Prize longlists, shortlists and winners: do you take notice?




There’s been a flurry of activity of late with the announcement of two prize longlists that I take notice of: The Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly The Orange Prize) and the Miles Franklin Prize. The Stella Prize has also recently announced its shortlist. Why do I take notice of these prizes? For several reasons: the Miles Franklin and Stella prizes are Australian and I feel that I don’t always read enough Australian fiction despite being Aussie! Plus, there’s always something comforting about having a place described to you that you know well. In regards to the Women’s Prize for Fiction, I’ve found some great authors and books through reading some of the books on the list (such as Jane Harris).

I suppose too that in reviewing what you’ve read against a list that a notable group find ‘worthy’, there’s that sense of feeling that you’re on the ‘right track’ (whatever that is, you could probably insert smug instead!) There’s also the feeling that you had discovered a particular book before it came to mainstream notice. (I could say that happened to me with Song for Achilles, but the reality is I won a copy and was enticed by the shiny cover and that someone stopped me at the station to express their love for the book. There was nothing cerebral about it).

So what about other prize lists? I do take some notice of the Man Booker Prize, but I wouldn’t knock myself out to read the entire list. I do take the time to read the list and note down any that take my fancy. The Pulitzer Prize I don’t take notice of, but that’s because I really haven’t agreed with some of their choices (and non-choices) of late. So I feel (possibly wrongly) that it’s not the kind of list that has many books that I’d like.

There’s hundreds of other awards out there (have a look at this Wikipedia article, which is a nice summary). I bet you’ve seen a book in a shop that states ‘winner of…’ or ‘shortlisted for…’ a prize that you’re not familiar with. Would shortlisting or winning a literary prize influence whether you read a book?

Back to the lists I follow – I like the Women’s Prize for Fiction because it introduces me to great new books and writers. In fact, I’ve taken to writing a list of the list, rating them (x = no, will never read, ü = definitely read, ? = might read with more ? equalling more uncertainty) and comparing sources (ebook versus paper book and availability in Australia). I get the greatest pleasure from crossing off books I’ve read!

This is the 2013 longlist:

Kitty Aldridge – A Trick I Learned From Dead Men
Kate Atkinson – Life After Life
Ros Barber – The Marlow Papers
Shani Boianjiu – The People of Forever are Not Afraid
Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
Sheila Heti – How Should a Person Be?
A M Homes – May We Be Forgiven
Barbara Kingslover – Flight Behaviour
Deborah Copaken Kogen – The Red Book
Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies
Bonnie Nadzam – Lamb
Emily Perkins – The Forrests
Michèle Roberts – Ignorance
Francesca Segal – The Innocents
Maria Semple – Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Elif Shafak – Honour
Zadie Smith – N-W
M L Stedman – The Light Between Oceans
Carrie Tiffany – Mateship with Birds
G Willow Wilson – Alif the Unseen

I’ve read Life After Life, Gone Girl and The Red Book. I have Honour, N-W, The Light Between Oceans and The Innocents on my pile. Will any of these make it through to the long list? I’m not good at guessing, but I hope Life After Life does for its originality!

The Miles Franklin longlist was only released this week. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that I had read one (!) book already (Questions of Travel). I have some of them to read (Lola Bensky, The Daughters of Mars, The Light Between Oceans and The Mountain). But for me, this list is not quite as ‘fun’, it’s a bit more serious. Here’s the list below:

Romy Ash – Floundering
Lily Brett – Lola Bensky
Brian Castro – Street to Street
Michelle de Kretser – Questions of Travel
Annah Faulkner – The Beloved
Tom Keneally – The Daughters of Mars
Drusilla Modjeska – The Mountain
M L Stedman – The Light Between Oceans
Carrie Tiffany – Mateship with Birds
Jacqueline Wright – Red Dirt Talking

I’ll try to read books from both lists (note that The Light Between Oceans and Mateship with Birds are on both), but will probably fail miserably! Do you have plans to read books from prize longlists before the winner is announced?

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6 thoughts on “Prize longlists, shortlists and winners: do you take notice?

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  1. I take notice to a degree. A few years ago I used to make an effort to read from the lists but not so much anymore. I always find it interesting to see what does and doesn’t make the list though!

  2. I don’t tend to read books which are on prize lists just because they are on the list but it does sometimes make me take notice of books I might not have encountered otherwise, so they’re good in that sense

  3. I’ve read some prize-winning books that I’ve hated, most recently Julain Barnes Sense of an Ending. However, more often than not, prize shortlists have introduced me to books I’ve loved. Usually I’ll cross reference them against other sources to decide whether I’m truly interested. Like you, I feel that I don’t read enough Australian fiction and I’ve been making an effort to remedy that this year, in particular Australian women’s fiction. so the Stella and Miles Franklin lists have been of more interest to me this year than they might normally be.

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