Weekly Geeks: The Awards We Love

  • Write a follow-up post discussing your thoughts on who won. Which winning books have you read? Which winning books do you want to read? Where there any surprises or shockers? Are you happy with this year’s selections? (Include honor books, of course!)
  • Choose an award (like the Printz and Newbery) and look at the list of previous winners/honors. Which books have you read and enjoyed? Are there any that you hated? Share a few ‘favorites’ with your readers. (If you haven’t read any lately, maybe you might want to write up a post listing a few you’d be interested in reading soon.)
  • Review a new-to-you award-winning book this week.
  • Write a post discussing why awards matter, or don’t matter. Are you influenced by awards and best lists? Do you seek out award winners? Or avoid them? Do you think award-winning books should be timeless? That they should always stay in print? Do you think time is a better judge of quality than an award committee?

This weeks Weekly Geeks (see above), inspired by the ALA’s recent release of the youth media award winners, is all about the awards we love. Since I’m not huge into young adult literature, only reading it when something really catches my eye, or of course my old favorites from when I was a kid, I’m going to be throwing a bunch of other stuff in here as well.

As far as YA awards go, the one I am most familiar with is the John Newbery Medal. While I’m not familiar with the winner for the category I decided to take a look at past winners to see what I’ve read and talk about what I may remember from them.

Newbery Medal & Honor Books:
 – 2009: Neil Gaiman won the medal with his The Graveyard Book. I have not read this, but I’m mentioning it because Neil Gaiman is on that really long list of books and authors that I’d someday like to read. Anywho, maybe this is one of those titles to keep an eye out for… the blurbs and reviews look promising enough.
 – 1999: Holes by Louis Sachar is a winner. I remember reading this and then seeing the movie when it came out a few years later. I loved this book and read it several times throughout middle school. It’s quite a riot.
 – 1994: The Giver by Lois Lowry, I remember reading this in my seventh or eighth grade english class. This book was my introduction to utopia/dystopia literature and to this day I have a soft spot for this book.
 – 1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, A friend of mine lent this book to me… oh, about a year ago. I read the first chapter and then never finished it. This is one of those books that I just want to give myself an hour or two to sit down and read. Based on the first chapter it seems interesting.
 – 1953: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, who hasn’t read Charlotte’s Web? Or at the very least seen the movie. This was one of those must reads when growing up which I remember from elementary school.
There are other Newbery books I’ve read and remember, but these are the ones that jumped out at me.

What are the other awards I watch for?

I always keep and eye out for crime fiction and true crime awards for books. Also the obligatories… Booker Prize, Pulitzer, so on and so forth.

Edgar Awards in True Crime: One of my goals is to read all of the books that have won or honored for the Edgar Allen Poe award in True Crime. To date I have read a few and own more than a few.
 – Columbine by Dave Cullen (2010 Winner), The Devil in White City by Erik Larson (2004 Winner), Death at the Priory: Sex, Love and Murder in Victorian England by James Ruddick (2003 Honor), and Til Death  Us Do Part by Vincent Bugliosi & Ken Hurwitz (1979 Winner) are a few of the winners/honors that I have on my shelf that I am looking forward to reading soon.
 – Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gentry, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick are a few of the winners of the award I have enjoyed in the past.

Booker Prize – Fiction: While I don’t have any specific goal to read through winners of the Booker Prize (or the Pulitzer for that matter) I do try to take note when a book I am reading has been a winner/honor of the award. I also like to keep up and see which books are winning each year.
 – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1986 Honor), The Book of Evidence  by John Banville (1989 Honor), Possession by A.S. Byatt (1990 Winner), Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1998 Winner), Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999 Winner), Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005 Honor) are all books I’ve got sitting on the shelves that I would like to read this year.

Pulizter Prize – Fiction/Novel:
 – 1961: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, this is one of my all time favorite books ever since first reading it in middle school.
 – 2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, I have not yet read this, but I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I’ve got it on the shelf and am looking forward to it.
 – 1991, honor: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, I told myself I would finish reading this book last year and then I didn’t. I’m holding myself to that goal for this year.
 – 1984, honor: Cathedral by Raymond Carver, I had to read this for a college english class. All I can really say is I thought it was strange.
Pulitzer Prize – Drama:
 – 1996: Rent by Jonathan Larson, based on Puccini’s La Boheme (which we all know and love, or at least I love), Jonathan Larson wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the Rent we know today. I’ve never read the book, but I plan to one of these days, hence mentioning it.
1987: Fences by August Wilson, this is one of the plays I had to read for that same college english class. When I read it for school I didn’t like it, when I went back and read it for myself just to see if the experience was any different, I quite enjoyed this.
1948: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, I bought a copy of this a while back, though I admitedly have yet to read it.
Pulitzer Prize – General Non-Fiction:
 – 2001, honor: Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover, I originally read this for my Intro to Forensic Psych class but have been looking forward to re-reading it. Preferably sooner rather than later.
 – 2007, honor: Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness by Pete Early, this was suggested to me last year and so I went and picked up a copy. It’s been sitting on my shelf since last June…

Those are some of the awards I keep an eye out for and the books associated with the awards that I’ve read or am looking forward to. I have tons of award winner read coming up, hopefully this year.

As for how I feel about awards, well I’m a little bit on the fence. I do like awards because lots of times I’ll look to see who won such and such award and then check it out. This is a good way to get recommendations for books to read, but at the same time it is not fool-proof. There are two things that I worry about when it comes to awards. First, are the judges who decide on the awards taking into account all audiences. Generally book awards are broken up into category, but there are always readers of a book you might not expect. Do the judges think about that or do they only consider basics? Also, what about the books that are not winning. Are people who see two books next to each other, one an award winner and one not, going to think less of the book that doesn’t have that little seal on the cover?  I don’t know if either of these are truly founded worries, but it’s just something I think about.
Basically, while awards can be a good thing to go by, I think its important to consider the other sources of finding reading material. By this I mean bloggers, amazon or other store websites, social sites for book lovers such as GoodReads and Shelfari. There are so many ways to find great books and I think it’s important to utilize them all.

So, there are my thoughts, plans, and opinions surrounding book awards. How do you feel about book awards and which ones, if any, do you keep an eye out for?

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