Image of stacked books covering entire floor of library

So many books,  so little time. How do you choose?

Are you obsessed with award-winning books of all kinds? If so, have you ever done one of those challenges to read all the winners/nominees of a certain award like the Pulitzer or National Book Award?  That’s a true sign of obsession right there. Or perhaps you’re like us, and you just don’t have tons of time to read, so you pick up award winners with the hopes that a medal means quality? (Hint: Usually, but not always, since even the esteemed experts who give out book awards are often swayed by their own totally subjective opinion of the books…)

We’re feeling inspired by the announcement earlier this week that, for the first time in 35 years, the Pulitzer Prize committee did not award a fiction winner. Gasp! So let’s look at some of the book awards and winners this year. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to pick up something new and incredible…once finals are over.

Pulitzer Prize

Established in 1917 by Hungarian-born American publisher Joseph Pulitzer, these annual awards are given in the areas of journalism, literature, and music. As mentioned above, there was no winner in Fiction this year, but some of the contenders were: Swamplandia! by debut novelist Karen Russell (which was named one of the top 10 books of 2011 by the New York Times, and was long-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction), and unfinished but posthumously published novel The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (set in Peoria, IL!). We’ve highlighted some of the 2012 literature winnersbelow:the Swerve book cover

General NonfictionThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt: Are you a lover of history, philosophy and literature? Then this might be the book for you.  Best-selling biographer and Harvard professor Greenblatt tells the story of how the discovery of a single work (On the Nature of Things by Lucretius) in the 15th century had a lasting impact on the thought and works of some of the world’s greatest artists, writers and philosophers, from Shakespeare to Darwin.

Malcolm X book coverHistoryMalcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable: We’ve heard great things about this one. The late Manning Marable reportedly includes never-before-seen information about Mr. X. If you’re already a Malcolm X fan, or want a remarkable introduction to this influential, and infamous, 20th century change-maker, put this on your must-read list.

National Book Awards

The National Book Awards (NBAs), another important American literary prize, is awarded each fall to exceptional works of literature in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature. The awards were established in 1950 by the nonprofit National Book Foundation and are judged by well-known published writers, including past NBA winners, chosen each year. Check out some of the 2011 winners:

Salvage the Bones book cover

FictionSalvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward: Chosen out of the 315 fiction titles submitted for judging in 2011, Ward’s novel draws on her Mississippi upbringing to tell a tale of family and poverty that takes place during the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. If you can handle a little heartache, this beautiful story is very much worth it. (Finalists for this award included: debut novel The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, and The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, both of which are high on our Summer reading list!)

Inside Out and Back Again book coverYoung People’s LiteratureInside Out & Back Again, by Thanna Lai: Lai takes us to Saigon at the time of the Vietnam War, shown to us through the perspective of ten-year-old Ha. She and her family flee Saigon when the war breaks out, exchanging the warmth and beauty Ha has known for the very foreign land of Alabama, a move that reflects Lai’s own childhood experience. The novel is actually told in verse, making it atmospheric, simple and stunning. Make it the most unique thing you read this year!

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