths overwhelm her. A park should be explored instinctively, without markers. But the walkways impose their fixed itineraries and lead to artificial crossings, which force one to choose different sections of the park over others. The only way to get to know the place is to follow the layout of paths, to explore them all without exceptions. At each fork, however, one of the paths has to be abandoned and might never be found again.

The pace of the book is slow and rambling. It is only 200 pages long, but feels twice that length. I would not have finished this book had I not been reading it for the book group. There are a lot of people who will love this book though – literary fiction fans will enjoy analysing the many layers contained in this book and, due to the number of things left unresolved, it makes a great discussion point.

Overall, I found this to be a skillfully written debut novel, but the lack of a strong plot meant it wasn’t for me.




2009 Horror Recommended books Thriller

The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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< ?php echo amazon('0007310250','The Strain’); ?> begins with a plane arriving in JFK airport, New York. The landing proceeds normally, but shortly after touch down all contact is lost. Confused and frightened the airport employees approach the plane to discover what has happened. What they discover is beyond their worst imagination….

This initial section is one of the most chilling pieces of writing I have ever read. I was genuinely scared, my heart rate racing as the story unfolded. The tension was built perfectly – just as the climax was approaching the scene would switch, leading to the  tension mounting all over again.

Unfortunately the book did not manage to maintain the level of fear throughout. Once the cause of the disaster had been identified the book lost much of its appeal to me. I won’t reveal what happens, but I’ll just say that it isn’t very likely to occur and therefore I didn’t find it scary any more. There were still moments of tension, but they were nothing compared to the first few chapters.

This book is very well written and the scientific analysis was accurate and intriguing. I found the descriptions to be very cinematic, but that isn’t surprising given the fact that Guillermo del Toro is the Oscar winning creator of Pan’s Labyrinth. I can picture this book being made into a film without the need to change anything.

One big drawback was that the source of the problem, when it was explained in detail later in the book, did not bare any relation to the events in the plane. This is just nit picking though. The Strain is an amazing book. Perfectly paced, chilling and intelligently written – a perfect choice for Halloween, (or the RIP Challenge!).




NB. This is the first book in a trilogy. It worked as a stand alone novel though, and I can’t imagine how they will make the next in the series as good as this one. I’ll be interested to find out though!!

Are you a fan of scary books?

If you’ve read it – did you think that the events on the plane were related to the rest of the book?

Booker Prize Other

The Booker longlist 2009

The standard of writing on the longlist this year was outstanding. I was very impressed with the books chosen, and although I enjoyed some more than others, I felt that every single one deserved it’s place on the list.

Unlike in previous years, when I have occasionally wondered what on Earth those Booker judges were doing, this year I have enormous respect for them. They have chosen an amazing selection of books and I was very pleased to discover some wonderful new authors.

The 2009 Booker longlist, ranked by my rating
(Note: This is no reflection of the writing quality, just how much I enjoyed reading them)

The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey stars51

Heliopolis – James Scudamore stars4h

How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall stars4h

The Glass Room – Simon Mawer stars4h

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters stars4

Brooklyn – Colm Tóibín stars3h

Not Untrue and Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin stars3h

The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds stars3h

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt stars3h

Summertime – J.M. Coetzee stars3

Love and Summer – William Trevor stars3

Me Cheeta – James Lever stars1 (DNF)

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel stars1 (DNF)

Deciding which books to put on the short list is going to be a very hard decision for the judges this year. The standard of the writing is incredibly high.

There were four books that stood out for me though. I am certain these four will make it onto the short list:


The final two places are harder to decide. I think it will come down to a choice between these four:


I really don’t know how the judges will make up their minds, but if I had to guess then I think the Booker short list will look like this:


The Booker short list is announced on 8th September.

Do you think my predictions will come true?

Which books do you think will make it onto the short list?

Which book from the long list was your favourite?

2009 Booker Prize

Summertime – J.M. Coetzee

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2009

Summertime‘); ?> is a very unusual novel in that it is a fictionalised biography of the author. The book follows a young biographer as he tries to write about Coetzee’s middle years. The strange thing is that Coetzee has already died in the book, so the biographer focuses on locating all the people who were important to him.

I’m afraid that I didn’t really understand the point of this book. Autobiographies are one thing, but I found it very odd to read a book about the author in which you have no idea what is true and what a complete fabrication. I admit to not having read Boyhood‘); ?> or Youth‘); ?>, and so perhaps I am missing something.

I found the writing style difficult to engage with. The constant switching between notes, interviews and prose meant that the book didn’t gel for me. I became distanced from the characters and although I disliked Coetzee’s character for having an affair at one point, most of the time I felt no real connection with him. It was strange that he put himself down so much. The book seemed to be very critical of everything he did:

‘He is stuck up,’ says Carol. ‘He thinks too much of himself. He can’t bear to lower himself to talk to ordinary people. When he isn’t messing around with his car he is sitting in a corner with a book. And why doesn’t  he get a haircut? Every time I lay eyes on him I have an urge to tie him down and slap a pudding-bowl over his head and snip off those hideous greasy locks of his.’

There wasn’t much of a ‘summertime’ feel about it all – the book felt quite depressing.

Overall, it was a well written book, but I just didn’t connect with it.


Have you read Boyhood or Youth?

Did you enjoy reading Summertime?


August Summary and Plans for September

August’s reading was dominated by the Booker long list. I have now finished reading them all and will post my final review (Summertime) tommorrow. I will write a summary of the Booker long list, with my predictions for the short list, soon.

I read a total of 15 books in August and one audio book. The overall quality of the books I read was outstanding. I don’t think I have read so many great books in one month before.

Favourites of the month


Books reviewed during August

Heliopolis – James Scudamore stars4h

The Invisible Mountain – Carolina De Robertis stars4h

How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall stars4h

The Glass Room – Simon Mawer stars4h

The Double – José Saramago stars41

Far North – Marcel Theroux  stars41

One Morning Like a Bird – Andrew Miller stars41

The Victorian Chaise-Longue – Marghanita Laski stars41

Brooklyn – Colm Tóibín stars3h

Not Untrue and Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin stars3h

The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds stars3h

Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro stars3

Cloudstreet – Tim Winton stars3

Love and Summer – William Trevor stars3

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam – Lauren Liebenberg stars3

Me Cheeta – James Lever stars1 (DNF)

Audio Book

Testimony – Anita Shreve (Audio Book) stars41

Plans for September

I am really looking forward to September as I have some amazing books waiting in the TBR pile. I can’t decide which I am looking forward to more Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy) or Her Fearful Symmetry.

Which one do you think will be the best?

I am going to try to resist buying more new books in September and make an effort to read the ones I already have. Do you think I’ll be successful?! LOL!

I hope that you had a great August and have exciting plans for September.