Identifying the 'best book of the year' is a highly subjective endeavour that takes place every year in various permutations across the globe. Nevertheless, a few awards have managed to build an aura of authority that leaks on to the dust jackets of proud nominees. Today we take a look at just a handful from the English-speaking world in case you're in need of a new bedtime read. If you're unsure of where to begin, only one title appears more than once here: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri; the Indian-American author made it onto both the Man Booker shortlist and the National Book Awards longlist.
Man Booker Prize: To "the very best book of the year"--as long as it's been written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe, or the Republic of Ireland. (Controversially, all English-language writers--including Americans--will be eligible as of 2014.) After much ado and a few rounds of wagers, the winner will be announced on October 15.
- We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
- The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (Granta)
- Harvest, Jim Crace (Picador)
- The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
- A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
- The Testament of Mary, Colm Tóibín (Penguin)
National Book Award for Fiction: To the best book written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher. The finalists will be announced on October 16, which gives you just under a month to pack the follwing longlist on to your e-reader. The winner will be announced on November 20.
- Pacific,Tom Drury (Grove Press)
- The End of the Point, Elizabeth Graver (Harper/HarperCollinsPublishers)
- The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
- The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
- A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra (Hogarth/Random House)
- The Good Lord Bird, James McBride (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group USA)
- Someone, Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group USA)
- Tenth of December, George Saunders (Random House)
- Fools, Joan Silber (W.W. Norton & Company)
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize: To an author whose debut work represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
- WINNER: A Naked Singularity, Sergio de la Pava (University of Chicago Press)
- A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash (Wlliam Morrow)
- My Only Wife, Jac Jemc (Dzanc Books)
- Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain, Lucia Perillo (W.W. Norton & Co.)
- Battleborn, Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead Books)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.
- WINNER: The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson (Random House)
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf)
- The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown)
Women's Prize for Fiction: A celebraton of excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing around the world. Formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction, this will be known as the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction as of 2014.
- WINNER: May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Holmes (Granta Books)
- Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
- Flight Behaviour, Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber)
- Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
- Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- NW, Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton)