My Favourite Book Awards

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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?

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  1. lilly says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It’s outstanding and must have been a lot of work but I am putting it in my favorites because I have wanted to have all the award lists in one so I could refer to it any time. I really appreciate you writing this post.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thank you Lilly! I am pleased you will find it useful.

  2. Beth F says:

    There’s the Newberry award for children’s books! And American Library Association awards, too. I’m sure there a zillion out there.

    I don’t read a book just because it’s an award winner, but if I’m on the fence, the award may push me into reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I have read a few of the Newberry winners, but have come to realise that I am not a big fan of children’s books. I will pay closer attention to them when my boys are older though. Hopefully we’ll be able to read a few of them together.

  3. Diane says:

    Jackie, Thanks so much for post these links; i appreciate it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane – no problem! I’m pleased you like it!

  4. Eva says:

    What a fun post! I don’t pay a ton of attention to prizes (I didn’t realise A Fine Balance had won the Booker!), but the geographical distribution of the Commonwealth Prize sounds neat. And I love that the Orange Prize is just for women, although looking at the list I see more books that I didn’t enjoy than did.

    I just ‘discovered’ the Samuel Johnson Prize, which is for Commonwealth nonfiction. So many of the books on the shortlist look marvelous!

    1. Jackie says:

      Eva, Unfortunately A Fine Balance didn’t win the Booker (although it is my favourite book and I think it deserved to!) it was only short listed, but there are lots of great books on the short list, which is why I am trying to read them all.

      I have read a few books from the Samuel Johnson Prize, but I am not a big non-fiction reader. I should try to read a few more – I agree the short list did look good this year.

  5. Rob says:

    I’m definitely a big fan of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize too Jackie. I love eclectic and cosmopolitan, and this is a prize that certainly meets that criteria.

    I also like to keep an eye on Italy’s Premio Strega Award. They seem to have a real knack at picking great winners i.e. Niccolò Ammaniti and Paolo Giordano.

    And what of ‘serious’ reader would I be if I didn’t also love the Nobel Prize too?

    A great post! Thanks for creating it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rob, I haven’t heard of the Premio Strega Award. I will have to go and have a look – thanks for pointing it out!

  6. raidergirl3 says:

    Nice lists!
    I have found the Pulitzer to be very mixed for me – a few fabulous ones, but quite a few duds, to the point I am leery of trying many more.
    I have been very impressed with the IMPAC Dublin prize, and look forward to trying more of them.
    And you put The Wilderness beside A Fine Balance? It just moved up my watch list.
    Since I’m Canadian, I like to watch the Giller Prize, there have been some great books there.

    1. Jackie says:

      raidergirl3, I haven’t found many duds in the Pulitzer prize, but I guess I haven’t read that many.

      I loved The Wilderness, but it is very different to A Fine Balance. It is just as emotional, but doesn’t have the same strong plot. The Wilderness is just so cleverly written.

      I don’t pay close attention to the Giller prize, but did note that A Fine Balance won, so it is better than the Booker in that respect! I’ll have to read a few more Giller winners one day.

  7. Sandy says:

    You are the prize queen, Jackie. I don’t follow them, although I am more than aware when a book I’ve read or reading finds itself on a list. You are my link to the awards lists. I REALLY need to get to Fingersmith. I have Night Watch loaded on my iPod, but the library doesn’t have Fingersmith on audio, and hard books are a much slower pile. I loved Blindness…stay tuned on 9/14 when James and I both review the book and movie on our blogs!

    1. Jackie says:

      I am really looking forward to your Blindness reviews. I can’t decide whether to watch it or not. I think I’ll read your review before making a desicion on that.

      I’m not sure Fingersmith is a book I’d like to listen to – it is so complex and atmospheric. I guess it is all down to how good the narrator is, but if they don’t have a copy (or even if they do!) then try to find a print version. It is a brilliant book. I am sure you will love it!

