I love literary prizes. I tend to use them as long lists of recommendations for what to read next – even if they don’t always recommend books I end up liking (see The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barns) they always recommend books that I want to talk about.
I’m also aware that my book shelves are awfully male. According to LibraryThing, approximately 80% of the books I own were written by men. That’s mostly because the classics, sci-fi and fantasy (mostly Terry Pratchett, let’s not kid ourselves) I have is largely written by men, as are almost all the non-fiction titles. I’d like to blame that on my physics degree.
It’s not quite so bad when you look at contemporary fiction, where the ratio of male to female authors on my shelves is far more even. After quickly scrolling through old blog posts I’ve also discovered that I’ve reviewed 7 books by women and 6 by men this year. Sunday’s book review is for a book by a woman but the book I’m reading now is by a man so perhaps my reading habits are much more balanced than would be assumed from the books I own.
However, I’d still like to even things up further. If the Bailey’s Prize (previously known as The Women’s Prize, The Orange Prize and The Orange Broadband Prize) can be taken as a recommended reading list then it can also be taken of a list of great books by women. Previous winners have included Zadie Smith, Tea Obreht and A M Homes and if that’s not a good sign I don’t know what is.
Past shortlisters have included Amy Tan, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Donna Tarrt, Hillary Mantel and Emma Donoghue. Atwood and Mantel have both been shortlisted twice! Isn’t that kind of exciting? There’s so much great fiction out there, by women, that a team of judges once decided someone had written a better book than Toni Morrison. Don’t you want to read that book? It was A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne and I’ve not read it yet but I definitely want to. I mean, I want to read Morrison’s book too, obviously.
Yesterday the 2016 shortlist was released. A winner will be announced on 8th June. The shortlist is:
Cynthia Bond: Ruby
Anne Enright: The Green Road
Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies
Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen
Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love
Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life
I’ve never read anything by any of these authors. I’m most immediately curious about The Portable Veblen because I’m a huge nerd and it has science-y themes. However, if I were a betting woman and I wanted to take a guess at which one would win I’d have to say The Glorious Heresies because it’s post crash Ireland and that has got to be a brilliant setting for anyone hoping to collect literary prizes, right?
Have you read any of these books? Are you familiar with the authors? Are prizes like these nonsense? Tell me all.