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?

2000 - 2007 Books in Translation Nobel Prize

The Double – José Saramago

José Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

Translated from the Portugese by Margaret Jull Costa

Blindness is one of my favourite books and so I have been keeping an eye out for Saramago’s other books ever since I finished reading it. Unfortunately I haven’t been very successful – they never seem to turn up!  Then,  last week I finally spotted one in the library.

The Double is the story of a history teacher who sits down to watch a rented video one evening and is shocked to discover that one of the actors is identical to him in every physical detail. He tracks down his look-alike and confirms that they are exact copies of each other – so alike that even their wives cannot tell them apart.

As with Blindness, Saramago’s writing style takes a bit of time to get used to. There are very few paragraphs and the words just seem to flow together at times, each page just packed with a sea of words:

Although he does not really believe in Fate, distinguished from any lesser destiny by that respectful initial capital letter, Tertuliano Máximo Afonso cannot shake off the idea that so many chance events and coincidences coming all together could very well correspond to a plan, as yet unrevealed, but whose development and denouncement are doubtless already to be found on the tablets on which that same Destiny, always assuming it does exist and does govern our lives, set down, at the very beginning of time, the date on which the first hair would fall from our head and the last smile die on our lips.

It doesn’t take long to adapt to his style though, and I quickly became caught up in this imaginative plot. It doesn’t have the pace or fearful adrenaline rush I experienced with Blindness, but it is just as thought-provoking. If it were possible, would you want to swap lives with someone? Would you feel threatened by someone who was identical to you in every way? What would you do to protect your identity?

I loved the ending – it was cleverly written and left me with lots to think about.

The Double isn’t in the same league as Blindness, but it  is a very good book.



Is Blindness one of your favourite books?

Have you read any of Saramago’s other books?

1990s Books in Translation Nobel Prize Recommended books

Blindness – José Saramago

Translated from the Portugese by Giovanni Pontiero

Blindness is the most powerful book I have ever read. From the beginning, to the end my adrenaline levels were high, and my heart was beating so fast you’d have thought I’d been out running!

Blindness is a terrifying account of what could happen to us, if we were all to lose our sight. The book begins with one man suddenly losing his vision while waitng at traffic lights in his car. Someone offers to help the blind man back home, and it isn’t long before he becomes blind too. It quickly becomes obvious that the blindness is highly contagious, and so all the blind people, and those who have been in close contact with them, are rounded up and sent to an old mental hospital. Trapped in this old building, with an increasing number of people, conditions quickly deteriorate. Fights break out over the small amount of food, sanitation becomes almost non-existent, and it isn’t long before people are dying.

There is one woman who has not gone blind; she lied in order to stay with her husband. At first it seems as though she is the lucky one, but as time goes on this is not necessarily true. Would it be better to be blind than to see the horrors that are all around her?

This book is worryingly realistic. What would our governments do if there was an epidemic of blindness? How quickly would society break down? I thought I’d be able to cope without electricity, but when you stop to think about the infrastructure, you realise how soon you’d run out of food, and water. It’s enough to make me want to move to the country and become self sufficient as soon as possible!

This book took a little bit of time to get used to. The characters are all nameless, and there is little punctuation to break up the paragraphs, so the text is unusually dense. It was, however, completely gripping from beginning to end. I’m not sure I can say that I enjoyed reading it though. It will stay with me for a long time, and is a powerful statement about the fragility of our society, but I’m not sure enjoyable is the right word!

Highly recommended, as long as you can cope with the stress!

José Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998.