Book Prizes

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 17.26.00So, I keep seeing shortlists for book prizes….

Book prizes often actually put me off books. With one very well known prize, if there is a book on their shortlist that I was previously interested in, it just being on the list will make me remove it from my TBR. I haven’t just started doing this completely randomly, there is a reason. With some of these big prizes I have read many of the previous winning or shortlisted books and I haven’t liked any of them. It’s similar to liking or not liking particular genres really. I know I don’t tend to like YA in the same way I know I don’t tend to like such and such prize winners, so I avoid both.

It seems the big name prizes are often very political. If a book is about an “important” topic it ends up on a prize shortlist, regardless of how good or bad it actually is. From my point of view the quality of the book should be the sole determining factor for prizes. Anyone can pick an “important” topic and write something about it. Not everyone can write a good book. A good book, can be about anything, any topic, it being about a less “important” topic doesn’t make it “unworthy”.

There are different types of book prizes of course, so the above doesn’t always apply. Prizes based purely on what “normal” people rather than the industry think, are far more valid from my point of view. Those winners are generally books that huge numbers of people found genuinely interesting, and I will read those, if they sound like something I will enjoy anyway.

Is this sort of thing a big deal? I would say yes. Why? Firstly it means that great authors go unrecognised, at least unrecognised in these big, prestigious ways, and it’s not really fair. Recognition isn’t the only thing that comes from these prizes either, more practical things, like money, are a result also. So, some of these great authors aren’t getting recognised, and aren’t able to make a living doing something they love and are great at, so what do they do? Lots of other things I imagine, but they shouldn’t have to.

In terms of getting people into reading I would say these prizes are an issue too. These winners are being presented as being the “best” books. So, if someone thinks “hey, I want to read more”, it’s reasonably likely that they would choose a prize winner to pick up. If these books are on “important” topics but actually boring or poorly written, these people aren’t going to enjoy them and it will put them off picking up more books.

What are your thoughts on book prizes? Do you normally agree that the winning books are great? Does it vary by prize?


7 thoughts on “Book Prizes

  1. I’m in the same boat as you. I tend to be put off by awards. However, I would still leave the book on my tbr.

    I tried to read a few books of the Booker long list last year, and some of my picks made it into the shortlist, but I really didn’t like them. Similarly, the book that wins usually leaves me wondering why? I always predict another title.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is so great! I’m actually the exact same as you- I’m actually really put off by prize winning books, cos they tend to be on “important” (as you said even that’s subjective-someone decides arbitrarily what is important right now) subjects, but often written in a way I don’t like. Usually they’re very pretentious! I very very rarely actually enjoy these books and I think they’re off-putting for ordinary readers who might be trying to just find something of good quality- and since these don’t tend to represent good quality books, I find this whole concept misleading. I often find people won’t enjoy them but will just end up saying “yeah but it was important, so other people should read it”- and for that reason the cycle of these books getting recommended I’d never ending!

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  3. Some prize winners I like, some I don’t. For instance, I loved ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ (winner of the 2014 Manbooker), I hated ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ (winner of the 2015 manbooker). I haven’t tried ‘The Sellout’ (winner of the 2016 Manbooker) it doesn’t sound interesting to me so I won’t read it. I am currently reading a shortlisted Manbooker International contender ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’. I only read the ones that sound interesting to me, some I like, some I hate.

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