The New Yorker recently published the list of nominations for the National Book Award. Reading the article actually made me anxious because I have not read a single book on the list. I also haven't read any recent winners of the Man Booker Prize, or any recent Pulitzer Prize winners (scratch that, I did read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, the 2009 winner). Years ago, I started a book list for myself, and I doggedly stick to it. Of course, I add books to it, such as Hilary Mantel's Bringing up the Bodies which won the Booker Prize for 2012, but most of the books on my list are either serious literature that was published so long ago that nobody cares anymore or self-indulgent escape reads, like vintage YA novels or Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels. I feel like I have become out of touch with the world of modern literature.
I know--if my biggest problem today is that I don't have time to read the wealth of books at my disposal, then I really don't have any problems. Sometimes I like to imagine what Jonathan Franzen would say to my literary moanings, and in this case, I think he would say, "You think a book needs to win a PRIZE to be considered worthy of your notice? Why aren't you at the library, checking out every new book that comes in, rather than relying on the prize-makers to tell you what to read? Fair enough, and now that Jonathan Franzen has made it clear to me, I wonder how much the prize makers steer the course of literature. Is good literature ignored by everyone because it isn't nominated for a prize? Or do the prizes exist to bring the good literature to the attention of the average reader?
Do you try and keep up with prize-winning literature?