Thoughts

Thoughts #32: The Influence Of The Book Award

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A couple of weeks ago, whilst writing my post on my new challenge, A Decade Of Award Winners, I noticed a common occurrence on Goodreads. Many of these award-winning books, that experts had deemed the best of the year in their respective categories, had pretty average ratings on Goodreads, some even below three stars.

I have to say, I found that surprising.

When I think of award-winning books, I think of the very best. A classic that everyone should read, an epic adventure where you follow every step, a world that makes you want to live in it, an utterly captivating story in every way. Yet despite these books being given prestigious awards, it seems like their most important audience, the general reader rather than the professional reviewer, doesn’t see the book in the same way.

I do wonder whether it’s because these particular awards I’m talking about are genre specific – fantasy, science fiction and horror – which whilst popular, will probably always have a smaller reader base than contemporary fiction or books that often top the ‘bestseller’ charts in supermarkets etc.

Sometimes when I read award-winning books, this is how I feel...

Sometimes when I read award-winning books, this is how I feel…

When I compare one of these award-winning novels to one of my favourites, it has a rating of 2.94, which just doesn’t seem right for something deemed amazing enough to receive a coveted literature award. However, it has less than 2,500 ratings, compared to the 140,000+ of that of my favourite, so it could be that within that smaller number there is a much wider variety to drag it down.

I have to say, that book awards do not necessarily encourage me to read books. My recent challenge is the exception of course! But usually, I would not pick a book up off the shelf just because of a sticker on the front telling me it had won an award – nor would I let the fact that it had won one influence my opinion.

Personally, I feel that just because a book has won an award, that doesn’t mean it’s worth reading. My challenge is giving me the chance to try out some new science fiction and fantasy from the past ten years, but if I pick one of those books up and don’t enjoy it, I won’t feel obligated to finish it. I know for a fact that I REALLY didn’t enjoy one of the recent Hugo and Nebula award winners, for example.

... but then other times I feel like this.

… but then other times I feel like this.

What do you think? Do book awards encourage you to read a book? Have you ever been disappointed by an award-winning book?

16 thoughts on “Thoughts #32: The Influence Of The Book Award”

  1. It’s kind of like movie critics – some movies are SLAMMED and I love them, some movies are critically revered and they bored the pants off me. The same is true of awards for books, I think. Whatever the judging criteria is I’m sure “immense reader entertainment” and “unputsownability” aren’t counted. Lots of books that are innovative, quirky and/or comment on certain social issues win awards, but they don’t win hearts! R x

    1. This is very true. I guess a lot of it is based on writing ability and maybe how pretty the prose is, rather than keeps you reading type books.

      Not that it matters in the end – I’d much rather have recommendations from my fellow readers 🙂

  2. I’m of the stance that just because someone won an award, it doesn’t make it worth it as well. I actually tend to stay away from award winning books, because it will most likely mean that I won’t like it! My dad on the other hand, ONLY reads books that have won an award. I won’t say it’s book snobbery, because my dad ain’t that sort, but I think it’s because it means the book has withstood a battering of critique, which my dad with his limited time, thinks of as a worthy thing to pick up. Me? I don’t have time but I’d rather take a risk, where as he won’t.

    1. Ooh that’s an interesting point! It makes me sad that people who do that might miss out on some wonderful reads though. You should make an award-winning list of your own for him 😉

  3. I’ve noticed that the “crowd-pleaser” books have much higher ratings on Goodreads than more serious works. I’m not sure it’s the genre, I just think the easier, more popular books get the higher ratings. And maybe it’s a mark of a better book that people disagree about it. Another possibility is that awards raise our expectations and then we are more disappointed.

    1. Yes, things like Twilight and 50 Shades which are pretty bashed amongst the community, still have fairly high (or at least above average) ratings.

  4. I thought about this a lot this year with the Printz Award, because I have a long-term goal of being on the committee myself one day! I read Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle and loved it to death. However, I gave it to my boyfriend and he hated it. I realized that people who serve on those committees, by their very nature, are the types of people who have read A LOT of books. Like, they read 300 in a year just for that committee. Call it snobbery, but I think reading in high volume like that does change one’s outlook on what is “good.” I liked Grasshopper Jungle because it was unique and I have some sense of the fact that Smith writes very well, because it stands out among the hundreds of novels I’ve read. My boyfriend, on the other hand, only reads a few books a year and thought the book was too weird. Neither of us are right or wrong (after all, high volume reads are absolutely a minority), but it made me realize why award winners are rejected by teenagers and only get mediocre ratings from the general public!

    1. I’d not heard of the Printz award, so I just had to look it up!

      300 in a year just for the committee? Ouch, I can’t read that many just for myself! I suppose if it was my job though, it might be possible 😛 And it’s true, the more books you read, the more you’re comparing to as well.

  5. I never read them just because they have an award. If they do, they get recognition, then I look them up. If people that read my sort of stuff enjoyed them, then I give it a try. If not, then no. 🙂 I trust my peers more than ‘professional’ critics. I loved “The Giver” and “All the lights we cannot see”, while I can’t get myself to read 1Q84 properly.

    1. I think they draw my attention to books sometimes, but then my decision to read the book is based entirely on the blurb/cover sometimes (yes I do that :P).

      I have All The Lights We Cannot See, I can’t wait to read that one 😀 And I really liked 1Q84.

  6. I’ve never really picked up a book because it won an award or it was on the top ten shelves of the bookstore… Mostly, I just pick whatever I feel was good based on the synopsis. It’s like movies, I watch movies that I think I like, regardless of the ratings given. I think they’re just factors for people who need something to help them to choose? It’s helpful to some extent but it’s also subjective to whoever’s giving out these awards/stars too. Very much like reviews! 😉

    1. Yes, I am definitely a mood reader so I think what I choose to buy also entirely depends on my mood.

      Although with movies, sometimes it’s fun to watch a bad one – but I never find it particularly fun to read a bad book 😦

  7. I use to be award motivated and would pick up a book with the sticker on the front and then a couple of years ago I picked up an awarding winning book and it was terrible. I couldn’t even finish it.

    Now I go more by the ratings, the reviews of people I trust and the back cover to see if I actually will like it. But it is all a matter of opinion and everybody is different.

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