Which Book Prize Has the Best Backlist?

On Monday, the Pulitzer committee will announce their 2012 fiction winner. For a good chunk of my reading life, this was the prize I followed most closely. I diligently read the winners and finalists, thinking, for reasons I still don’t understand, that it was the gold standard of literary prizes (save the Nobel, which is for lifetime achievement).

I am less interested in prizes, best-of lists, and the like these days, but I was looking at the recent winners of the Pulitzer fiction prize and thought that they hold up pretty darn well: Egan, Diaz, McCarthy, Eugenides, and others of the last decade or so still feel like important, liked, and widely-read picks. But how do Pulitzer honorees compare to those of the other major literary awards?

This is where you come in. Below, I’ve collected the last ten winners from the top-line literary prizes. What I’d like you to do is vote, in the poll at the bottom, for which list of books you think is the best all-around. I’ll leave “best” to your own definition, though if you have a second to explain your voting in the comments, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

In alphabetical order:

The Man Booker Prize

2011: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
2010: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
2009: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
2008: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
2007: The Gathering by Anne Enright
2006: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
2005: The Sea by John Banville
2004: The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
2003: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
2002: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The National Book Award

2011: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
2010: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
2009: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
2008: Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
2007: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
2006: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
2005: Europe Central by William T. Vollman
2004: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
2003: The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
2002: Three Junes by Julia Glass

The National Book Critics Circle Award 

2011: Binocular Vision & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman
2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2009: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
2008: 2666 by Roberto Bolano
2007: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2006: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
2005: The March by E.L. Doctorow
2004: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2003: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2002: Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Orange Prize

2011: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
2010: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
2009: Home by Marilynne Robinson
2008: The Road Home by Rose Tremain
2007: Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2006: On Beauty by Zadie Smith
2005: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
2004: Small Island by Andrea Levy
2003: Property by Valerie Martin
2002: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The PEN/Faulkner Award

2012: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
2011: The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
2010: War Dances by Sherman Alexie
2009: Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
2008: The Great Man by Kate Christensen
2007: Everyman by Philip Roth
2006: The March by E.L. Doctorow
2005: War Trash by Ha Jin
2004: The Early Stories by John Updike
2003: The Caprices by Sabina Murray

The Pulitzer Prize

2011: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo

The Tournament of Books

2012: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
2011: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2010: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
2009: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006: The Accidental by Ali Smith
2005 (year of first award): Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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