May 14, 2009

Book Awards Challenge

I've decided to take part in my first ever online book challenge. This one sort of intrigued me because I've never really paid much attention to book awards as a way of finding reading material. I don't know why; it seems obvious that I would, in a way. But I never have. In this challenge, I must read five books from five different award-giving institutions.

As I was browsing through the options, it became clear to me that there are quite a few book award machines out there, pumping out their picks for the best books ever. It's sort of hard to narrow it down, so instead of going for the unknown, I decided to stick with books I've heard of. One even was already on my to-read list, so I just picked it without looking at the others. We'll see how this goes! Here's my list:

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green (Printz Award)
2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Newberry Medal) - DONE 7/26
3. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize)
4. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Faulkner Award)
5. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Booker Prize)

Since I was rather unfamiliar with each of these awards, I thought it would be nice to tell you a little bit about them. Heck, maybe it will help you choose your next favorite book, who knows, right? =)

Printz Award
This award is given for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association named Michael L. Printz. This year's winner was Jellicoe Road by Melinda Marchetta.

Newberry Medal
This one was a little more familiar for me because I remember learning about it in elementary school. The Newberry was given for literature, and the Caldecott for illustration. The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) awards the medal once a year. The award is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The award has been given since 1922. It is named for John Newbery, an 18th century publisher of juvenile books. Other winners you may be familiar with are The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. There are only a handful of authors who've won the Newberry more than once. Laura Ingalls Wilder (of the famed Little House on the Prairie) was nominated five times—the most of anyone—but never won.

Pulizter Prize
The Pulizter Prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a journalist and newspaper publisher (New York World). Pulitzer left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the university's journalism school in 1912. Pulizters are awarded in three categories, one of which is literature including fiction, usually dealing with American life. Past winners include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Booker Prize
The Booker Prize (Man Booker Prize for Fiction) is an award of the British variety. It is given to the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or Ireland. The name comes from two different companies who have sponsered the prize. Booker first, which name has been retained for history's sake, and the Man Group second. Although the award is sponsered, an advisory committe, made up of literary experts, chooses the winner every year. Past winners include Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishigurom, and Possession by A.S. Byatt. In 2005, the International Booker Prize was added, which is awarded to a writer of any nationality once every two years.

Faulkner Award
William Faulkner donated a portion of his 1949 Nobel Prize winnings to form the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, which supports new fiction writers. The award is given annually to the author of the best American work of fiction that year. One of the cool things about this award is that the authors who win are brought to Washington, D.C., to read a portion of their work at the Great Hall of the Folger Shakespeare Library. A winner is chosen and also four finalists. All five authors are invited to come and do a reading at the award ceremony. This year's Faulkner winner was Netherland by Joseph O'Neill.

There are tons of other awards out there still that are given to certain types of authors, different genres and subject matters, etc. One that I wanted to choose from, but didn't because I liked these other choices better, was the National Book Award, which is one of the more prestigious awards out there. See their list of past winners here.

If you'd also like to participate in the book challenge, click here to review instructions and sign up. The challenge concludes on December 1.

Happy reading!


Michael said...

I'd heard of those awards but didn't know what they meant. Thanks for the info. =) BTW, did you notice the 1979 National Book Award winner? Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato . . .

Gini+Eric said...

I have never heard of this. Thanks! I signed up. :)

Heather said...

I've read Looking for Alaska before (plus John Green's other Printz honor book), you won't be disappointed--he earns every acollade that's bestowed on him.

3m said...

Welcome to the Book Awards Challenge!

You've got some great choices.

Allison said...

The Blue Sword is one of my favorite books. I discovered it in high school and go back to read it every once in awhile. I think you'll find it is a great book.