The Third Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards

Hello and welcome! This is the Third Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards. It’s a literary award that I made up and means essentially nothing. I choose the categories and assign the winner. The winner receives nothing. As I said, essentially meaningless, but I have fun doing it and it’s a way to look back at and share some of my favourite reads of the year. You can check out some previous posts here, if you so desire. The eligible books include everything I read from December 2019 until the end of November 2020.

The categories tend to vary from year to year, depending on what I’ve read but this year’s categories will be:

Best Translated Work

Best Young Adult Novel

Best Memoir

Best Christian Writing

Best Fiction

So without further ado, let’s begin with Best Translated Work:

One of my reading goals for 2020 was to read more books translated from languages other than English. Around about April, I let go of all of my 2020 reading goals and focused on just getting through the year and reading what I could. In the end, I only read 6 works of translation. I am cautiously hoping to make it a goal in 2021.

Honourable mention in this category goes to:

It Would Be Night in Caracas – by Karina Sainz Borgo. (HarperVia, 2019)

This novel was translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer. This is a book I probably read because it was a translation and while it wasn’t one of my favourite reads this year, it did offer an eye-opening look at life in Venezuela and inspired me to learn more about politics and history there. Which, I think, is one of the huge benefits of choosing to read books outside of my own language and culture.

The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant – Michel Tremblay (Talonbooks, 2008)

This novel was translated from the French by Sheila Fischman) While this novel is set within my own country, it takes place in a time and place largely unfamiliar to me. Tremblay really brings the Montreal neighbourhood to life and there’s some terrific writing here that demonstrates the deep divides between communities. He also does some really interesting things with storytelling and narration that make the book fun to read.

And the Winner Is….

Little Eyes by Samantha Schweblin (Riverhead Books, 2020)

Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell.

I waffled for a while between Schweblin and Tremblay (I think I wanted my fellow countryman to win) but Schweblin won out because despite the fact that I read this book way back in April, it has stayed with me. Thinking of it now, I can easily recall how creepy it was, how uneasy I felt as I read it, even sitting in the sunshine on my back deck. Schweblin creates an eerily familiar world with slight, unsettling differences. She uses an array of characters to convince the reader of how possible the scenario could be and she does especially well at portraying people from all around the world, each with their own unique history and backstory. I think this win is well-deserved.

How many translated works did you get to read this year? Any favourites? Have you read any of my picks?

I’ll be back Monday with the Best Young Adult Novel!

10 thoughts on “The Third Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards”

  1. I don’t read a lot of translated works because most of the books I procure are from used book stores, and it’s basically the title first that catches my attention, and then if the synopsis sounds interesting I’ll buy it. However, I did listen to An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good this year, and that was a hoot. It’s translated from the Swedish.

    1. I remember your review of that one – it did sound fun!

      I rely on second books a lot too. I had a whole list of translated titles I wanted to read this year and I’d specifically picked ones I could get from the library. But when the library closed I just kind of gave up and read what I had easy access too.

    2. I thought of you last night! I was watching my traditional Friday night horror film, which was in Swedish, and I realized that although I do not read much translated fiction, I watch a LOT of translated horror films! Korean, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian, etc.

    3. Am I right in thinking that foreign horror leans more to the psychological while American horror films are more gory? What draws you to the ones from other countries?

    4. Ugh, I really hate gory movies. They really started back around 2003 with the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Same plot and everything, just much, much more realistic violence. Then came the Saw franchise, and loads of others. I DO NOT WATCH IT. In some corners they call it “torture porn.” I think the foreign horror movies I’ve watched try to always do something new with the genre, whether it was Train to Busan (zombies on a train, though movie focuses on classism) from South Korea, or Let the Right One In (vampire girl, though more about how vulnerable people can be isolated and manipulated) from Sweden.

    5. I’ve never seen any of the Saw movies and I never will. That’s kind of what I was thinking of – movies that are simply one gory scene after another with seemingly no thought or intention behind it. I can imagine that a good horror movie could make a powerful statement about society or people.

    1. I think it’s actually a book that I like more after a bit of time has passed. When I read it, I felt that it was well done and had an interesting premise but looking back at it months later I can see how much it stuck in my mind.

  2. Ooh, this is great fun! I’m looking forward to reading Little Eyes at some point, so it’s exciting to see that one as your winner! Also nice to see It Would Be Nice in Caracas as an honorable mention, as that one’s on my list, too. I read far fewer translated books this year than I meant to, but Tender is the Flesh is the clear standout from what I did read- it will haunt me for a long time.

    1. Tender is the Flesh definitely sounds like a standout, based on the reviews I’ve read. I think it’s probably a little too much for me but I have been tempted. I think you’ll enjoy Little Eyes and I’m curious to hear what you think of Night in Caracas.

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