Awards Season Cheat Sheet

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Many major book awards will be announced soon. The New York Times offers a guide to the contenders, beginning with the Nobel Prize in Literature, to be announced a week later than usual this year, on Oct. 13. It’s the most difficult to predict, both because the voting process is secretive and because the prize is often awarded less for literary excellence than for political reasons. As Philip Roth, a perennial contender, once remarked, “I wonder if I had called ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ ‘The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism,’ if I would thereby have earned the favor of the Swedish Academy.” With so little to go on, the NYT reports on betting in the U.K., which is led by usual suspect Haruki Murakami and the Syrian poet Adonis.

The Man Booker Prize, which will be announced on Oct. 25, is easier because the judges have announced a shortlist of six titles. The two U.S. contenders were published here in 2015 (as a U.K. award, eligibility is based on U.K. publication dates) and have track records. The Sellout by Paul Blatty (Macmillan/FSG, 3/3/15; OverDrive Sample) won the National Book Critics Circle Award last year and Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen (PRH/Penguin; OverDrive Sample; 8/18/15) was on the shortlist. On the other hand, David Szalay’s  All That Man Is (Macmillan/Graywolf; OverDrive Sample; 10/4/16) has just been released here and is just beginning to receive consumer reviews. The NYT does not hazard a guess at who will win.

The U.K.’s Guardian offers analyses of the list from the perspective of one of the judges, who claims to love them all, and from the odds makers who put Deborah Levy in the lead for Hot Milk (Macmillan/Bloomsbury USA; OverDrive Sample; 7/12/16), described by the judge as “like Virginia Woolf with good jokes.” Don’t take much stock in the odds, however, as the Guardian notes, “the frontrunner hardly ever wins.”

The fiction and nonfiction longlists for National Book Awards are also analyzed, but not the poetry and young people’s lit. longlists. The shortlists will be announced on Oct. 6.

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