Award-Winners to Put at the Top of Your To-Read List By Patti London There are so many new books published each year, I find I spend more time adding them to my to-read list than actually reading any of them. Nearly every book review I read makes me want to add it to the list for one reason or another. One method of prioritizing which to read next is to follow the major book awards announcements. Let a panel of other readers go through hundreds of submissions and thin the herd for you. Here are three fiction winners from 2016 which should be on your nightstand. The Pulitzer (pronounced pull it sir) prize is best known for its recognition of outstanding journalism, but it also commends works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. (As a dedicated Hamilfan, I must mention that Hamilton won the 2016 Pulitzer for drama.) Established by the will of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the awards are presented by the president of Columbia University in April each year. The Pulitzer prizes celebrated their centennial in 2016. The award for fiction in 2016 was given to The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel about a communist double agent, set just after the Vietnam War. The novel’s nameless protagonist is in California spying on Vietnamese of interest for the communist government back home. The novel is unique because it gives voice to the other side of the war, rarely, if ever, heard in the plethora of movies and books about the war, all from the American perspective. The National Book Award has been recognizing excellence in American literature since the 1950s. Colson Whitehead’s latest novel, and winner of the 2016 National Book Award for fiction, is probably on your to-read list if you haven't read it already. The most talked-about book of 2016 is definitely The Underground Railroad. A best book of the year according to Time Magazine, Amazon, New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, Newsday and an Oprah’s book club selection, this novel probably doesn’t need the endorsement of a local, Cleveland publication, but I’m going there anyway. Whether you want to be transported to a slavery-era fantasy or not, the journey is worthwhile. Historically-based but creatively structured, this novel grabs hold of your heart and doesn’t let go. Don't be the only one who hasn’t experienced its astonishing narrative. Only books written by authors from British Commonwealth nations were eligible for the Man Booker Prize until it was recently expanded to include American authors, to much literary angst and controversy. Paul Beatty is this year’s winner, and the first American writer to win, with The Sellout, which also won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award. The Sellout is a hilariously satirical look at race in America. The small novel was so densely packed with American cultural references I had serious doubts that the British judges would appreciate the work in all of its nuanced glory. Sarah Silverman’s blurb on the book jacket said it best - “Like demented angels wrote it.” Loved it. If you have more than two hundred books to read on your list like I do, deciding what to read next is a formidable task. The annual awards can be reliable sources for books which will enrich your reading life. I’d love to see what your list looks like. If you keep your list on Goodreads, friend me so we can compare lists. You can check out the 222 books on my to-read list, and the 83 books I’ve managed to read when I’m not adding more to the list.

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