Like many young readers, I learned about two important literary awards, the Caldecott and the Newbery, in elementary school. The rest were a mystery to me for many, many years—I didn’t know how many awards there were, or what they were called, let alone what they all meant.
Readers, I know I’m not the only one who’s been there. And while it’s absolutely possible to have a vibrant reading life without knowing the ins and outs of book awards, is it fun to know what kinds of works get recognized, and why? Which lists to pay attention to if you like a certain style, genre, or section of the bookstore? Many readers say YES, and that’s why the eleventh category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you stretching yourselves this year—is “a book nominated for an award in 2017.”
Need ideas for this category? I’ve linked to each award’s online home base below, so you can browse through the 2017 nominations for the awards that particularly interest you. I’m also sharing notable winners and honorees for each award, to both give you ideas of what to read for this category and to give you a feel for the flavor of each award.
If you’re reading for fun this year, your assignment is to read “a book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet.” More on that soon!
Officially known as the Randolph Caldecott Medal, this award, administered by a division of the American Library Association (ALA), goes to each year’s most distinguished American picture book for children. The book’s illustrator receives the award. If you want to check this box really fast, or you want to hook a kindergartener on reading for life, the Caldecott list is a great place to start.
Description: Also administered by the ALA, the John Newbery Medal is given each year to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The ALA considers books written by United States citizens or residents that are first (or simultaneously) published in English. Note the spelling: I added an extra “r” for years.
Winners and Honors: Only a hundred books I adore, no big deal. The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2017), The War That Saved My Life (2015 Honor Book), When You Reach Me (2010), The Hero and the Crown (1985 Winner), Bridge to Terabithia (1978 Winner), A Wrinkle in Time (1963 Winner) Charlotte’s Web (1953 Honor Book), Strawberry Girl (1945 Winner)
The ALA’s young adult division bestows the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature each year to the best book written for teens, based on literary merit alone, and also names up to four honor books each year. Booklist magazine sponsors the award. (Please, somebody, add “sponsor a literary award” to your bucket list right now.)
The Alex Awards are given each year by the ALA to ten books written for an adult audience that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.
Recent Winners: Undocumented (2016), All the Light We Cannot See (2015), The Sea of Tranquility (2014), Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (2013), The Night Circus (2012), Ready Player One (2012), Room (2011)
Coretta Scott King
The ALA honors African-American authors and illustrators with the Coretta Scott King Awards for creating outstanding books for children and young adults, especially those that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
This is the newest award on the list. Beginning in 2012, the ALA awards the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adults published in the U.S.
Winners and Finalists: If you’d like a wide variety of books to choose from, the Carnegie longlist is long—up to 50 titles! 2018 finalists include: Lincoln in the Bardo, Killers of the Flower Moon, Sing, Unburied, Sing, Manhattan Beach, and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Past winners include The Underground Railroad (2017 Winner), Evicted (2017 Winner), All the Light We Cannot See (2015 Winner), Just Mercy (2015 Winner), The Goldfinch (2014 Winner)
National Book Award
The National Book Awards were established in 1936 by the American Booksellers Association, presented to U.S. authors for books published in the United States roughly during the award year. Its mission is “to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America.”
Winners and Finalists: Pachinko (2017 Finalist), Killers of the Flower Moon (2017 Finalist), The Hate U Give (2017 Young People’s Literature longlist), The Underground Railroad (2016 Winner), Station Eleven (2014 Finalist), Brown Girl Dreaming (2014 Young People’s Literature), Cold Mountain (1997)
Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction (often referred to only as the Booker) is awarded each year for the best novel written in the English language. They’ve long prided themselves on their “common man” approach to choosing the prize. Since its inception, the prize was awarded only to books published originally in the U.K., but in 2014 the scope was widened to include any book originally published in English.
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize board annually awards this prize for distinguished fiction published in book form by an American author. Preference is given to works dealing with American life. The jurors don’t consider all works published in a given year, but only those that have officially entered.
Recent Winners and Finalists: The Underground Railroad (2017), All the Light We Cannot See (2015), The Goldfinch (2014), The Snow Child (2013 Finalist), A Visit From the Goon Squad (2011), Olive Kitteridge (2009), The Road (2009)
The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given each year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements.
The Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar Allan Poe Awards each year to the best works in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theater.
Winners: Before the Fall (2017 Winner), Greenglass House (2015 Best Juvenile), Code Name Verity (2013 Best Young Adult), The Expats (2013 Winner), The Last Policeman (2013 Best Paperback Original), Columbine (2010 Best Fact Crime)
What are you reading for this category? What awards do you pay special attention to? Is there an award that interests you that isn’t on this list? Please share with us in comments!