Reading Prize Winners: Part Two

I wrote in a previous post of the twelve prize-winning books I challenged myself to read this year and gave a quick review of the first three I read. Here are the next three.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. It also won the Puddly Award for Short Stories in 2001 and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel in 2000. This group of short stories portray the immigrant experience, specifically those from India to the U.S. Usually in a group of short stories, there are not only some I like more than others, there are a few I may not like it all. This book proved the exception as I found every story well-written and enjoyed them all.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021. This is an odd little book (which, in fairness, I knew going in), but I can’t say I ever really warmed to it. I would have liked to have read this with a group, as I am sure it could generate some good conversation, but in spite of its short nature, I believe it would be a hard sell for the two groups I am currently in.

For most of the book, there are only two characters. Piranesi is the narrator of the story and he lives in a building which seems to be a never-ending maze. If that’s not enough, it is built on (in?) an ocean and knowing and understanding the tides is critical. Piranesi has lived there long enough to find his way around and to understand the tides.

The other character doesn’t live there but visits Piranesi twice a week to ask Piranesi to help him with some research. Piranesi only calls this man “The Other”. When Piranesi finds evidence of the existence of another person, things begin to change between P and The Other; and not in a good way.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1993 as well as the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1992.

I admit, Doomsday Book was a bit of a slog at times, but overall, I enjoyed it. A book of time travel where a young woman, Kivrin, is sent to the Middle Ages, but, unfortunately, lands in 1348, the beginning of the Black Death. Meanwhile, back in London, an unknown virus breaks out and quarantine is placed around Oxford, making it impossible to find out what has happened to Kivrin, never mind bringing her back. I loved the characters and was amused at some of the predictions Willis made back in the 90’s (in her world, the only improvement on phones was a visual and this was supposed to be in the 2050’s), and the way a pandemic was handled in this futuristic England. The descriptions of the Black Death made me thankful the pandemic we are facing (as bad as it is) is hardly so grim.
Interesting that there are so many extremely negative reviews on goodreads for this book that won so many awards. I think sometimes people try too hard to read books that just aren’t right for them. Or maybe they just enjoy writing negative reviews.
5 stars for me.

Reading Prize Winning Books: Part 1

One of my personal reading challenges for 2022 has been to read some books that have won different awards through the years. I chose twelve, rather randomly (but mostly based on books I already own). The prizes include Pulitzers, a couple of Hugos, and a Booker. At almost the halfway point of the year, I have read six. In this post, I will list the first three I read and give a brief synopsis and review. The whole list can be found on my goodreads annual reading challenge in the group “On the Same Page”.

In January, I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an Orange Prize winner in 2007. The Orange Prize (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction) is awarded annually in the United Kingdom to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel. Adichie’s historical fiction novel tells of the struggle in Nigeria in the 1960’s when Biafra tried to assert their independence. The characters make the story come to life though like any story concerning war, very sad and heart-breaking.

In February, I read Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. I throughly enjoyed O’Farrell’s take on Shakespeare’s family life. Known details of Shakespeare’s family are sparse, but the fact that he had twins and that one of them, Hamnet, died as a young boy is well-known. O’Farrell takes this family tragedy and brings the characters and the Elizabethean time period to life. Even knowing this would be a tough read (the death of a child), I found the writing beautiful and the characters and their relationships with each other skillfully drawn. I read my first book by O’Farrell last year & thought it was amazing, so I definitely plan on reading the rest of her backlist.

In March, I read Silver Birch, Blood Moon, a fantasy anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. This won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2000. I would say these are “dark fairy tales” but I think unless they’ve been Disneyfied, all fairy tales are fairly dark. I enjoyed these stories, written mostly by familiar authors but several were new to me. Who knew there could be so many takes on The Frog Prince?

I’ll report on the next three I’ve read next week.

Christianity Today’s 2018 Book Awards

I subscribed to the magazine Christianity Today and one of the features I look forward to every year is their list of book awards. (No real surprise there). I invariably find, not only books I’ve never heard of, but also authors.  Not just the authors of the books, but also the reviewers who usually have their own books and/or blogs. Last year my favorite find was: Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields. https://pmgilmer.com/2017/07/01/crossing-the-waters-by-leslie-leyland-fields/

CT awards books in several different categories. I will not try to cover all the categories or all the books, but will point out the ones I’m most interested in and hope you will read the whole article for yourself. The categories include: Apologetics Evangelism, Christian Living/Discipleship, CT Women, Fiction, and Spiritual Formation.

I have read a book from the category of CT Women the last few years. This year the winner of that category is You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden. Ohden was adopted into a loving family, but eventually wants to learn more about her biological family. When she learns that she was the victim of an unsuccessful abortion, she becomes more determined to find out what happened and why. Ohden uses her testimony to reach out to others who may be victims of abortion or other types of violence.

This year’s fiction winner is by Katherine James, Can You See Anything Now?  which is a debut novel for James. The award of merit goes to Daniel Taylor for Do We Not Bleed? A Jon Mote Mystery. Taylor’s first Mote mystery, Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, won the fiction award last year. If you’re interested in a rather lengthy review by John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/who-killed-postmodernism

Among the many books that came out about Martin Luther this year, the winner for the History/Biography category was Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography by Herman Selderhus. Using Luther’s own words, Selderhus follows Luther on his spiritual journey as a monk, a husband and father, a preacher and writer.

The overall Book of the Year winner comes under the category of Beautiful Orthodoxy. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. Warren takes the common incidents of our day and reminds us of their spiritual significance. From one reviewer: “Warren takes you through a single ordinary day, from waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night, and manages to make connections to just about every important aspect of the Christian life. She is a gifted writer whose stories, rife with humor, teach you deeper things without ever making you feel like you’re being instructed.” (Stan Jantz) An article taken from the book is included in CT and this alone has made me anxious to read this book.

If you like to read about the other winners: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-february/christianity-todays-2018-book-awards.html

Have you already read any of these books? Ready to add them to your TBR?

 

 

Look What I Won!

I received an email a few months ago telling me I had won second place in a contest. Okay, I didn’t win the trip to Italy, but I did win a gift basket with food from Italy, but even better–a signed copy of Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass. Due to an unintentional delay of receiving my prize, I was also sent some extra books. New releases from WaterBrook Press. Special thanks to Amy Haddock & WaterBrook Press!

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