This is the time of year when all the best works of literary fiction are paid their dues. There are endless awards (and award winners) to choose from so I’ve rounded up some of the most talked-about prizes for you to consider for your next great read.
The Scotiabank Giller Prize, considered to be Canada’s most prestigious prize for literary fiction, was established in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch to honour his late wife, Doris Giller, a literary journalist. This year’s winner was Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife, a short story collection about the Laos diaspora and the daily lives of Laos immigrants in Canada and across the world.
The Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award is best described as the “readers’ choice” of Canadian literary awards. Each year, a list of 10 nominees is selected by a committee of librarians and library patrons from all across the province have an opportunity to vote on their favourite. Lennox and Addington residents have participated in this award program for nearly a decade. The winner for 2020 was A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliot, which explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of the author’s own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River.
Established in 1968, The Man Booker Prize is a highly coveted award. The Booker Prize Foundation annually honours an author of an English language novel published in the UK. At the time of this writing, the winner has not been selected yet (by the time you reading this, the winner will be confirmed), but odds are in favour of Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart. Shuggie Bain is a partly autobiographical story that follows young, effeminate, bullied protagonist as he grows up in jobless, macho 1980s Scotland with his alcoholic yet spirited mother Agnes. The book next most likely to win is The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, a novel set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia.
Established in 1917 and endowed by Joseph Pulitzer, the noted Hungarian immigrant newspaper publisher, the Pulitzer Prize categories recognize distinguished works of fiction and nonfiction published in book form by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It’s basically the Giller Prize of American literature. The winner for General Fiction in 2020 was The Nickle Boys by Colson Whitehead. It is a moving novel about the horrors of a fictional reformatory school set in the Jim Crow era South.
Finally, there is the Governor General’s Literary Award. With some categories beginning as early as 1936, these annual awards have honoured outstanding English and French language works by Canadian authors in the categories of fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction, translation, and children’s literature. The 2019 prize for Fiction went to Five Wives by Joan Thomas but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the Canadian Council for the Arts has postponed their announcement for 2020’s finalists to May 2021. Until then, if you are looking for some good reads, there are plenty of resources available on the GG website at https://ggbooks.ca/.
All of the titles mention in this article can be reserved from your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries or online at www.CountyLibrary.ca.