Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Award Winning Books That Are Worth Reading

This week’s topic is "books I read because ________." I’m filling in the blank with “they won awards.” I read a lot of award winners. Those ugly stickers on book covers aren’t deterrents to me (although I wish bookstores wouldn’t put stickers on covers. They’re ugly.) Award winning books have a reputation for being pretentious and challenging, but that’s not always the case. Some of them are innovative. Or beautifully written. Or just plain fun. Here are 10 books that I read (and loved) because they won awards.

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Award Winners That Are Worth Reading

Newbery Winners

(Children’s Books)

1. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda is an ordinary sixth grader, until she starts receiving mysterious messages from somebody who knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Why I love it: It’s very short (under 200 pages). The mystery is fast-paced and will keep you guessing until the very end, when everything snaps together like a puzzle. It took a lot of skill to write this book. I’ll be impressed by it forever.

2. The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Why I love it: I can already hear you complaining about “talking animal books,” but I swear this one is worth the suspension of disbelief! It’s a humorous story about friendship that doesn’t gloss over the tough stuff. If there’s a child in your life who loves animals, get them this novel.

3. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives.

Why I love it: Yes, it’s another animal story, but it’s a good one! On the surface, it’s a lightning-fast adventure about a kidnapping and rescue. Deep down, it’s a story about forgiveness and flaws and how good people (and mice and rats) sometimes do bad things.

4. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him:

He has his own suitcase full of special things.

He's the author of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.

His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!

Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him—not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

Why I love it: I’m pretty sure I can trace my love of historical fiction back to this book. I read it many, many times as a young teenager. Bud is an easy character to love and has a strong, hilarious voice. The audiobook is very engaging, too.

Printz Winners

(Young Adult / Teen Books)

5. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens.

In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon—the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon—this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting.

Why I love it: It’s a delightfully bizarre composite novel about reincarnation. The main characters cross paths in every story, but their bodies and relationships change. It’s fun to figure out the connections. If you don’t like young adult horror, don’t let this book’s genre put you off. It’s more eerie than horrifying, and I have no idea why the publishers call it young adult. It’s a short, strange book that defies classification.

6. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now—which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and the age difference won't matter.

Sym is not your average teenage girl. She is obsessed with the Antarctic and the brave, romantic figure of Captain Oates from Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole. In fact, Oates is the secret confidant to whom she spills all her hopes and fears.

But Sym's uncle Victor is even more obsessed—and when he takes her on a dream trip into the bleak Antarctic wilderness, it turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival that will challenge everything she knows and loves.

Why I love it: It’s a survival story about a weird teenage girl who gets lost in Antarctica with her imaginary ghost boyfriend. How can you pass up that premise? I couldn’t put this book down. It’s harrowing. And weird.

7. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he's the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl.

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn't want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god.

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he's ruining his cousin Danny's life. Danny's a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse.

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed.

Why I love it: Graphic novels can win awards too! The art is colorful and easy to follow. I agree with the synopsis. This book is “hilarious, poignant, and action-packed.” It’s about learning to accept yourself. If you’re looking for a book that you can race through in an afternoon, check this one out.

Pulitzer Winners

(Adult Books)

8. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Why I love it: Olive is a character I’ll never forget. The stories in this composite novel examine her from every angle, and some of them are not flattering. Olive is big, loud, blunt, and opinionated. She is also amazingly perceptive and willing to help anyone who needs it. She’s one of the most realistic fictional humans I’ve ever encountered.

9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

Why I love it: Okay, I will admit that this book is longer than it needs to be, but it’s still worth reading. It has one of my favorite beginnings ever. The first 100 pages are so realistic that they’re painful to read (in a good way). Finishing this 800-page beast is a major life accomplishment.

10. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Navigating between the Indian traditions they've inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In "A Temporary Matter," a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.

Why I love it: This is one of my favorite short story collections ever. It’s about cultures clashing. The characters are so realistic that you’ll still be thinking about them long after you close the book.

Which award winners have you read and loved?


  1. I have copies of Olive Kitteridge and The One and Only Ivan hiding somewhere on my shelves. I might have to move them up on the tbr pile.

  2. The Goldfinch is one I keep wavering about, if I should add it to my TBR or not - I guess I should!

  3. Great list! The White Darkness sounds so weird and interesting - I think I need to check that one out!

  4. Bud, Not Buddy was a great read for sure.

    My TTT .

  5. I've never even heard of The White Darkness but that synopsis has me intrigued!

  6. I loved When You Reach Me. I thought the story was fabulous, but also believe the nostalgia played a big role in my enjoyment. My childhood overlapped with that of the main character in the book, and I always like recognizing people, places, and things when I read. Dig by AS King won the Printz award, and I thought the book was amazing.

  7. I have a bad tendency to avoid award-winning or otherwise popular books but you've convinced me to add MIDWINTERBLOOD to my Goodreads list!

  8. I used to love reading Newbery winners but I've fallen away from that a bit over the years. Something about that little award or sticker (even though yes I generally hate stickers on books)! I should read Despereaux, seems like something I'd really like.

  9. I have now put a hold on the e-book of When You Reach Me at my library, which I'd never heard of before. Great list!

  10. We did The Tale of Desperaux as a read aloud back in January and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! Such a fun story. I haven't read the rest of these but several are on my list.

  11. Great list! I heard a lot of good things about The One and Only Ivan! I really need to read that book soon!

    Here’s my TTT!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

  12. I'm actually the opposite - I don't tend to love award winners. I do usually find them pretentious and just not the kind of book I enjoy. Obviously, there are exceptions and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is one. I adored that one :) I'm glad you've enjoyed these award winners.

    Happy TTT!

  13. I do love a lot of award winners! I think The Tale of Despereaux is great, and I really liked the movie too. :) I've also read Midwinterblood, which is all sorts of crazy, but good.


  14. I hate is when they ruin a pretty cover by putting a big round award notification in it-at least a sticker can maybe be peeled off if you're careful! And why can't they put it somewhere on the cover where it is out of the way???

  15. The only one of these I've read is The One and Only Ivan, but I definitely did love that one. I'll have to check out some of the others!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  16. Great list! I love The Goldfinch but I haven't read any of the others yet. American Born Chinese has been on my to read list for ages, so I hope to read it soon.

    Have a wonderful week!

  17. I haven't read any of these yet, though I've been wondering about The Goldfinch a lot. The One and Only Ivan looks so cute.

  18. I have wanted to read The Gold Fish for so long AJ!

  19. I agree about The Goldfinch being a little too long, but I loved it too. Olive Kitteridge is a good one too. I still need to watch the limited series of it now that I'm sitting here thinking about it.

  20. I've only read one of these! I'll have to make a point to add the others to my tbr! :)

    Stacy Renee | LazyDayLit

  21. The One and Only Ivan has to be one of my favorite books ever.