Book Prizes. I love them.


Once my husband said to me “You tweet about book prizes so much… it seems like there’s a prize every week…”

Which made me inexplicably peevish and I said “So what?” and “This is a problem for you how?”

Granted, there does seem to be a particular time in the year when it’s Prize City (like how all our family birthdays happen at the end of November and we call November ‘Birthday Month’). That said, I really only pay close attention to the Stella Prize (shortlist announced this week, and the winner on April 19), the Baileys Prize (shortlist announced April 11 and winner on June 8), and the Man Booker (July and September action). I also like to hear the result of the Pulitzer (winner announced April 18) and the Man Booker International (winner announced May 16). But that’s really it.

Obviously my husband needs to cool his jets about book prizes (because there are lots of others I could tweet about).

But it did get me thinking – why do I love book  prizes? Why do I love the announcement of a longlist and a shortlist so much?

First and foremost it’s a list. I just love lists.

Secondly, I like to see if the books I’ve loved have made the list – confirmation of my excellent taste in literature*. If there’s nothing I’ve read on a list (can’t actually remember this happening but….), then I get busy reading so that I have a book to cheer for.

So, with that in mind, here’s the Bailey’s Prize 2016 longlist:

A God In Ruins – Kate Atkinson
Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett
Ruby – Cynthia Bond
The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton
Whispers Through a Megaphone – Rachel Elliott
The Green Road – Anne Enright
The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah
Gorsky – Vesna Goldsworthy
The Anatomist’s Dream – Clio Gray
At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison
Pleasantville – Attica Locke
The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney
The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie
Girl at War – Sara Nović
The House at the Edge of the World – Julia Rochester
The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild
My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

I’m cheering for Rush Oh!, The Portable Veblen and My Name is Lucy Barton. There’s no question that I loved A Little Life but I just wonder if it’s too much of a book. Equally, I loved The Green Road but I’m not sure that it’s enough. I kind of expected Eileen to make the list but oh well… It’s a strong field and I don’t envy the judges the task ahead.

Later this week I’ll be posting and tweeting about the Stella Prize as well (so husband, if you’re reading this, either get off Twitter or calm your farm).

*smart-arse font used there.


16 responses

  1. I had no idea that the longlist for this year’s Bailey’s Prize was going to be released tonight until I saw the tweets a few hours earlier so yeah, I was pretty excited this entire evening 😛 It’s quite a list, I recognise most of them and have about two on my TBR pile at the moment (I am pleasantly surprised to see Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on the list, I heard so many good things about it last year). Also, I really want to read My Name is Lucy Barton now 🙂

    • Well that was a nice surprise for you! Lucy Barton was terrific but has stiff competition this year. Usually there’s one that I really, really love – this year there’s about four that I would like to see win!

    • I have The Secret Chord in my TBR stack and would like to read Whispers Through a Megaphone but, with the Stella Prize shortlist being announced tomorrow, I’ll probably delay my Baileys reading until the shortlist is announced.

  2. I only have 4 – possibly 5 – of these and I haven’t read any yet! I’m like you, I love book prize lists but there are so many on this list I haven’t even heard of! Time for some research…I’m looking forward to reading The Glorious Heresies and The Improbability Of Love. And I’d hoped Eileen would make the list – got it too, still to read it too. Wish I read faster – and there were less distractions in my house!

  3. I do read these lists as a point of reference, a means to ferret out some good reads that have flown beneath my bookish radar.

    But, I fantasize about being a voting member on of the Booker or (U.S.) National Book Award committee(s). I’d be most vociferous about nominating my favorite books-of-the-year. Of course, all of my choices would be most deserving of the awards, along with their authors; in the past, my personal picks have been suspiciously overlooked. That said, I probably wouldn’t be a very popular ,or democratic ,committee member.

    • I also had vague fantasies about sitting on one of these judging committees, until I read that they had to read each book multiple times – say you hated it?! I’ve since found my outlet in ‘shadow panels’ – far more fun and no stress! As much as I’s like to do a shadow panel of the Baileys shortlist, it overlaps with the Stella Prize and I’ve already signed up for the Stella shortlist reading group. Must say that in taking part in these groups, you do read stuff that you might not have otherwise picked up.

  4. Well done on having already read so many, and look forward to hearing about the others you are interested in, I’ve only read The Secret Chord and it wasn’t my cup of tea, but love how eclectic this list is, with sci fi, mystery, thriller, fan fiction, it’s diverse in genre as well as nationalities!

    Looking forward to the Man Booker International tomorrow too, hoping to see the South Korean writer Han Kang on the list!

    • I have The Secret Chord in my TBR stack – I will get to it eventually but must admit that the description didn’t grab me in the way that her other books have (which I have loved).

      I don’t have any predictions for the Man Booker International but no doubt I’ll be tempted by lots on the list.

  5. I love lists too. Literary prizes aid a lot of discussion around books and have been the source of a lot of my favourite discoveries over the years. I wanted to see Eileen on the Baileys longlist too but alas, it wasn’t to be…

    • Since the list was published I’ve thought of others that missed out – for example Anna Hope’s The Ballroom – I haven’t read it (yet) but it did seem to be a book that was generating a lot of excitement.

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