Contemporary Literature Longlist

I’ve been working on the syllabus for a new course I’m teaching next semester, Contemporary Literature. I’ve had about 20 different ideas for what I want to do with this course, based on my own interests and gaps in our department offerings.

What I know for sure is that I want the course to be very contemporary–writing published within the last two years–and very diverse–a variety of genres and voices. Non-majors enroll in this course, so I need to be careful not to construct a syllabus that will only address the needs of majors. I may be teaching students who don’t read very much and don’t have any experience analyzing literature.

I want some way to organize the syllabus and provide some structure for what we’re doing, but I don’t want to commit to a narrow theme. I was wondering what a Contemporary Lit course might look like if it focused only on the most recent prizewinners. I did some research over the weekend to identify different literary prizes and to see what books would make it into the pool of choices. I like the resulting Long List quite a bit:

Pulitzer Prizes:

  • Fiction: Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son
  • Drama: Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced
  • History: Frederick Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam
  • Biography: Tom Reiss, The Black Count
  • Poetry: Sharon Olds, Stag’s Leap
  • Nonfiction: Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
  • Criticism: Phillip Kennicott, Washington Post

National Book Award:

  • Fiction: Louise Erdrich, The Round House
  • Non-Fiction: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
  • Poetry: David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations
  • Young People’s Literature: William Alexander, Goblin Secrets

National Book Critics Award

  • Fiction: Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • General Nonfiction: Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree
  • Biography: Robert Caro, The Passage of Power
  • Autobiography: Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies
  • Criticism: Marina Warner, Stranger Magic
  • Poetry: D.A. Powell, Useless Landscape

Los Angeles Times Book Awards:

  • Innovator Award: Margaret Atwood
  • Current Interest: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  • Fiction: Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk
  • YA Lit: A.S. King, Ask the Passengers
  • First Fiction: Maggie Shipstead, Seating Arrangements

Lenore Marshall Prize: Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, Patricia Smith

Costa Award: Hilary Mantel, Bringing Up the Bodies

Essay Prize: Laura Radniss, Radioactive

Wole Soyinka Prize: Sifiso Mzobe, Youngblood

PEN/Faulkner Award: Benjamin Alire Saenz, Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

Orange Prize: A.M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven

Booker Prize: will be announced mid-October

2012 Nobel Prize for Literature: Mo Yan

Pura Belpre: Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Caldecott: Jon Klassen, This Is Not My Hat

Newbery: Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

Printz: Nick Lake, In Darkness

Sibert: Steven Sheinkin, Bomb

Tomas Rivera Book Award: Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Under the Mesquite

Caine Prize: “Miracle” (best African Lit short story)

Coretta Scott King: Andrea Pinkney, Hand in Hand

Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature: Francesca Segal, The Innocents

The Believer Book Award: Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station

New York Public Library Young Lions Award: Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

Bram Stoker Award:

  • Novel: Kiernan, Caitlin R. – The Drowning Girl (Roc)
  • YA Novel: Maberry, Jonathan – Flesh & Bone (Simon & Schuster)
  • Graphic Novel: Wood, Rocky, and Lisa Morton – Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times(McFarland
  • Short Fiction: Snyder, Lucy – “Magdala Amygdala” (Dark Faith: Invocations, Apex Book Company)
  • First Novel: Soares, L.L. – Life Rage (Nightscape Press

2012 Nebula Award Winners:

  • Novel:  2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Novella: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • Novelette: “Close Encounters” by Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
  • Short story: “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
  • Ray Bradbury Award for outstanding dramatic presentation: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director),  Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)
  • Andre Norton Award For Young Adult Science Fiction And Fantasy Book: Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)

Romantic Times Book of the Year: Meljean Brook, Riveted

Locus Awards:

  • Nonfiction: Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
  • Novella: “After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall,” Nancy Kress
  • YA Novel: Railsea, China Miéville
  • Sci Fi: Redshirts, John Scalzi
  • Fantasy: The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross

 Hugo Awards:

  • Novel: Redshirts, John Scalzi
  • Graphic: Saga: Volume 1, Brian Vaughn

Agatha Award:

  • Best Novel: Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery
  • Best Children’s: The Codebuster’s Code #2
  • Best First Novel: Lowcountry Boil, Susan Boyer

Edgar Award:

  • Best Novel: Live by Night, Dennis Lehane
  • First Novel: Expats, Chris Pavone
  • Best Fact Crime: Paul French, Midnight in Peking
  • Best YA: Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

Eisner Award:

  • Best Graphic New: Building Stories, Chris Ware
  • Best Continuing Series: Saga, Brian Vaughn
  • Best Publication for Teens: A Wrinkle in Time, Hope Larson
  • Best Publication for Children: Adventure Time, Ryan North
  • Best Digital Comic: Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
  • Best Reality-Based Work (tie): Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joseph Lambert

Anthony Awards:

  • Best Novel: Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery
  • Best First Novel: Expats, Chris Pavone (spy novel—sounds fun)


  • Gay General Fiction: Benjamin Alire Saenz, Everything Begins & Ends in Kentucky Club
  • Lesbian General Fiction: Thrity Umrigar, The World We Found
  • Lesbian Memoir: Why Be HappyWhen You Could Be Normal? Jeannette Winterson

RITA Winner: Best First Novel: The Haunting of Maddy Clare, Simone St James 

Carnegie Medal: Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature: Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis

Man Asian Prize:  Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (also won Walter Scott)

Impac Dublin Literary Award: City of Bohane, Kevin Barry

Man Booker: Lydia Davis won for achievement in fiction, not for a book

Orwell Prize: A Very British Killing, A.T. Williams (not available in U.S.)

Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize: Zoo Time, Howard Jacobson

PEN/ESPN Sports writing award: Like Any Normal Day, Mark Kram

Dolman Travel Prize: Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie and Robert McFarlane, The Old ways


4 thoughts on “Contemporary Literature Longlist

  1. Holy moly!!! I had no idea there were this many prizes for writing!!! When you mentioned ‘long list’ to me, I was picturing maybe 30-40 books tops for ALL prizes combined. I can’t wait to see what makes the cut!

  2. Pingback: Contemporary Literature Shortlist | the dirigible plum

  3. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/21/13 | the dirigible plum

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