Book Awards Reading Challenge

I’m already a month late for this challenge, as it started August 1st.  Dang.  Last year, the rules were to read 12 award winning books in 12 months.  This year, the rules are to read 10 award winning books in 10 months.  Here are the rules, from the awards website:

  1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.
  2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.
  3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.
  4. You don’t have to post your choices right away, and your list can change at any time.
  5. ‘Award winners’ is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs, keeping in mind Rule #2.
  6. SIGN UP using Mr. Linky below.
  7. Have fun reading!

The Awards Blog is helpful, with lists that you can select from, though rule 5 says that ‘Award winners’ is loosely defined, which I’m guessing would mean you can select from other lists than the ones stated, and that you can maybe go with shortlisted books as well.  I’m not sure.  Anyway, I’m thankful for rule number 3, that overlaps with other challenges are permitted.  I’m already a month into the contest, for one, and my TBR challenge still has quite a few books on it that I haven’t picked up yet.  So, I’m going to count whatever books are eligible from my other reading lists first, and then get into new ones after that.

1. Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt – Winner of the Man Booker Prize.

I’m reading this for the Man Booker Challenge as well.  Here’s the  blurb written by one of the staff at

For years I talked about Holden Caulfield and Rob Fleming as the only two characters in literature I ever identified with, the only two I ever read about and thought, “That is my life.” Then I read Possession. Then I met Roland Michell.  As I read the book, I devoured every word, trying to decide if Byatt was a masterful author, an insightful literary critic, or a brilliant poet, and in the end deciding on all three. I flew through the book, knowing I would have to complete it before the movie was released, only to find myself absolutely compelled to turn every page. This is the first book of the year that kept drawing me back since Kavalier and Clay. Then I hit the last fifty pages.

What Roland goes through in the last fifty pages, the choices he is forced to make with his life, where to go, how to proceed, these were indeed the self-same choices I had been facing for the last two years. At that point it was no longer just a brilliant book; it was speaking to me in a way only Catcher in the Rye and High Fidelity had spoken to me before. Perhaps it will not speak to you as it spoke to me, but perhaps it will, for this is a powerful, masterfully written book, and believe me, it does speak.

2. The Gathering, by Anne Enright – Winner of the Man Booker Prize.

I’m also reading this for the Man Booker Challenge.

The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him — something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968.  As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester.  The Gathering is a family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. This is a novel about love and disappointment, about how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

3. Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott – Winner of the National Book Award

I’m reading Charming Billy for my TBR Challenge.  That’s the list with the most unread books still on it, so I’ll be glad to read this one.

Everyone loved him. If you knew Billy at all, then you loved him. The late Billy Lynch’s family and friends, a party of forty-seven, gather at a small bar and grill somewhere in the Bronx to remember better times in good company, and to redeem the pleasure of a drink or two from the miserable thing that a drink had become in Billy’s life. His widow, Maeve, is there and everyone admires the way she is holding up, just as they always admired the way she cared for Billy after the alcohol had ruined him. But one cannot think of Billy Lynch’s life, one’s own relentless affection for him, without saying at some point, “There was that girl. The Irish girl”. And one can’t help but think that the real story of his life lay there.

4. Just In Case, by Meg Rosoff – Winner of the Carnegie Medal

The next few books on my list are Young Adult books. I’ve always really enjoyed this genre, and have found myself getting away from it, partially due to just plain getting older, but also partially due to all of these challenges that I take on.  So the best solution is to combine the YA genre with a challenge, right?

After finding his younger brother teetering on the edge of his balcony, fifteen-year-old David Case realizes the fragility of life and senses impending doom. Without looking back, he changes his name to Justin and assumes a new identity, new clothing and new friends, and dares to fall in love with the seductive Agnes Day. With his imaginary dog Boy in tow, Justin struggles to fit into his new role and above all, to survive in a world where tragedy is around every corner. He’s got to be prepared, just in case.

5. Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal, by Mal Peet – Winner of the Carnegie Medal

Another Young Adult book.

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

6. Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins – Winner of the Newbery Award

Yet another Young Adult book.

