Wednesday 2 September 2015

Why Awards Long & Shortlists Are Good for Our Reading...

As some of you may know this year I've actually astounded myself by managing to read more than one of the books on the Man Booker longlist. I've also been following the progress of the #ManBookerVloggers on Youtube with much interest and it got me thinking about the effect that award long and shortlists have on my own reading.

I have struggled with a lot of shortlisted books (and some winners) in the past because I find that a lot of times it's the authors that I perceive to be a little bit pretentious (sorry authors, I'm sure you're not trying to be!) or difficult to access that get shortlisted. To highlight an example, I started reading a very little bit of How to be Both by Ali Smith when it was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize earlier this year, which it eventually won. However I really struggled to get into it and eventually gave up because the style was just too inaccessible for me. Obviously this is a personal thing and I know a lot of bloggers who love and adore Ali Smith and I do plan to give her work another go at a later date. My point is thus; through awards shortlists I get to access a body of work that I wouldn't necessarily naturally gravitate towards.

A Brief History of Seven Killing by Marlon James, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
The Booker longlisted books that made my library reservations!

The books that people love and hype the hell out of in the blogging world (or at least the bit I interact with) don't necessarily always meet the books that are being hyped out there in the real world, for which read the 'literary world' and the bestsellers charts - two very different things, obviously, but my experience of what people are talking about is probably not the same as the literary editor of The Times for example (couldn't put a name in there because when I last regularly read the Times literary supplement it was Erica Wagner, and it isn't anymore. Anyway! I digress!). Literary awards present the opportunity for a meeting of my world and theirs.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne TylerHonestly, I don't often read a lot of the books but I do peruse the long and shortlists - especially for the Man Booker and the Bailey's Women's Prize - with great interest. I add a lot of them to my TBR, generally several to my library reservations list, and do my best to try to read a couple. I am an eclectic reader but I find that I don't gravitate as much as I used to towards literary fiction, and so a lot of times awards lists give me titles I'd never heard of before. This year was not only the first year I've read more than one on the Man Booker longlist, but also the first time I've ever read one of the titles prior to the list being announced; a happy coincidence brought about by my great love of Anne Tyler.

Every year I am encouraged toward my lifelong mission to actually read a whole long (or even short, who am I kidding?) list before the winner is announced by the fact that there's usually at least one title on the list I'd already intended to read and a few others which sound immediately appealing. It could be argued that I could void my own argument by just staying away from the ones that seem pretentious, but where's the fun in that?

Manbooker official logo

Ahead of the announcement of the shortlist later this month, I had a little bit of a closer look at my Man Booker reading...
Of the previous forty eight winners of the Man Booker prize I have actually read eleven, five of which (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Schindler's Ark by Thomas Kenneally) I absolutely adored, one of which (Life of Pi by Yann Martel) I didn't love but left a strong impression, and the remaining five of which made little to no impression. I've also given up on two (Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre and Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey) and have another six on my shelves or TBR. I know that I read The God of Small Things and The Life of Pi directly because of the buzz they were getting for being shortlisted and I know that a lot of other books have arrived on my shelves and wishlists via these lists and for that I am very grateful to Man Booker and to the other major book awards which have thrown the great (and not so great) into my path.

The #ManBookerVloggers are: 
Jen Campbell
Leena - Just Kiss My Frog
Jean Bookishthoughts
Lauren - Reads and Daydreams
Ariel Bissett

And you should check out their videos (or just search the hashtag on Youtube) because they're really interesting.

Some other awards I plan to start trying to keep up with (in an abstract kind of way): 

The National Book Awards

The International Dylan Thomas Prize (authors under 30)

The Guardian First Book Award (first books, obviously)

The Scotiabank Giller Prize (for Canadian fiction)

The Hugos (Science fiction and fantasy)

The Pullitzer Prize (oh so many categories)

How do you feel about awards lists? Do you keep up with them? Religiously read everything on them every year? Completely ignore them? Have no idea what I'm talking about? Let me know in the comments! If you've read any of the longlisted titles for the Man Booker or have posted about your thoughts, please leave links to that below as well as I'd love to read!

All title links are affiliate - if you purchase through them I will receive a small commission and be very grateful!


  1. That's quite ambitious - not that it's the same thing, but I always attempt to watch all the nominated movies before the winner is announced at the Oscars, hahaha! best of luck in tackling those books!

    1. I love you for reading my blog even when I'm boring and rambling :-p It's a ridiculous amount of books, I'm never going to keep up, the Oscars would be a much better plan. We should buddy watch some for the next ones! :-)

  2. I keep up with all of the YA awards and booklists curated by YALSA, but that doesn't mean I read all of them. With adult book awards, it's kind of hit or miss for me, although I do try to highlight the National Book Awards each year.