There are many individuals who believe that a book that wins a literary award is not eminently more readable or satisfying than any other book they may select on their own. A couple of my book club members recently questioned the motives of judges and the selection criteria, and commented that major award-winning books often tend to be experimental and/or unique, but not necessarily an “easy” read. Despite this healthy skepticism about the judging and selection process of most major literary awards, winning does translate into an increase in book sales. As a librarian, I do value awards such as the Man Booker Prize, The Governor General’s Literary Awards and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, as they promote the arts and increase the reading of quality literature. Given the vast quantities of books published each and every day, it is helpful to have some tools (other than review journals and bestseller lists) that narrow down the playing field and focus public interest on what has captured the hearts of publishers, the reading public, and the judging panels.
The winner of the Man Booker International Prize was announced on May 22, 2013. The winner was Lydia Davis, an American author recognized for crafting spare, philosophical and original works. Davis has translated several prominent French authors including Gustave Flaubert, and has written several short story collections, and one novel. Guelph Public Library owns two of her works, including The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
Canadian author Josip Novakovich was among the 10 finalists for this year’s prize, which is handed out every second year to a living author for achievement in fiction (either originally in English or translated in the English language). Although Novakovich was originally born in what is now knows as Croatia, he currently lives in Montreal and recently became a Canadian citizen. His novel, April Fool’s Day, is available through Guelph Public Library.
Among the finalists were authors from the United States, Israel, China, Switzerland, Russia, France, Indian and Pakistan. The prize is worth more than $90,000. The Man Booker Prize website notes that: the winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there are no submissions from publishers. The Man Booker International Prize is significantly different from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction. In seeking out literary excellence, the judges consider a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.
The Man Booker International Prize received a lot of media coverage in 2009, when Canada’s Alice Munro was announced as the deserving winner.
This international prize has only existed since 2005, whereas the Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969 with the aim of promoting the finest in fiction. Ultimately, the judges seek to reward the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. Hilary Mantel’s book Bring Up The Bodies was the 2012 Man Booker Prize winner.
Book Summary: The year is 1535 and Thomas Cromwell, chief Minister to Henry VIII, must work both to please the king and keep the nation safe. Anne Boleyn, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church, has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. As Henry develops a dangerous attraction to Wolf Hall’s Jane Seymour, Thomas must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.
Check it out and make your own decision about whether it is a “good read”!