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Awards for Excellence in Adult Literature

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Writing groundbreaking literature is no small feat, so naturally there are awards to recognize this. In this lesson, we'll look at a few of the major prizes for literature and see how they are awarded.

Literature Awards

People tend to make the mistake of assuming that libraries are simply repositories of books. There's a lot more that goes into them, and those who work in libraries tend to be great resources in all matters of literature. This means that librarians may often be consulted on questions of publishing, including, of course, the prizes that are available to authors.

With so many great books, there are a number of literary awards available
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So what types of book awards would librarians be aware of? It's a fair question, and there are a lot of them. For example, if you find yourself in the UK, you may run into Alan Stafford, the 2016 recipient for the coveted ''Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year'' (which he won for a biography of vaudeville actors entitled ''Too Naked For the Nazis''). Of course, some people may be inquiring about slightly more serious awards. Here are a few you should know about.

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Let's start with the most famous. In 1895, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel died, leaving a sizeable sum in his will to be given as prizes to those who excelled in various fields. One of these was the Nobel Prize in Literature, given to ''the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction''. This international award is distributed by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. Past laureates have included Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, and John Steinbeck, among others. In 2016, musician Bob Dylan made headlines as the first songwriter awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, extending the accepted definition of literary poetry.

Alfred Nobel, whose will created the Nobel Prizes
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The Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Like the Nobel Prize, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature can be awarded to authors of any nationality and is also in recognition of an entire body of work rather than a single manuscript. The big difference is that it's sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, and not Sweden. The Neustadt Prize has been awarded annually since 1969 (when it was founded as the Books Abroad International Prize for Literature). Laureates include Octavio Paz, Max Frisch, and Elizabeth Bishop. The 2016 laureate was Dubravka Ugresic, who turned her experiences in the war-torn Yugoslavia into a corpus of distinguished novels and essays.

The Pulitzer Prize

Of the literary awards exclusive to the United States, none may be as coveted as the Pulitzer Prize. Established in 1917 from the will of Joseph Pulitzer, this award is overseen by Columbia University and recognizes excellence in 21 categories including newspaper, online journalism, literature, and musical composition. In 2016, awards went to Viet Thanh Nguyen for fiction, T.J. Styles for history, William Finnegan for biography/autobiography, Peter Balakian for poetry, and Joby Warrick for general nonfiction.

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most coveted American awards
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