I’ve been reading the books soon to be discussed on Canada Reads. It’s not something I always do, but if I get a chance to listen, I’d like to know what they’re talking about. It’s easy to dismiss Canada Reads as partisan or irrelevant, but it does get people reading. In my books, that’s always a good thing.
Last year I read all the Giller nominated books. Again, not something I always do but I figured if they were nominated for a Giller, they must be good. Right? But is that true? As we’re knee deep in awards season (Golden Globes, Grammy’s, Oscars), I’ve been thinking about what it means for books.… do contests make a difference to what we read? How do these accolades translate into readership?
Do you read books shortlisted for our national prizes? If so, do you find the accolades justified?
Does the little sticker on a book announcing its nomination mean anything to you, or are you likely to put it back on the shelf in disdain? Or boredom?
A friend of mine, who admittedly is even more of a book snob than me, chooses books on the basis of which organization or individual is putting their stamp of approval on it. If it’s a Giller or Writer’s Trust or Booker nominee, he’s quite likely to put his money down. However, his contempt for GoodReads, or Reese Witherspoon endorsements is merciless. At least I don’t have to listen to him rant about Oprah now she’s out of the book business!
There are writers who we believe are worthy of recognition. We rue that they haven’t achieved those nominations and awards we think they deserve. But does it matter to you?
For an up and coming writer, a nomination or award means a great deal. Of course, there are the huge well-known awards like the Pulitzer, but for every one you’ve heard of, there are hundreds of smaller awards. They may give only modest prizes and translate into limited visibility for the author. But they are validation to an author, especially at the beginning of a writer’s career. Perhaps it’s just a mental hurdle, but having that social proof, can propel them to think of themselves as “real” writers. You’d be surprised how many legitimate authors, still sometimes think of themselves as frauds. Public recognition for one’s efforts is never amiss.
As a writer, I confess I couldn’t dream of anything more satisfying than seeing that little sticker on the cover of my book… riches, fame, glamour. Move over Louise Penny! Critical success, financial success: I wouldn’t pretend to be above any of it.
For readers, a book award is often reassurance that their time will be well spent. You may not always agree with it, but like it or not, awards matter.
In the meantime, happy reading!