Literary awards can seem so arbitrary when you think of the sheer amount of books and the relatively small amount of ‘judges’ who read only a few. And how so much personal context—your life story, your perspective, your surroundings, how you read the book—goes into one’s judgment of it. But awards give way to fun discussion, I suppose. Perhaps an award may help you discover a book that a group of people have deemed worthwhile in some way. Maybe you’ll disagree.
Last year I picked up Less by Andrew Sean Greer simply because it had won the 2018 Pulitzer, and I liked it well enough. However, I was blown away last month when I read one of the finalists, In the Distance by Hernan Diaz. And see, the awards have produced in me a feeling of resentment towards Less, a perfectly fine book, for being called ‘better’ than the book I preferred.
The other day, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded to Richard Powers’ 600+ page tome about trees, The Overstory. Powers has been distinguished before for his novel The Echo Maker, which won the National Book Award in 2006, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. The Overstory was shortlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize.
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