Book Awards: Really?

Book AwardsI was reading a short notice announcing the finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was intrigued when it was pointed out that there was no overlap between this award and either the National Book Award or the National Book Critics Circle Award. Think of it: three prestigious literature awards each had a different view of what they considered the best recent fiction. Could that be possible? Was there collusion?

Here are the three lists of finalists for fiction:

2014 PEN/Faulkner Award

  • Daniel Alarcón – At Night We Walk In Circles
  • Percival Everett – Percival Everett by Virgil Russell
  • Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
  • Joan Silber – Fools
  • Valerie Trueblood – Search Party: Stories of Rescue.

National Book Award

  • James McBride – The Good Lord Bird [winner]
  • Rachel Kushner – The Flamethrowers
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowland
  • Thomas Pynchon – Bleeding Edge
  • George Saunders – Tenth of December

 National Book Critics Circle

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah
  • Alice McDermott – Someone
  • Javier Marias – The Infatuations
  • Ruth Ozeki – A Tale For the Time Being
  • Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch

As a follow-up, I started poking around the internet and discovered several thousand different awards for books that are given out each year around the world. Of course the uniqueness of the above awards was shattered when the Springfield Library honored a novel by a local author, Bleeding Edge, but it is still amazing how many different candidates are put up for literary status (at least local literary status).

Smut BooksI would start my own Best of the Year award but that would force me to have read all the candidates and even I know that annual “Best of” lists are too often worthless (and tend to honor the same authors over and over). That’s probably why I seldom read from such lists; there is one, though, that might be interesting.

What are your thoughts on this?

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