Debbie is wishing something would happen. Something good. To her. Soon. In the meantime, Debbie loses a necklace and finds a necklace (and boy does the necklace have a story to tell), she goes jeans shopping with her mother (an accomplishment in diplomacy), she learns to drive shift in a truck (illegally), she saves a life (directly connected to being able to drive, thus proving something), she takes a bus ride to another town (in order to understand what it feels like to be from “elsewhere”), she meets a boy (who truly is from “elsewhere”), but mostly she hangs out with her friends: Patty, Hector, Lenny, and Phil. Their paths cross. Their stories crisscross. And in Lynne Rae Perkins’s remarkable book, a girl and her wish grow up.

7. Small Island, by Andrea Levy – Winner of the Orange Prize, the Costa/Whitbread Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.  This one showed up on so many prize lists, I couldn’t resist.

Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

8. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder – Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  This book made it into the header graphic for the challenge blog, and as I really liked three of the other four books up there, I thought I should look into this one as well.

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins “The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world. By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

9. Paddy Clark, Ha Ha Ha, by Roddy Doyle – Winner of the Booker Prize.  I read “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors“, by Doyle, a few years ago, and it freaked me out.  Really well done, but hard to read.  There’s a sequel to it, Paula Spencer, but I don’t know that I’m brave enough to spend more time with Paula.  But this book keeps popping up on a lot of lists, so I’ll give it a shot.

In this national bestseller and winner of the Booker Prize, Roddy Doyle, author of the “Barrytown Trilogy”, takes us to a new level of emotional richness with the story of ten-year-old Padraic Clarke. Witty and poignant–and adored by critics and readers alike–Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha charts the triumphs, indignities, and bewilderment of Paddy as he tries to make sense of his changing world.

10. The Fifth Child, by Doris Lessing – Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The Nobel Prize is different than the others included for this challenge.  An author wins the Nobel Prize more for their whole body of work than for one specific book.  So I looked through Ms. Lessing’s catalog, and decided to read this one.

In the unconstrained atmosphere of England in the late 1960s, Harriet and David Lovatt, an upper-middle-class couple, face a frightening vicissitude. As the days’ events take a dark and ugly turn nearing apocalyptic intensity, the Lovatts’ guarded contentedness and view of the world as a benign place are forever shattered by the violent birth of their fifth child: Ben, monstrous in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong, demanding, brutal.

7 thoughts on “Book Awards Reading Challenge

  1. Thanks for sharing these, J! I’ve been meaning to pick up a couple of these. I was interested in the blurb for Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt.

    Very few books speak to me the way Catcher in the Rye does.

  2. I loved “Possession.” I’ve read it at least 5 times. (Possibly more, but I only started keeping a book journal in 1996.) I love the whole thing–and am probably one of the few people who loved the book who enjoyed the movie, too. Interestingly, though, I have not been able to get through any other of Byatt’s books.

  3. J
    I have a great book for you to read! It’s called “Atlas Shrugged”! My friend Shannon told me about it! Check out on Wiki stub!

  4. Jimmy, I think you may need to change parties. My mom was a HUGE fan of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ back in the 60s, 70s, and some of the 80s, and that helped her towards becoming a Libertarian. As she got older, she changed her mind from the individualistic paradigm espoused by Rand and decided that because the government won’t stay out of the free market enough, and that the free market leaves too many people at the bottom of the ladder to suffer. So she became a Democrat. But it was a bitter pill for her to swallow, because she wanted very dearly to see Rand’s ideas come to pass.

  5. J, I’ve been following all the speeches by the political candidates recently…as well as the banter between you, Jimmy and Jeanna 🙂 American politics are far more interesting and entertaining that Canadian politics! We’re actually going to the polls on October 14th. John and I have been following our candidates speeches here as well. Still not as exciting as American politics though!

  6. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is one of the best books I’ve read about what life is like for a small boy. He really captures the perspective and the speech patterns.
    The Fifth Child is disturbing but very interesting, but best not read while expecting a child or planning to get pregnant…

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