I was ruminating a bit about the Pulitzer Prize this week and wondering why it isn’t a bigger deal. The bookstore I worked at in Los Angeles may not be indicative of national trends, but while I was there, the Booker Prize and the National Book Award moved more books than the Pulitzer. (The Nobel Prize had a bigger impact on sales than all the other awards combined, believe it or not.) I think part of the reason that the Pulitzer fails to capture the interest of readers is that it’s much less controversial than other awards. Pulitzer winners are almost always safe picks. But part of it, I think, is that the award has no build up. The judges do not announce the nominees (aka the shortlist) in advance, instead the finalists are revealed at the same time as the winner. It’s pretty obvious that having a shortlist would build interest – some might say artificially – by placing the prize in the public eye for longer. But I’d argue that the Pulitzer is worthy of this treatment. Though the picks are often safe, taken together, the Pulitzer winners are an incomplete, but still compelling bunch of books. The Pulitzers are primarily a journalism award, and that, I think, matters too, in that it allows us to equate the novel with journalism, which, at its best, is meant to be a noble and unfrivolous pursuit. (And this isn’t just the J-school grad in me talking.) Finally, giving the Pulitzer a shortlist would just be more fun and it would give us book bloggers more to natter on about.
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has unveiled its massive 2012 longlist. Recall that libraries around the world can nominate books for the prize, and these nominations, taken together, comprise the longlist. This year there are 147 novels on the list, nominated by 122 libraries in 45 countries. All of the books must have been published in English in 2010 (including translations). Because of the award’s global reach and egalitarian process, it’s always interesting to dig deeper into the longlist. Taken as a whole, the literary proclivities of various countries become evident, and a few titles recur again and again, revealing which books have made a global impact on readers. Overall favorites: books that were nominated by at least seven libraries. Room by Emma Donoghue (20 libraries representing Australia, England, France, Ireland, the Maldives, New Zealand, and the United States) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (13 libraries representing Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States) Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (12 libraries representing Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and the United States) To the End of the Land by David Grossman (10 libraries representing Brazil, Canada, Germany, and the United States) Purge by Sofi Oksanen (8 libraries representing Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland) Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (7 libraries representing the Czech Republic, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States) You can also look at the list and see which books are favorites in different countries. Several books were nominated by multiple libraries in the same country. Here’s a few: In Canada, Annabel by Kathleen Winter In Germany, Fame by Daniel Kehlmann In Ireland, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray In the Netherlands, Counterpoint by Anna Enquist and The Book Club by Marjolijn Februari There were also several countries with only one library nominating just one or two books. Here are a few of those: From Bermuda, Gorée: Point of Departure by Angela Barry From Cyprus, A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible by Christy Lefteri From Hungary, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni From India, Serious Men by Manu Joseph From Japan, The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe
Colm Toibin and Jhumpa Lahiri headline the 2013 Booker shortlist, which also offers newer names like NoViolet Bulawayo, making the list with her first novel, and Eleanor Catton, shortlisted for her second. The longlist was offered here with some excerpts a month ago, but since you might not have gotten around to them then, we'll offer the same with the shortlist below. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (excerpt) The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (publisher synopsis) Harvest by Jim Crace (excerpt) The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (excerpt) A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (review) The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Millions review, excerpt)
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Back in January I briefly made mention of something called the WHSmith Award. It's a British award that is determined by public opinion. People vote from a list of nominated finalists to determine the best book of the year. After 148,000 votes cast, they have announced the winners in eight categories, including the latest Harry Potter in the fiction category, Brick Lane by Monica Ali for best debut novel, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer for travel books, and Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?, in something called the "factual" category. So as not turn over complete control to the masses, the also give out an award called the "Judges' Choice," which was awarded to the American writer, Richard Powers for his dense critical favorite, The Time of Our Singing. As I said when I first found out about this award, I would be very interested to see the results of an American award determined by popular vote. A lot more Americans read than people think, so an astute businessperson could, in my opinion, do quite well creating an award like this to fill the void. Here are the complete results of the 2004 WHSmith Awards.
The nominees for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner fiction award have been announced. The books in the running are Millions Hall of Famer A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Egan profiled at The Millions); The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Eisenberg profiled at The Millions); National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon; Model Home by Eric Puchner (one of our "20 More Under 40"); and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson (Brad Watson's Year in Reading 2009).