The Booker & Pulitzer Fiction Prize Winners: My Stats, Likes & Dislikes

This month two books were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead and Hernan Diaz’s Trust. This got me thinking about this award and the book awards in general. Though I do not actively follow the Booker or Pulitzer awards, I have decided to find out how many books I read that won these prestigious prizes and what I thought about them. My results below (two separate columns for each award) show that I have only read a tiny fraction of the actual winners (14 Pulitzer for Fiction and 13 Booker prize winners), but from these I did enjoy and agree on the merits of many. The Booker Prize is awarded for “the best sustained work of fiction written in English and published in the UK and Ireland“, and I guess from the winners, that the (unusual) plot structure and the beauty of language are quite important with regards to this prize. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded for “for distinguished fiction published during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life“, so possibly, the power of the message/theme would be as important as the writing.

The Booker Prize Winners:

The Ones I Loved:

The Remains of the Day

The God of Small Things

The Ones I Found “Very Good”:

The Luminaries

Schindler’s List

The English Patient

Hotel du Lac

The Sense of an Ending

The Ones I Found “Ok”:

Possession: A Romance

Oscar & Lucinda

The Conservationist

The Ones I Did Not Get Along With:

The Life of Pi (I’ve also heard of this plagiarism case)

Lincoln in the Bardo (too whimsical for me?)

The Old Devils

The Ones I Want To Read:

Offshore (Penelope Fitzgerald)

Life & Times of Michael K (J.M. Coetzee)

Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)

Bring Up The Bodies (Hilary Mantel)

Short-listed nominees I particularly liked: Never Let Me Go, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and A Little Life; and see also my two other shortlisted books’ reviews: The Blackwater Lightship and The Fishermen.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (& Novel) Winners:

The Ones I Loved:

To Kill A Mockingbird

The Age of Innocence

The Grapes of Wrath


The Colour Purple

Gone with the Wind

The Goldfinch

The Nickel Boys

The Ones I Found “Very Good”:

The Hours

The Underground Railroad

The Ones I Found “Ok”:

The Road

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


The One I Did Not Get Along With:

Breathing Lessons

The Ones I Want To Read:

Trust (Hernan Diaz)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon)

Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry)

A Death in the Family (James Agee)

The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder)

Finalists I liked and reviewed: There There, and The Poisonwood Bible.

The day before yesterday, we also had the winner of the International Booker Prize 2023 – Georgi Gospodinov’s book Time Shelter and, and now also have the shortlists for both the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, with its winners to be announced in June.

Further afield, I am also sporadically following the most prestigious French literary award – Le Prix Goncourt, which actually has a nominal monetary prize of 10 Euros, and have loved and reviewed some its winners (see my reviews of Chamoiseau’s Texaco, Gary’s The Roots of Heaven, and Le Tellier’s The Anomaly), and the big literary award from Italy – The Strega Prize, that was previously awarded to such “heavyweights” as Alberto Moravia, Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese, Umberto Eco, and Dino Buzzati (see my review of the winners – Morante’s Arturo’s Island, and Bufalino’s Night’s Lies). I am doing less well with the two prestigious literary prizes from Japan – the Akutagawa Prize and especially the Naoki Prize. Although I have read many author winners of the Akutagawa Prize (such as Shūsaku Endō, Yasushi Inoue, Kōbō Abe, Yōko OgawaYoko Tawada), I have not read many of their actual winning books, save from Oyamada’s The Hole and Murata’s Convenience Store Woman.

What is your experience with the Booker or/and Pulitzer Prize winners, or maybe with the National Book Award, Women’s Prize for Fiction or other countries’ literary prizes? Are there any winners you hate or love, or books you think should have won? What do you think about book awards in general?


21 thoughts on “The Booker & Pulitzer Fiction Prize Winners: My Stats, Likes & Dislikes

  1. I have mostly only read the ones you loved and I agree with all of those. I also loved The Bridge of San Luis Rey and The Good Earth, though both would probably be considered cultural appropriation now. Book awards in general – it isn’t possible to choose a single “best book” so I think they perhaps unfairly single out certain titles. Why not honor a range of excellent books? But people like to have their choices simplified I suppose.

    The one I am most annoyed about is The Old Devils winning over both The Handmaid’s Tale AND What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies, who should have won at some point. (As Atwood did, eventually).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cultural appropriation. I agree that the writer has to do their research well, but the revisionist history is also dangerous and double standards were employed regarding this concept. It may also stifle creativity. I think part of the meaning of art, fiction and its creation is a sense of wonder, and that may be wonder regarding another country, culture and way of life. Writers write to try understand something, and that may be another culture. We can only write from our points of view, and in the times of globalisation, we are capable of travelling everywhere, living anywhere, changing citizenships, and attuning to and assimilating different cultures.

      Yes, I also believe The Handmaid’s Tale should have won, and the drawbacks of awards are also numerous. I guess there is this thinking that with any contest, there must be a single winner, like the Olympic games, or somethings. Wasn’t Woody Allen who said that “if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t.”

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  2. The good thing about prizes is they bring more attention to books and reading, which is not a bad thing at all. The International Booker is one I follow along with the Walter Scott. I enjoy seeing the range of books nominated for the Women’s Prize and I love the Dublin Literary Award for its longlist because nominations come in from libraries around the world. I enjoy hearing news about other prizes, but don’t follow them closely.

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  3. Great idea of post!
    Of all these titles, I have ony read 13. Yes, do read Mantel’s, and the whole trilogy. It’s fascinating to see how she describes the evolution of the character from one book to the next

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  4. I used to be more interested in the Booker when it promoted writers from colonial-legacy countries – now that it’s open to everyone writing in English it often goes to Brits or Americans who already get plenty of publicity. I have a tendency to assume I won’t enjoy prize-winning novels since they often seem to be picked for political correctness rather than literary merit, but I suspect I’m being a bit reverse-snobbish about that. I’m intrigued enough to go look at the lists of winners and see how many I’ve read and what I thought of them. I may copy your idea for a post, with attribution of course, if that would be OK with you? That is, if I find I’ve read enough of the winners to make a post about!

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  5. These were some interesting insights! I never actively search for award-winning books and, since my favorite genre by far is fantasy, I figured I probably wouldn’t have read that many of these – but I actually have! I wholeheartedly agree with you that The God of Small Things and To Kill a Mockingbird are excellent, and that Lincoln in the Bardo was a bit of a dud. I really didn’t like Beloved either, though 😅 (Unpopular opinion, I know.) In exchange, though, I quite enjoyed Life of Pi, even if I wouldn’t necessary call it a favorite…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinions! I may give Life of Pi a re-read one of these days. The Hugo Award for best sci-fi or fantasy work is fun to follow at times, but I have read only a few winners. I also see some prejudice against fantasy works in most prestigious book awards and am obviously not happy about it. Clarke’s Jonathan Strange wasn’t even shortlisted for the Booker…

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  6. I don’t follow the Booker prize (or other prizes) but I’ve read quite a few of them! The God of Small Things was in my lit syllabus and I thought it was good! Same for To Kill A Mockingbird, it made a huge impact on me when I first read it.

    Demon Copperhead is also on my TBR so I’m excited for that.

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