  8. Steph says:

    I loved this post, Jackie! I really enjoyed how you highlighted a few of your favourites from each award, and I particularly liked how you used a visual means to do it.

    I really admire your dedication to reading your way through so many awards. I always find it so daunting because, well, each year you have to add another one to the list. And I guess I haven’t really sat down and thought about which award might be the most meaningful for me to read more books from. I’ve read a few Pulitzer winners, and a few Booker winners, and even a few Nobel winners, just because they sounded interesting to me as a reader. I think of those three prizes, I’ve read most Pulitzers… Like you, I’ve found the Man Booker a mixed bag (loved Life of Pi, HATED Amsterdam…)… I guess I’m the kind of reader for whom a book winning a prize may slightly sway me towards reading it (probably because I’ll actually hear more about it!), but it’s not really a guarantee. I think I’m just having fun exploring my own tastes as a reader based on my own whims at the moment, rather than committing to some set list that’s been approved by some nebulous group of judges! After all, I already have so many recommendations from all you book bloggers swamping my TBR list! ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I love reading based on my mood, but I do like having piles of prize winning books to chose from. I know the judges don’t always get it right, but I agree that book bloggers are helping me to discover some great-non prizing winning books. Perhaps it is just a relic of my pre-blogging days when I struggled to find good books?

      I’m not going to read them as quickly as I can. Completing the book awards lists is a life time goal, rather than a short term one.

      I’m pleased you enjoyed my post!

  9. That’s a fantastic post.

    I tend to be drawn more to Booker lists as compared to the others, although I’ve read a couple of fantastic Pulitzer Prize winners, including The Color Purple and The Road – the latter remains one of my all-time favorites.

    I like picking up books written by Nobel Prize winners, and the fact that they’re occasionally difficult to read makes me appreciate the books somewhat more. Some of them are incredibly clever.

    Along with the above, I’m trying to work through the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. It changes fairly oft’, but the quality of books on there are amazing, and I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a couple of books I loved, but I had never heard of prior to seeing them on the list.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I am planning to read many more Nobels in the future, as I do like a challenging read from time to time.

      I haven’t read The Road yet, but it is very high on my list – I think I will love it.

      I enjoy reading the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die lists too. I have not read any books just because they have been on the list yet, but I do think they contain some great reads.

      1. The one I bought based purely on seeing it on the list, and nowhere else, was Hallucinating Foucault. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve read, albeit maybe not in my favorites.

        Think you’ll really enjoy The Road. I absolutely loved both, the story and the style of writing. Anticipating reading your thoughts on it :)

        1. Jackie says:

          anothercookiecrumbles, Hallucinating Foucault looks like a really interesting read – I hadn’t heard of it before. I think I’ll keep an eye out for it now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. Lahni says:

    I feel like a broken record because I talk this book up every chance I get, but have you read The Book of Negros (it was published as Someone Knows my Name in the US, Australia and New Zealand). It won the Commonwealth Writer’s prize for best overall book in 2008 and it was fantastic.
    Here’s a link to my review. I hope it encourages you to read it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Lahni, I haven’t read it, but it is on my wish list. I’ll have a look if my library has a copy. Hopefully I’ll be able to read it soon and pass on your love for this book!

  11. Melody says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Jackie! Now I’ve to check out those books! (I need to read more prize winning books!!) :P

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, Yet more books to add to the wish list! LOL!

  12. Verity says:

    An interesting post. I’m an avid follower of the Orange prize, and have been for about 5 years. I also like the Costa, particularly for highlighting biographies and childrens books and I love the head to ehad between different genres at the end.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I love the idea of the Costa prize, but haven’t been impressed by some of the winning books. In future I’ll keep an eye on who wins, but won’t always read them.

  13. claire says:

    I love the Booker the best, as my tastes tend to coincide with a lot of their picks. But I also follow the Pulitzer and Nobel. I also like the IMPAC, definitely something different there.

