Grand Prizes: The Nobel Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award

Prizes. Honors. Awards. Writers don’t write to be acknowledged for their skill, originality, and talent, but no one would deny the warm and fuzzy feeling such acknowledgement provides, the validation that I am not only a writer, but a damn good one because look what I just won—the prize!

I avoid thinking about literary competition because I’ve always been uncomfortable with an “I’m in it to win” attitude. Sure, I’m in it for the long haul (is there another choice as a writer?), but to win? Every time I stare at a blank page I am playing against myself and that’s enough competition for me. Yet when I saw the short list in The New Yorker for the Man Booker Prize, I downloaded all the samples available on my nook, and as I began to read Karen Fowler’s, We Are All Totally Beside Ourselves, I thought: 1) This is fantastic. I need to buy this book. And then 2) Wouldn’t it be grand to win an award like the Man Booker Prize.

October is filled with the kind of grand literary competitions that can change the lives of the winners and nominees, and inspire those of us quietly working at our desks, in cafes, or wherever it is we write, to take a moment to imagine what it must be like to receive such accolades, until we lower our heads to the page again and keep writing.

Take a look below if you’re looking for a good book to read or just want to find out a little more about the prestigious literary awards in October.

The Nobel Prize in Literature:

  • Established 1901; awarded annually
  • An International award, all authors are welcome. Their body of work is considered, not just a single book.
  • Nominations are submitted by members of the Royal Swedish Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate
  • Candidates for the prize can only be revealed 50 years after their initial nomination. This year the candidates from 1964 should be made available.
  • The Award: a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a approximately $1,100,000.
  • 2014 Nobel Laureate: Patrick Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”.

The Man Booker Prize

  • Established 1968; awarded annually
  • The objective is “to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world’s most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers.”
  • The Prize: £50,000 and, like all the shortlisted authors, a check for £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book.
  • The Man Booker Prize, traditionally only open to citizens of the British Commonwealth and Ireland who published their book in the UK, as of 2014 has opened to “all novels written published in the English language.” Submission Rules.
  • The Shortlist: Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Howard Jacobson, J; Neel Mukherjee , The Lives of Others; Ali Smith, How to be Both
  • The Winner is: Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The National Book Award

  • Established in 1950; awarded annually
  • Four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature (all nominees announced in Oct)
  • For outstanding Literary work by U.S. citizens and published by an American publisher; “awards by writers to writers”;
  • Book is nominated by its publisher
  • The Prize: $10,000 ($1,000 to the finalists)
  • The Fiction Short List ; Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman; Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See; Phil Klay, Redeployment; Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven; Marilynne Robinson, Lila
  • Poetry Short List: Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night; Fanny Howe, Second Childhood; Maureen N. McLane, This Blue; Fred Moten, The Feel Trio; Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Winners: To be announced November 19, 2014


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