Infographic: Anatomy of a Prize Winner

Ah, the nuts and bolts of a prizewinning book. Who writes these victorious books? Are they men or women? Whose stories are being told? Who is reading them? And what books are the best of the bunch if you want a great read?

At Goodreads, we have long been interested in the subject of professional opinion versus user-generated opinion, so this year we thought it was high time to revisit the anatomy of a prizewinning book.

We learned that male authors win more often than female authors, and novels centered on a woman’s journey don’t win major literary prizes as often as stories about men or featuring multiple protagonists. Men tend to win more and write about men’s stories more. In fact, an in-depth analysis of book data on Goodreads found that only 18 percent of 95 prizewinning books from 2000 to 2017 featured a woman as the standalone main character.

Together with the analytics team, engineers, and designers, we looked at a random sample size of 40,000 active members on the site (20,000 men and 20,000 women) and examined 95 prizewinning books from 2000 to 2017. These books won the following prizes: PEN/Faulkner AwardsPulitzer PrizesNational Book AwardsThe Man Booker Prizes, and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Awards.

The results support a very interesting 2015 study by author and researcher Nicola Griffith. It’s also been two years since Griffith’s post, so we looked to see if there were any new trends in the data.

In 2016 and 2017 the ten works included in our research mainly followed the same pattern as the one Griffith saw, with more male authors winning, and more books with a lead male protagonist winning. Even this week, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fictionwas awarded to Andrew Sean Greer for Less: A Novel, which according to our site is an enjoyable read, but still a book by a man about a man. Interestingly, there was one book in the past two years that bucked the trend entirely, The Underground Railroad, which featured a female protagonist and was written by a male author (Colson Whitehead).

So, please enjoy this infographic! We’ll let you debate all the glorious questions that come forth. Why do stories about men get more conventional endorsement? Interesting counterpoint: The Pacific Standard points out that among best-selling authors, men and women are represented equally. What surprises you? What doesn’t?

Happy reading!
Elizabeth

P.S. For more fun reading data, check out our earlier infographic Sex and Reading!

 

By Elizabeth, April 19, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog
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Bar Americans From Man Booker Prize, Fed-Up British Authors Urge

George Saunders, who won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for “Lincoln in the Bardo,” was the second consecutive American to receive the award. The eligibility rules were changed in 2014. Credit: Chris Jackson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — The Man Booker Prize is Britain’s most prestigious literary award. But for the past two years, American writers have dominated the competition — and authors from Britain and the Commonwealth countries are none too pleased.

The crescendo of frustration may have reached a peak. A group that counts the literary heavyweights Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Zadie Smith among its members has fired a shot across the bow, demanding that the Man Booker Foundation reverse a 2014 decision making any novel written in English and published in Britain eligible for the prize.

Leading authors and critics from the group, the Rathbones Folio Academy, bashed the Booker’s policy anew this week, arguing that changing the rules had taken away the distinctiveness of the prize, which was previously limited to writers from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth.

They also criticized the way in which the Man Booker, begun in 1969, had highlighted less well known and prominent literature.

“The Man Booker used to provide a point of focus each year for British and Commonwealth fiction, a sense that this had some identity-in-difference, and that British and Commonwealth novels were in some sense ‘talking to one another’ — as distinct from any conversation going on in U.S. fiction,” Tessa Hadley, a British author and member of the Folio Academy, said by email. “Now, it’s as though we’re perceived, and perceive ourselves, as only a subset of U.S. fiction, lost in its margins and eventually, this dilution of the community of writers plays out in the writing,” she added.

Read the rest of the article here…

George Saunders Wins Man Booker Prize For ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’

George Saunders Book

Author George Saunders poses with his book Lincoln in the Bardo at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Monday. On Tuesday, he was announced as the winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

by Camila Domonoske, October 17, 2017, first appearing on npr Blog

American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.

Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son’s body.

In the book, Saunders weaves fragments of historical documents (both authentic and imagined) with the voices of ghosts trapped in the graveyard with young Willie, watching in wonder at the strength of his father’s love. The devastating toll of the Civil War is the backdrop for the scene of very particular loss.

Lola Young, the chair of the panel of judges that awarded the Booker Prize, called the novel “utterly original,” praising the narrative as “witty, intelligent, and deeply moving.”

In February, Saunders told NPR that he carried the idea for the novel around with him for 20 years — although he wasn’t sure it would be a novel at all.

“Four years ago, I was like, ‘Jeez, this has been bothering me all these years, maybe it’s time to give it a try,’ ” he said. “And I kind of almost had a contract with this book. Kind of like, don’t bloat up on me — be a story if you can be a story. If you can be a nice paragraph, that’s fine. So I kind of kept it on a short leash, but it just kept growing, so I finally said, ‘OK, you are what you are.’ “

Saunders explained that the “bardo” of the title is a Tibetan concept for a sort of transitional zone — a space between death and whatever comes after, in the world of the novel.

This is the second year in a row that an American has taken home the prize — in a year when U.S. authors made up 50 percent of the short list.

The Man Booker, one of the most prestigious prizes in literature, has been awarded annually since 1969. It comes with a £50,000 (nearly $66,000) cash prize and is generally associated with a substantial boost in sales for the winning book.

The award was originally reserved only for writers from the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth (countries that were once part of the British empire), but four years ago, the prize was opened up to Americans.

Last year, the prize went to Paul Beatty for The Sellout. It was the first time the Man Booker had been awarded to an American.