Sunday, 6 April 2008

Book Prizes

One is forever reading on book covers that a book or an author has won this prize or that award. (And why is every book an international bestseller!) I thought it might be useful to list and outline the awards that really count. Then I thought I would add the most recent winners. It was at that stage I realised I had hardly heard of any of the winners and had not read a work by a single one of them. Until then I had thought I was reasonably well read. Obviously I ain’t.

The Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to 104 people since 1901. The 2007 winner was Doris Lessing. (2006 Orhan Parkun; 2005 Harold Pinter). Doris Lessing CH OBE was born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Persia, on my birthday! - 22 October - but thirty years earlier - 1919. She is a British writer, author of works such as the novels The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook. When she won the Nobel Prize she was described by the Swedish Academy as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny". Lessing is the eleventh woman to win the prize in its 106-year history, and also the oldest person ever to win the literature award. I haven’t read a single Doris Lessing book though I may well now give one a try.

Probably second most notable prize is
The Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest US honour in print journalism, literary achievements and musical composition. It is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. The prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. Pulitzer Prize: Fiction - This award was redefined from "novels" to "fiction in book form" in 1947. 2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Pulitzer Prize: General Non-Fiction - This award of General Non-Fiction was created in 1962. 2007 The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
I hadn’t heard of either of these books.

Perhaps most famous of the UK awards is
The Man Booker Prize

Referred to colloquially as the "Booker", this literary prize is sponsored by Booker Plc and administered by the National Book League in the United Kingdom. It is awarded to the best full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, Eire, Pakistan or South Africa
The winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007 was Anne Enright with her novel The Gathering.

The Man Booker International Prize
Only inaugurated in 2006. The second, and current, prize-winner is Chinua Achebe

Guardian First Book Award
The award is for any first book, fiction or non fiction, prose or poetry.
Before 1999, this award existed in a different format as the Guardian Fiction Prize. The winner is chosen by a panel of judges. The short-list is decided by reading groups organized by the bookstore chain Borders.
2007 winner - Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu

National Book Awards
The most established book award in the United States, the National Book Award recognizes outstanding works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and books for young readers by American authors..
2007 - Non-fction - "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" Tim Weiner
2007 - Fiction - Denis Johnson: "Tree of Smoke"

The Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award
As the name suggests, this coveted award is sponsored by Cartier, who have done so since its inception in 1986. The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) committee selects writers nominated by the membership. Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality.
2008 Sue Grafton

Duncan Lawrie Dagger
This is the second year of the Duncan Lawrie Dagger - formerly the CWA Gold Dagger for Fiction (see below) - with a prize of £20,000. This is now the largest award for crime fiction in the world. The winner is Peter Temple for his novel The Broken Shore.

The CWA Gold and Silver Daggers
Initially titled the Crossed Red Herrings Award, this was first presented in 1955. The award was renamed the Gold Dagger in 1960. The Silver Dagger goes to the runner up and came into being in 1969. This award was replaced in 2006 by the Duncan Lawrie dagger and the Duncan Lawrie International dagger.

Hugo Awards
Hugo Awards established 1953 as Science Fiction Achievement Awards for the best science fiction writing in several categories. Annual prize of chrome-plated rocket ship model awarded at the World Science Fiction Convention. 2007 Rainbows End Vernor Vinge

Orange Prize for fiction
For women writers only, the Orange Prize for Fiction is the UK's largest annual literary award for a single novel. Since its launch in 1996 it has become one of the most prestigious and influential awards in the literary calendar
2007 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Prix Goncourt
The Prix Goncourt, administered by Société de gens de lettres on behalf of the Académie Goncourt, is France's most prestigious literary award. Under the terms of the will of Edmond de Goncourt, it is awarded every December to "the best imaginary prose work of the year". 2007 Alabama Song Gilles Leroy

Whitbread Book Awards
Established in 1971 the Whitbread Book Awards aimed to celebrate and promote the best of contemporary British writing. It was sponsored by Whitbread PLC but in 2006 the award was taken over by Costa Coffee and has disappeared.

The Costa Novel Awards
Costa Coffee announced 1 June 2006 a new sponsorship deal and took over the prestigious Whitbread Book Awards. 2007 winner - Day by A.L. Kennedy

Nebula Awards
Awarded by the Science fiction Writers' Association
2006 winning novel - Seeker by Jack McDevitt

Edgar Allan Poe Award
Mystery Writers of America award for the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in the previous year. The Edgar for Best Novel for 2007 went to The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin

Somerset Maugham awards
Created and endowed in 1947 by Somerset Maugham to enable British authors under the age of 35 to enrich their writing by spending time abroad, the Somerset Maugham Award may be best known for its being given to Kingsley Amis for Lucky Jim. Amis famously disliked foreign travel and used the money to write a book called I Like It Here. Even more ironically, Maugham had reviewed Lucky Jim, pronouncing its author "scum." It is administered by the Society of Authors. 2007 winners Horatio Clare’s Running to the Hills and James Scudamore for The Amnesia Clinic

W H Smith Literary Award
2006 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

More British awards can be found at

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