Next week, we’ll be announcing the winners of the first annual Kirkus Prizes, and we couldn’t be more excited. Though I’m not a judge for the fiction award, I’ve been working closely with our three judges—novelist Kate Christensen; Stephanie Valdez, co-owner of Community Bookstore and Terrace Books in Brooklyn; and Marion Winik, a writer and Kirkus reviewer—and I’ve been awed by their dedication to the process, as well as the joy they’ve taken in reading the eclectic group of books that received starred Kirkus reviews in the past year.
Since the prize was created in May, the judges and I have been having conference calls every two weeks to discuss what they’ve been reading and what books each of them was eager to have their fellow judges read right away. They spent time talking about what they were looking for in the finalists and the eventual winner (to be announced on Oct. 23) and decided they wanted to find books they were passionate about, not just impressed by; books they wanted to press on all their friends with the words, “Read this!” Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names is written in the first person; Lily King’s Euphoria, Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon, Bill Roorbach’s The Remedy for Love and Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests are written in the third person; and Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World is told from a variety of points of view: What they all have in common is a compelling narrative voice that pulls you in and won’t let you stop reading.
I often freeze when people ask me what they should read next; since Kirkus reviews books months ahead of publication date, I’m usually reading something that hasn’t come out yet, which doesn’t do my friends much good. This list of Kirkus Prize finalists will give me the perfect recommendation list for the next year, and I hope you’ll check them out soon. —L.M.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor at Kirkus Reviews.