15 Controversial Literary Awards Moments That Had Us All Talking

Disclaimer: When you buy from links on our site, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.  Learn more

Literary awards can spark heated debates among book lovers. While some choices leave readers cheering, others have them scratching their heads. Here are 15 moments in literary award history that had everyone talking.

Nobel Prize for Literature, 2016

bob dylan
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos renaschild

When Bob Dylan snagged the Nobel Prize, it left many scratching their heads. Although a music legend, some felt this award should be reserved for traditional authors. Others argued that his lyrical prowess deserved recognition.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1987

Toni Morrison
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos renaschild

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize, but it was met with mixed reactions. Some hailed it as a masterpiece, while others found its unconventional narrative style hard to digest. It was a groundbreaking choice, but not everyone was on board.

Man Booker Prize, 2011

woman scrunching her face
Image Credit Shutterstock Vladimir Gjorgiev

“The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes caused quite a stir when it took home the Man Booker Prize. While some praised its intricate exploration of memory, others found it a tad too cerebral. It sparked debates about what makes a truly ‘outstanding’ book.

National Book Award, 1957

atlas shrugged
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos matintheworld

“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand was a divisive winner of the National Book Award. Loved by some for its philosophical depth, others found its length and didactic tone a tough read. It ignited passionate discussions about the role of ideology in literature.

Hugo Awards, 2015

Liu Cixin
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos mwissmann

“The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin, a Chinese sci-fi novel, won a Hugo Award, marking a significant shift in the genre’s landscape. Some welcomed the international perspective, while others questioned if it adhered to traditional sci-fi themes. It prompted a broader conversation about diversity in speculative fiction.

Costa Book Awards, 2008

Facial Expressions Of Young Black woman looking disguested
Image Credit Depositphotos diego_cervo

“Breath” by Tim Winton was both applauded and criticized for its raw exploration of adolescence. While some hailed it as a powerful coming-of-age story, others found it too gritty for comfort. It highlighted the fine line between realism and discomfort in literature.

Orange Prize for Fiction, 2007

woman thumbs down, looking disappointed wearing yellow
Image Credit Shutterstock Stock Holm

“Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Orange Prize, but some critics felt it was too political. While praised for its historical depth, others thought it leaned too heavily into advocacy. It led to discussions about the intersection of politics and storytelling.

Giller Prize, 1996

Margaret Atwood
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos Jean_Nelson

Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace” won the Giller Prize, but it faced controversy due to its portrayal of a real-life murder case. Some saw it as a brilliant exploration of justice, while others questioned the ethics of fictionalizing a tragedy. It ignited debates about artistic license and historical events.

Newbery Medal, 2010

Angry woman holding a book yelling
Image Credit Depositphotos absurdov

“When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal, but its complex time-travel plot left some young readers bewildered. While celebrated for its intricate narrative, others found it challenging for the target age group. It raised questions about age-appropriate complexity in children’s literature.

Bram Stoker Awards, Various Years

black man angry at book
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos Krakenimages.com

The Bram Stoker Awards have seen their fair share of controversy, particularly around the definition of ‘horror.’ Some winners have been criticized for straying into other genres. It ignited debates about the boundaries and evolution of horror literature.

Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2018

thumbs down
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos AntonLozovoy

“Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie, a modern retelling of a Greek tragedy, won the Women’s Prize. While praised for its timely themes, some readers found it emotionally intense. It sparked discussions about the role of discomfort in storytelling.

Costa Book Awards, 2015

thumbs down x
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos AntonLozovoy

“The Lie Tree” by Frances Hardinge, a young adult novel, won the Costa Book Awards. While celebrated for its imaginative world-building, some felt it pushed the boundaries of young adult fiction. It prompted conversations about genre expectations and reader maturity.

Nobel Prize for Literature, 1974

woman in an orange sweater reading a book she doesnt like
Image Credit Depositphotos AntonLozovoy

Harry Martinson and Eyvind Johnson were joint winners of the Nobel Prize, a choice that sparked debates about shared awards. Some felt it diluted the recognition, while others saw it as a unique celebration of collaboration. It led to discussions about individual vs. collective achievement.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2014

thumbs down for book
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos sabphoto

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize, but its length divided readers. While some relished its epic scope, others found it a daunting commitment. It prompted conversations about the accessibility of award-winning literature.

Hugo Awards, 2013

a big clock
Image Credit_ DepositPhotos grandfailure

“The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson faced mixed reactions when it won a posthumous Hugo Award. While some celebrated its contribution to the genre, others questioned the awarding of a completed series. It ignited discussions about recognition for completed works.

15 Banned Picture Books You Might Remember From Your Childhood

Grandmother reading to a child
Image Credit Depositphotos NewAfrica

15 Banned Picture Books You Might Remember From Your Childhood – Children’s books are meant to entertain, educate, and inspire young minds. However, some have faced bans and controversies due…

Was Dr. Seuss Racist? 7 Dr. Seuss Books That Clearly Display Racism

Dr. Seuss Characters and an African American woman crying
Image Credit ShutterstockRon Ellis Woman crying ShotPrime Studio (1)

Was Dr. Seuss Racist? 7 Dr. Seuss Books That Clearly Display Racism – Dr. Seuss is known and beloved for his whimsical stories and colorful characters. However, some of his works have…

The Most Addictive Book Series: 15 Series That Will Make You Forget About Everything Else In Life

a woman reading a great book, looking happy and excited as she reads
Image Credit Depositphotos Krakenimages.com

The Most Addictive Book Series: 15 Series That Will Make You Forget About Everything Else In Life We all know that feeling of getting lost in a book series, unable to put it down until we’ve devoured…

Boomer Battle: 15 Books Boomers Love And Younger Generations Hate

woman reading a book looking confused
Image credits Depositphotos nicoletaionescu

Boomer Battle: 15 Books Boomers Love And Younger Generations Hate – Every generation has its own taste in literature, and what resonates with one may not strike a chord with…

15 Books You Have To Read Before You Die

woman with a book on her head looking happy and surprised .
Image credits Depositphotos Vadymvdrobot

15 Books You Have To Read Before You Die – Embarking on a literary journey is like traversing time, emotions, and cultures without ever leaving your seat. For book…

Motherhood Life Balance, Bookworm Era | + posts

Victoria Cornell helps women adopt a positive mindset even when the struggles of motherhood feel overwhelming. On her sites, Motherhood Life Balance, Neon Moon and Bookworm Era she writes about ways to reduce stress with mindset, manifesting, goal planning, productivity, and more.