The Second Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards

Last year I started a new tradition of looking back over my year in reading and assigning arbitrary awards. You can check out last year’s opening post here. (Again, this idea is blatantly ripped-off from FictionFan who is currently presenting her 2019 awards so you should go check those out too!) The categories, the shortlists, and the winners are all decided by me. The reward is the warm feeling these authors will surely receive knowing that a random person on the internet enjoyed their book. All of these books are ones I read between December 2018 and November 2019.

This year’s categories are as follows:

Best Translation

Best Short Story Collection

Best Canadian Book

Best Non-Fiction

Best Fiction

Best Book Published in 2019

We’ll begin with Best Translation!

Reading more in translation is an ongoing goal of mine. Three titles really stood out to me this year.

Honourable Mention:

Article 353 by Tanguy Viel, translated from the French of William Rodarmor. This was one of the first books I read in 2019 and ended up being a standard by which I judged the rest of the translations of the year. This short novel was different than anything I’d ever read.

Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price. The Syrian As I Lay Dying. Sort of. This book had a lot going on and it took my a while to get through but it was a worthwhile read. A powerful glimpse into another culture and a conflict that is still ongoing.

The Winner:

Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. I mean, Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize this year so I’m far from alone in thinking this book is pretty amazing. Weird, wonderful, unsettling, complex, disturbing. There are so many adjectives you could use to describe Tokarczuk’s writing. She succeeds at creating a truly unique character and the book is very quirky but still entirely readable.

Your turn! What’s your book for the best translated work you read in 2019?

Next category: Best short stories on Thursday

13 thoughts on “The Second Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards”

  1. I love this idea! I’m currently reading Drive Your Plow, and I really want to try Death is Hard Work, so I’m excited to see both of them mentioned here.

    Off the top of my head, my favourite translated book this year was probably Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, with honourable mentions going to The White Book by Han Kang and Horizontal Collaboration by Navie.

  2. I would love to read Drive Your Plough!
    Most of the translated books I read are from Quebec, translated from French to English. Autopsy of a Boring Wife was a stand-out for me!

  3. Ooh, this is fun! I think Drive Your Plow would win for me as well in this category. Even though I didn’t get on with the mystery aspect, I loved everything else about it. But Human Acts would also come close for me this year, as would Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream. I’m glad to see Death is Hard Work on your list as an honorable mention as well, that one’s on my TBR!

  4. Excellent choice! Drive Your Plow was fab. I think mine might be The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn or Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants by Mathias Énard. But Drive Your Plow and Lie With Me by Philippe Besson are both up there too.

  5. That is a great choice. I loved Drive Your Plow. I equally loved The Memory Police. I feel I can really defend every odd translation decision that was made there (and some do notice strange “mistakes” in this regard in the book).

    1. I’ve heard good things about The Memory Police. I wonder if some of those mistakes are intentional to preserve a feeling or effect in the original language? I wish I knew more languages so that I could read originals along with their translations!

  6. Glad you’re making this a tradition – it’s such a fun way of looking back and giving a boost to the books that have given us pleasure over the year! I’m very tempted by Drive Your Plough, but looking at the blurb I’m a bit worried – do bad things happen to animals? I really have problems reading about that, although I’m fine with serial killers murdering humans… 😉

    1. Yes, I had lots of fun with this last year and have been looking forward to doing it again!

      Actually, that response makes me think you will have a lot of sympathy for the narrator of Drive Your Plough! The story starts with a dead deer but other than that I don’t recall much in the way of bad things happening to animals.

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