    The other two I follow are the Giller Prize and the GG’s (both Canadian). Past winners include Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, MG Vassanji, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry. Yann Martel was shortlisted, I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I’ve never heard of the GGs – I’ll have to look into it. I am a fan of the Giller though. I should read a few more of their winning books.

  14. Violet says:

    Thank you for this entry. I don’t conciously read award winning books and I really don’t have much knowledge about them. I’m familiar with the names but didn’t know the details. Thats quite a huge undertaking. Hope you can read all the books :)

    How about Newberry Awards? I’ve been hearing a lot about them lately.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I’m not a big fan of the Newberry Awards. They are great for children, but I find them a bit too light.

  15. Claire says:

    The three main lists that I am concentrating on at the moment are Booker, Pulitzer, and The Guardian’s 1000 Novels You Must Read. I do keep on my radar the others, especially the Nobel and the IMPAC (as well as the Carnegie winners), but not making an intentional project out of those … yet.

    The Giller prize came to my attention recently reading reviews of the most recent (?) winner, Red Dog Red Dog, which has definitely piqued my interest.

    I’m looking forward to following your progress and comparing notes.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I agree Red Dog does sound really good. I am tempted to buy a copy, but my TBR pile is so big – maybe next month!

  16. Dan Holloway says:

    The Booker frustrates me because almost all the books I love are translations (so maybe the Booker International is the one I’d add – Dubravka Ugresic, one of my all time faves, is nominated this year). I think publishing in the English language is actually in a very poor state, partly because of what I mentioned on the Coetzee post. It feels like there’s an old guard who haven’t moved out. There ARE great young writers, and many of them ARE getting published, but they’re not getting the scuttlebutt from the industry. Film has really embraced the Indie (sadly, it’s made it mainstream in many cases) but I don’t think the book world has. It’s a bit like the art world – when I went to the RA summer exhibition last year and there was a roomcurated by Tracey Emin, and the prize was won by Jeff Koons, half of me thought it was fantastic. The other half thought it was rather sad that the new has become old but is still being feted as it should have been when it was new (but wasn’t). Sensation was THE cultural event of the 90s, but it STILL feels cutting edge, and it shouldn’t. It’s the same with books – Amis, Atwood, McEwan WERE once new and exciting. The establishemnt needs to “woo the new” or it’ll slowly crumble. I think some new awards will emerge over the next few years and “do a Turner Prize” to the literary world. That’s what I’m on the lookout for. But as soon as they do, we need to avoid making them the “new Booker”, and loko for the next. Culture needs to be like volcano – constantly erupting whilst the lava’s still just warm, before it forms a crust.

    Sorry, ramble over. I’ll go say something brief about The Bell Jar. Promise!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. The Booker longlist was good this year in that it did include several unknown authors. I really hope that some of them make it onto the shortlist.

      Hopefully the blogging movement will help to correct the domination of the writing heavyweights. Word of mouth is a great way for lesser known books to get the sales. I hope that I can support a few of the smaller authors to get a bit more publicity. It would be great to see book sales influenced by the quality of the book instead of how many people have heard of the author.

  17. Swati says:

    This is a great post. I can see myself losing a couple of hours browsing through the links in that post. It’s interesting to see the awards listed together like that. I tend to enjoy Pulitzer winners more than most, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.
    Have you come across the James Tait Black Memorial Prize? They usually have an amazing selection and their winners are well worth reading. This year’s winner was Seebastian Berry for A Seccret Scripture.
    Here’s a link

    1. Claire says:

      Jackie, from reading Swati’s reply I am reminded of the Somerset Maugham prize. James Scudamore’s first novel, The Amnesia Clinic, won it in 2007.

      1. Jackie says:

        Claire, Again, I’ve heard of it, but don’t really follow it yet. I might try reading The Amnesia Clinic soon though – if that is good (and I suspect it will be!) then I may try to pay more attention to it.

