Literary awards aren’t like film awards. There is no televised ceremony or red carpet. You can read the books, which is just as satisfying, and then bet on who the winners will be, though.
Awards for books are announced year round, but prestigious prizes for authors come in the fall. The Man Booker Prize comes in October followed by the National Book Award and the Nobel Prize in Literature in November. So without further ado, let's explore who's up for this year's prizes.
The Man Booker Prize, aka the Booker Prize, honors the best English language fiction novel of the year. It’s a big-league award with past winners such as Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch.
Started in 1969, the prize's guidelines originally specified that the book needed to be published in the U.K. In 2014, the criteria was expanded to allow any English language book. To win the Booker Prize is to be named the best book of the year in Ireland, India, Canada, England, South Africa and the U.S. — countries with much literary tradition.
Before the criteria expansion, American authors couldn't win, but in the past two years, America has become a literary threat to the rest of the English-speaking world. When Paul Beatty and his book, The Sellout, finally brought the first Booker Prize to the U.S. in 2016, it was a shock because no one had ever heard of Beatty.
This year's shortlist for the award has already been announced, and there is a 50 percent chance that an American will win top honors again. Paul Auster, George Saunders and Emily Fridlund will all try to prove last year was no fluke. Here’s the complete shortlist:
The National Book Award (NBA) is the big award for American writers. It focuses on books published in the U.S. But make no mistake — just because it’s not international like the Booker Prize doesn’t mean it’s without a noteworthy canon. Past winners include Susan Sontag, Alice Walker and William Faulkner.
Few of the nominees have been recognized by national fiction awards. Jesmyn Ward won the NBA in 2011 for her novel Salvage the Bones. Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2011 for A Visit from the Goon Squad, and she was a shortlist finalist for the NBA in 2001.
Here are the authors and titles of this year's longlist:
• Jennifer Egan — Manhattan Beach
• Jesmyn Ward — Sing, Unburied, Sing
• Carol Zoref — Barren Island
Five of these writers will move on to the shortlist on Wednesday, and the winner will be announced on November 16.
The Booker and the NBA don’t really compare to the Nobel Prize in Literature. First of all, the Nobel Prize recognizes lifetime achievement. Second, it suggests accomplishments of historical proportions. Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature means that your life’s work has contributed to the betterment of humanity, whereas winning the Booker or the NBA means that you wrote a good book this year.
That being said, let’s try to forecast this award through the speculations of gamblers and bookies (and by bookies, I don’t mean people who like fiction novels).
International betting sites such as Ladbrokes have had close predictions in the past few years. Ladbrokes uses UK odds which work by predicting likeliness of an event and how many people agree that it will happen. Essentially, an event with 1-1 odds is expected to certainly happen, and everybody betting thinks it will happen. An event with 100-1 odds is extremely unlikely, and nobody thinks it will happen.
Before Bob Dylan's win last year, the winner usually turned out to be a writer with at least 10-1 odds.
According to Bustle, this year the top three are the Kenyan former political prisoner and writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (4-1), the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (5-1) and the popular Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood (6-1).
Nobel Prizes start being awarded on October 2 with physiology and medicine. The literature prize usually comes up in the first two weeks of November, though no dates have been announced yet.