The Fifth Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards

Hello and Welcome to the Fifth (yes, fifth!) Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards! This is my annual, very rigorous, very competitive, highly esteemed way of looking back at what I’ve read over the past year and rating it by a merit system known only to myself.

Eligible books must have been read by me between December 2021 and November 2022. Shortlists and winners are decided solely by me and the prize is the warm feeling that the authors will no doubt experience when they know that someone on the internet liked them. (It’s a very narcissistic literary event.)

(Of course I have to acknowledge that this idea is blatantly stolen from Fiction Fan who is currently sharing her own Awards which you can see here. I’m also enjoying following along with Louloureads first ever awards which you can see here.)

This year there will be 5 categories and they are as follows:

Best Translated Work

Best Canadian Book

Best Short Story Collection

Best Non-Fiction

Best Fiction

We’ll start off today with


One of my Reading Goals in 2022 was to read more works in translation and I set myself the goal of 10 books. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve read 11 so far in 2022. There were three standouts so HONOURABLE MENTION goes to:

Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Harper & Row Publishers, 1954)

This was translated from the original German by John W. Doberstein. While Bonhoeffer’s writing about the role of church and Christian community really transcends any language, this book is a great reminder of why I’m so thankful to be able to access translated work. The world would be less rich if Bonhoeffer’s words were only available to those who understood German. This is a book that found me at a personally powerful time and I’m thankful for it this year.

The Eighth LifeNino Haratischvili (Scribe, 2019)

A book so big that it needed two translators. Translated from the original German (maybe I should learn to read German!) by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin. I just enjoyed this book a lot. I felt so immersed in the world of this family, I learned so much about the history of Georgia and the Soviet Union. So much of it was new and foreign to me and yet this giant book never felt inaccessible.

And the Winner is….!

The Books of JacobOlga Tokarczuk (Riverhead Books, 2022)

This was translated from the original Polish by Jennifer Croft. The Books of Jacob is the clear winner to me because even as I was reading it I often had the thought, This translation is excellent! Not because I could compare anything to Polish but because language is such an important part of the story. This historical novel crosses so many borders – physical, cultural, religious, and linguistic – and there must have been so many times when Croft had to decide what to translate and how to do so. Again, this is an enormous book and the language never felt like it was leaving me behind.

Please tell me your favourite translated work!

17 thoughts on “The Fifth Annual Karissa Reads Books Literary Awards”

  1. Great category – and I agree, I’m always very impressed when the translation of work where language is integral is impressive. I think sometimes translators even add something to the quality. I remember listening to an interview with John Green where he said that when his books are translated into Czech (or something similar, I forget which), they win all sorts of prestigious literary prizes they would never even be shortlisted for in English, and he gets comparisons to F Scott Fitzgerald etc. I’m not sure what my favourite translated work of all time is, but this year I was very impressed by the translation of The Name of the Rose – another book where language is very important and I think the translator nailed it.

    1. That’s so interesting about John Green’s translator. A good translator can make a huge difference to a book. And when it’s one like this where they are working with so many different references, it was amazing every time I stopped and remembered I wasn’t reading it in its original language. I’ve never read The Name of the Rose – do you recommend it?

  2. Hurrah! Another opportunity to wear my ballgown! Can’t believe it’s your fifth awards already! Your winner tempted me at the time you reviewed it and is tempting me again. This is the problem with awards season – my willpower isn’t strong enough to cope! I wait with trepidation to see what wins in your other categories… 😱

  3. What I enjoy about the awards is that everyone picks their own categories that highlight the kind of reading they enjoy.

    This is an odd one, but I like the poetry collection Alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied. The structure of the poems is based on the Fibonacci sequence, which sounds crazy hard by is not after you do a simple Google.

    1. Poetry seems so hard to translate! I’m always amazed by translators who tackle it. There’s so much nuance used in poems and they tend to be a lot shorter than stories so every word should really matter. It must be hard!

    2. Absolutely. When we are interpreting songs, I always wonder if I’m skipping the joy of the English language, but then I realize that’s not accurate. How can someone enjoy English if they don’t know English? Imagine if you took a poem in Russian, using their alphabet system, and you translated into Russian using the A, B, C’s we use. We still wouldn’t understand the poem.

  4. Three cheers for the winner!
    For my favourite translation I’m going with a version of Homer’s Odyssey which was written for children. Still looking for a version for adults that I can understand!

    1. Oh, that sounds interesting! What was it called? I’ve never read the whole thing either so a simpler version sounds appealing!

    2. My version is just called The Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer by Alfred J Church. I’ve just finished a re-read and will review sometime over the next month or so.

  5. Oh good on ya for reading so much translated work! I always enjoy them when I do, but I don’t get to them enough, so you’ve inspired me.

    I think I remember reading your review of The Books of Jacob, so not surprised it won!

  6. Your selections sound so interesting! I think all my translated reads this year were from French. I enjoyed them all, but the best translation would probably go to Querelle of Roberval – that was something else.

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