    2. Jackie says:

      Swati, Yes I have heard of the James Tait Black Memorial prize, but it isn’t one I follow at the moment. They seem to produce very similar short lists to other prizes, so by the time they are announced I have already read/at least heard about the books on the list. They do have some great choices though.

  18. Heidi says:

    The only prize I look into and have made a list to follow I don’t see mentioned by anyone thus far is the American National Book Awards. I recently went through the website and found many to add to my list (my way too long list!). I am trying to read more Noble Prize winners and grab Pulitzer books as well (I also find the Pulitzer to be pretty mixed–sometimes I think they just want to acknowledge an author and pick their most recent book which is not always the best!). I have made a list of woman Nobel Prize winners that I think is what I am going to delve into for 2010 particularly Grazia Deledda, Selma Langerhoff and Singrid Undset. Has anyone read anything by them some of their books sound really interesting and unique?

    1. Jackie says:

      Heidi, I have seen a few good books on the NBA lists, but again I don’t follow them. I am going to try to read a few more of the Nobel winners (Have you seen The Dwarf is now in my sidebar – I plan to read it very soon) I would love to know your thoughts on the female Nobel winners.I haven’t read any books by the authors you mention – make sure you let me know if you discover any great books!

  19. Rebecca Reid says:

    My goal is to read at least one book by each Nobel Prize Winner before I die. So it’s a long term goal; I’d rather focus on a few favorites of each author, though. I’m also working my way through the Pulitzer fiction/novel winners, and select Pulitzer nonfiction. I like to look at other lists for ideas of other books to read.

    1. Rebecca Reid says:

      Jackie, I forgot to add I’m also reading all the Caldecott Medal and Honors (ALA picture books) and all the Newbery awards (ALA children’s books).

  20. softdrink says:

    I don’t pay much attention to the awards, other than an occasional “hey, I’ve read that one” or “I wanna read that one” whenever I happen to catch the news of a winner.

    This is a great post, though…I loved the description of each award, since I wasn’t aware of most of the requirements. Well done!

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, I’m pleased you liked my post. I’m probably mad for trying to read all the books, but I have discovered some amazing ones from doing it. I think you have a good attitude to the prizes – I probably go too far!

  21. Jenners says:

    This was a wonderful post — I didn’t know too much about the different prizes. I’ve heard of some of them but didn’t know the specifics. of all of them, I love the idea of the Orange Prize. And I admire you for what you are trying to do!

    1. Jackie says:

      Thanks Jenners! The Orange prize has some really good books on the list. It is weel worth trying a few.

  22. Nymeth says:

    I’m doing the Pulitzer Project to read all the winners, and I also keep an eye on the Booker. Lately I’ve been paying more attention to the Orange too, especially after doing the Orange July project! I also follow the Mythopoeic and World Fantasy Awards for fantasy fiction, and the Printz and Carnegie Medals for children’s and YA lit.

    1. Jackie says:

      Nymeth, I haven’t heard of the Mythopoeic and World Fantasy Awards. I’ll go and have a quick look at them now to see if I recognise anything.

  23. Rebecca says:

    Cool post! I can’t say that I really follow or keep up with book awards lists too much, but I do like to read prize-winning books. I will seek them out on occasion but I don’t really go out of my way to find out who won the day of, as a rule. I like all of the ones you mentioned though. I find myself liking Man Booker Prize books the most often.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I follow the Man Booker Prize the most, but weirdly I seem to dislike a lot of their choices. Perhaps I should start following some other prizes instead!

  24. Tricia says:

    Great post! I love how you follow so many of the prizes. Like others, I like to follow The Giller Prize. FYI, the Giller Longlist will be announced September 21.

    1. Jackie says:

      Tricia, Thanks for letting me know about the Giller longlist – that is a dangerous thing for me to look at! I may be tempted to read them all. I’ll do my best to resist – perhaps I’ll stick to the winner.

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