Which Literary Awards Match Your Reading Taste?

Literary Awards


I’ve always had the feeling that award-winning books don’t work well for me. But, it’s always been anecdotal…until now!

I decided to find out for sure exactly how my reading taste lines up with the literary awards committees’ taste.

I used a spreadsheet (you can download it below to find out which literary awards best match your own reading taste!) to calculate the percentage of each major literary award’s winners (from 2012 – present) that I liked / didn’t like. And, now I know which literary awards to pay attention to (and ignore!) so I can pick better books moving forward!

My Best Literary Awards

These literary awards best match my reading taste…

  1. The Audie Awards (29%)
  2. The Shirley Jackson Awards (17%)
  3. The Thriller Awards (13%)
  4. National Book Critics Circle Awards (8%)
  5. The Edgar Awards (6%)

My Observations:

  • These top numbers are somewhat low overall…telling me that literary award winners just aren’t my thing in general. Award season rolls around, I run!

That being said…

  • The Audie Awards is for audiobooks…and I counted an Audie winner as a success for me even if I read that particular book in print format. So, this one might be cheating.
  • Three of my top awards are in the mystery / thriller category…which I don’t even read that much of! This is probably the most useful thing I learned from this exercise. Even though I don’t read a ton of mysteries / thrillers, when I am looking for one, The Shirley Jackson Awards, The Edgar Awards, and The Thriller Awards lists make good recommendation sources for me!

My Worst Literary Awards

These literary awards least match my reading taste…

  1. National Book Award (-10%)
  2. National Book Critics Circle Awards (-5%)
  3. The Pulitzer Prize (-4%)

My Observations:

  • Well, there go the big U.S. literary awards for me! I can’t say I’m that surprised.
  • Although, I am surprised at just how badly I line up with the National Book Award. Of all the big literary awards, I always thought I related most to that one. And, I did like some of the nominees, but the nominated books I like never seem to make it to the winners circle.

So, why do I tend to disagree with the big literary awards committees?

  • I do love literary fiction, but I prefer the type that’s also accessible to the average reader. I like the sweet spot between literary and commercial. Sadly, the books that are likely to get nominated for the big literary awards are the highly literary ones…not necessarily the ones accessible to the average reader.
  • Many books that won awards over the past few years are political / “issue” books. These aren’t my favorites, especially when it comes to fiction. I don’t mind political issues coming up in my reading, but I like the issues to be organic parts of the story and of the characters’ lives. An American Marriage and The Great Believers both did this really well. I don’t like it when the “issues” completely take over the story.

Find out if your reading taste matches the big literary awards!

  • Download the spreadsheet via the sign-up form below.
  • Follow the spreadsheet’s instructions to find your Top and Bottom literary awards.
  • Use them to pick books moving forward. Though I just used the winners in my spreadsheet, most awards have short and long lists, which could be great recommendation sources for you! Maybe you’ll even find some new-to-you sources you didn’t even realize were in line with your taste!
  • Be skeptical of book recommendations from your bottom literary awards.

Give it a go! What literary awards does your reading taste match up with? How do you feel about literary awards in general?

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  1. Renee wrote:

    Great post idea! The Edgar Awards are my top source for mystery and thriller and usually never let me down, but I focus on just the Best novel of the year and best first novel of the year. I’ll have to check out The Shirley Jackson Awards! If a book says National Book Award on it I tend NOT to read it.

    Posted 11.23.18 Reply
  2. I do like some award winners but find they’re not a good match for my book club yet one woman keeps insisting we read them. I’ll power through and get to the meeting and no one else will have finished it. Needless to say, I’m pretty much done with my book club and only go sporadically these days.

    Posted 11.23.18 Reply
  3. This is a cool idea. I only pay attention to the Newbery, Printz, Man Booker, National Book Award, and Pulitzer. I’ve read almost all of the Printz winners. I’m slowly working my way through the Newberys.

    Posted 11.23.18 Reply
  4. I’m curious as to how the National Book Critics Circle Awards ended up on your best and worst lists! I just joined NBCC this year so I’ll be voting for their John Leonard first book prize in January. I wonder if you’d have better luck with some more off-beat literary prizes, like the Costa novel and first novel award from the UK — these often strike a nice balance between literary fiction and popular reads.

    Posted 11.23.18 Reply
  5. What a great idea. I like to look back through nominees when I look at book awards, because the winners are almost never my favorites (and I find it interesting when the winners don’t seem to endure, but one of the nominees does). I think the ones that do manage to find that sweet spot between literary and accessible (my favorite as well!).

    Posted 11.25.18 Reply
  6. Jan wrote:

    I normally don’t pay attention to the award books for the same reason. Thanks for the tracker, I downloaded it and will check it out.

    Posted 11.27.18 Reply
  7. This is so neat! Can’t wait to find out what my best/worst are.

    Posted 2.10.19 Reply

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