Literary Award winners

14 May

I recently read The Finkler Question for one of my book clubs.  I didn’t like it (my review will post soon).

For many years, I was deeply suspicious of books that won literary prizes.  I didn’t keep track of what had one or even what the various awards were.  More recently, I’ve read some Pulitzer Prize winning fiction that I liked and even loved, so I relaxed my concerns.

After reading The Finkler Question, I looked at my (admittedly brief) history with Booker Prize winners:

  • The Finkler Question: Disliked
  • Life of Pi:  Liked a lot and disliked simultaneously.
  • The Blind Assassin: Disliked.
  • Amsterdam: Neutral.
  • The God of Small Things: Disliked
  • The Bone People: Disliked

In contrast, here is my history with Pulitzer Prize (fiction) winners:

In general I liked them.  Some quite a bit.

My reaction to the Booker Prize winners is particularly telling when I realize how few books I truly dislike.   About 1/2 of them are on the list above.  Granted, if a book isn’t working for me, I tend to abandon it unless I’ve committed to reading it, such as for book club (and I enjoy most of these books) or blog tours (these I try to choose carefully).

Still, I think the Booker Prize must use criteria that don’t reflect what I like to read, and I will view winners of this prize with some trepidation.

What is your experience with literary prize winners?

Update 9/27/2012:  I can add The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes to the list of Booker Prize winners I didn’t really like, although I can appreciate it more after our book club discussion.  My opinion of the Booker Prize as an indicator of my enjoyment of a book is unchanged.


Posted by on May 14, 2011 in books


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3 responses to “Literary Award winners

  1. Siobhan

    May 15, 2011 at 3:53 am

    I loved the Life of Pi and Middlesex but generally I find myself quite disappointed by prize winners of shortlisted candidates. I don’t know whether that’s literary pretention at the expensive of a story but I think it’s reinforcing this perception that “good” literature can’t be enjoyable. Which annoys me. Who judges these things?

  2. themisanthropologist

    May 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Hi. Interesting post. I myself have undertaken to read all Booker Prize winning novels, because in my experience, I enjoy them more than Pulitzer Prize winners. I liked God of Small Things and Life of Pi and I am currently reading The Blind Assassin, which I like so far. Although I didn’t like all Bookers I’ve read (I disliked The Gathering by Anne Enright and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee), I refer to this list when I want something good to read.

    In contrast, I don’t like most Pulitzer winners, but I did love Middlesex and To Kill a Mockingbird. I tried reading The Road, but I never got past the first few pages.


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