The Trouble with Book Awards

Book AwardThe single most important thing about the love of reading, is finding the types of books that YOU like to read. Not what someone else likes and has recommended to you, not what has won an award, not what is prominently displayed in a bookstore, or even what has been on the bestseller lists. This is especially true for children, teens, and reluctant readers of all ages. It is quite simple. For reading to be a pleasure, it must be a book that you enjoy!

The trouble with books that win awards, is that we tend to suddenly think that we should enjoy the book, simply because it has won an award, without first considering if it is the type of book that we would naturally gravitate towards. I think we assume that because a book has won an award and is seen on display everywhere that it is a good book, and it probably is, but the important question that you still need to ask is “Is this book good for me?”

Authors whose books win awards, do sell more copies, and for that reason winners become good for booksellers and publishers to promote. Therefore, they are prominently displayed because it is good for business. It does not mean that you will necessarily like it, just because there have been a million copies sold.

Reader's Bill of Rights 1Readers have rights. You’ve probably seen various versions of them on bookmarks or posters. Here are a couple of examples.

Readers' Bill of Rights 2

Here is my own advice on how to get the most enjoyment out of reading:

1. Find what you like to read, and do not be too much swayed by what others recommend, unless you know from experience that you like the same type of books as someone else. Do not be sucked in by marketing on websites or bookstore displays.

2. Don’t feel like you have to finish a book if you are not enjoying it. By all means, give it 50 pages, but if it has not grabbed you by then, give it up. If you are determined to read it anyway, try it at another time when you might approach it differently, like on a vacation.

3. If you want to challenge yourself to read more widely and step outside of your usual reading box, go ahead and try a different genre or author than you normally read. In that case an award winner might be a good place to start.  Try a biography or a fantasy or a thriller for a change. You may be surprised to be hooked! But if not, apply # 2 and move on. And don’t be afraid to read a teen or children’s book if you are an adult. Some of the best books I’ve read are written for young adults. Classifications are tricky and often a book will fit in more than one genre. Even though we’ve been told not to, we do judge books by their covers, but don’t assume a book is chick lit just because the cover has high heels on it.

4. Use reviews, book lists, articles about books, and blurbs on Amazon and Chapters to help you decide if you might like something. There are even websites like Goodreads that can help with this. Enjoying a book is a curious combination of writing style, story topic, word usage, humour, suspense, and the author’s ability to draw you in. You are unique and so are your choices in reading. You have a right to love it or leave it!

One response to “The Trouble with Book Awards

  1. My friend Nandy couldn’t get to a computer to leave this comment so she emailed me on her phone with some good points on the subject! It also occurred to me that when reading a book for book club, it might be better to persevere and finish a book that isn’t quite what you would normally read and enjoy. And of course there’s academic sort of reading, I was speaking mostly here of fiction!
    From Nandy: I think you need to gain a certain degree of maturity before u can toss a book after 51 pages… As kids it has been drilled into us that that’s not allowed. I’ve become a lot better at it now. Then again sometimes it is a good thing to force yourself to read a widely acclaimed author even if it is a struggle I find… Ask around about the author’s most accessible or loved book, not the latest best seller. That has worked for me so I try to challenge myself at times. Fine balance between reading as entertainment and intellectual enrichment… Ideally both I guess. ….

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