To invoke this year’s most persistent platitude: We need good books now more than ever. From speculative fiction by Marlon James, to Carolyn Forché’s memoir 15 years in the making, this year’s National Book Award finalists reflect today’s ever-innovative literary landscape: Diverse perspectives are celebrated and old genre mores are thrown out the window. Literary luminaries like James, Susan Choi, László Krasznahorkai, and Laila Lalami are joined by rising talent including Akwaeke Emezi and Julia Phillips, and nearly all the finalists are first-time nominees.
Every year when the Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker, and National Book Awards finalists and winners are announced, scores of people say they haven’t read any of them even though book sales usually increase after books receive awards.
I haven’t read any of the finalists on this list. The primary reason is that I very seldom buy hardback books. I tend to wait for the paperback editions. Sadly, by then I’ve often forgotten the books I was waiting for and so I don’t think of them until they show up on an awards listing.
I often wonder why so few people have read the awards’ finalists and winners prior to the award announcements. Are the awards out of touch with what most people want to read or ar most readers being lazy and sticking with the latest in the Tom Clancy, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts releases?
Some readers–including me–often shy away from titles where it looks like the authors attempted to write important books on purpose. It’s as though they look at the issues, pick something that’s cutting edge and current, and then craft a novel that’s intended to be gospel on the subject more than readable. The thin turns into a tidal wave, I think, where those voting on awards vote the “gospel” because they’re afraid they’ll be criticized if they don’t.
The same thing seems to happen with the Oscars, I think. And maybe beauty pageants as well.
Or, perhaps I’m just a bumpkin who likes easy books with lots of pictures.