8 Major Book Awards and Their Winners
Have you ever picked up a book and seen a sticker of a medal stuck on the cover? I’ve always wondered what they meant, how prestigious they were, and how they were won. Authors don’t typically write books in order to win awards, but in a profession filled with self-doubt and a lottery-thin chance of success, it’s nice to see great work recognized. I can only imagine how satisfying it is for a writer to see their writing to be acknowledged in such a prestigious way. Below are eight major awards that writers (and illustrators) can win along with a brief history of each award and past winners.
Source for all award information:
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction
This prize is awarded annually to a living author who has published a book in the United Kingdom written in English in the year that the prize is given out. The Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee is the organization that selects a group of judges to vote on the winner each year. The winning author receives £50,000 as part of their award along with an increase in sales and notoriety. This prize has been given out since 1969. Authors cannot be self-published. They submit their work to the judges who then narrow down the entries until they have selected a winner.
They also select the winners of the Man Booker International Prize which is given once every two years to a book published in English or with an English translation. The author’s entire body of work is considered rather than just one piece of writing.
Previous winners of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction include: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989), The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992), Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002), and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (2014).
The Newberry Medal
This children’s book award is given out to the best children’s book by the Association for Library Service to Children. Established in 1922, it is named for John Newberry. Newberry was a publisher in the 1700’s who helped to market books for children. At that time, the British middle class found themselves with more money to spend on items like children’s books. Newberry inherited part ownership of a newspaper business which he helped to make a success and led him to starting his own publishing company, publishing high quality educational books for children. He built relationships with children’s authors who then contributed pieces to his newspapers. When he died in 1767, the American Library Association decided to create a children’s book award named in his honor.
Previous winners of the award include: The Crossover by Kwarme Alexander (2015), Holes by Louis Sachar (1999), Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990), and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1961).
The Caldecott Medal
Since 1938, this award is given to the best illustrated picture book of the year according to the Association for Library Service to Children. It was named after English Illustrator Randolph Caldecott. Caldecott was a Victorian Illustrator who illustrated nursery rhymes, postcards, greeting cards, poems, and travel books. The story books that he illustrated include Granny’s Story Box (1873), Jackanapes. (1883), Lob Lie-by-theFire (1885), and The Owls of Olynn Belfry, a Tale for Children (1885). The award is meant to honor illustrators who don’t always get the credit they deserve but who are especially important in the picture book industry. Books that have won the award include The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (2015), The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg (1986), Jumanji (1982), and One Fine Day (1972).
The National Book Award
This award has been given out by the National Book Foundation since 1936. They select winners in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Winners receive a $10,000 prize. The first ceremony was held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City in 1950. Past winners include Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison in 1953 (fiction), The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson in 1979 (children’s literature), The Color Purple by Alice Walker in 1983 (hardcover fiction), and Redeployment by Phil Klay (2014).
National Book Critics Circle Award
Founded in 1974, this award is given out each March in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Winners are voted on by critics, the only national award to do so. Their first ceremony was held in April 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. Past winners include The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis in 2014 (general nonfiction), Atonement by Ian McEwan in 2002 (fiction), and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison in 1977 (fiction).
The Nobel Prize in Literature
There are six Nobel Prize categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and economics. Named for Alfred Nobel, a Swedish engineer, the idea for the awards was suggested by Nobel himself in his will. In 1901, six years after his death, the Swedish Academy began to hand out awards in these categories. The six year delay was due to protests by Nobel’s family after he wrote in his will that the entirety of his fortune be used to set up the foundation. The prize honors the writers themselves rather than a particular body of work. Past winners include: Patrick Modiano (2014), Toni Morrison (1993), Joseph Brodsky (1987), and John Steinbeck (1962).
The Pen/Faulkner Award
This award is named after author William Faulkner who created the award using the money earned from his Nobel Prize. The word "Pen" refers to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists. Founded in 1981, submissions are judged by fellow authors who read about 300 submissions (both novels and short story collections) and select one winner and four nominees who attend a buffet dinner where the awards are handed out.
Aside from the award, they also receive a $15,000.00 prize with runners up receiving $5,000.00 Previous winners include: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2014), The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999), and World’s End by T. Coraghessan Boyle (1988).
The Pulitzer Prize
This prize was established by American journalist Joseph Pulitzer in his will. The prize recognizes writers in: journalism, letters, drama, music, and special awards and citations. There are 21 sub-categories within each category. Author awards are broken down into biography or autobiography, drama, fiction, general nonfiction, history, music, novel, and poetry awards.
Winners receive $10,000 except for the winner of the public service category in journalism, who also receives a gold medal. The ceremony takes place in April, and awards are given out by the president of Columbia University. Different sub-categories have been added over the years.
Previous fiction winners include: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr in 2015, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout in 2009, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961), and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in 1953.
What are your favorite award-winning books? Leave your answers in the comments below!