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:
- Olive Kitteridge: loved
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: liked
- The Road: Strongly disliked.
- Middlesex: liked a lot
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: liked
- The Color Purple: liked a lot (years ago)
- Angle of Repose: liked a lot
- To Kill A Mockingbird: liked a lot
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.