Interesting to have wrapped up my coverage of the National Book Awards on the same day that Library Journal launched its online coverage of Best Books. It raises the inevitable question, What’s the value of picking bests? Don’t people always disagree? This year I was happy with the NBA winners, but you bet I’m sometimes disappointed with the judges’ choices; the criterion can seem to be what I don’t like. But since I write this as longtime vice president for awards at the National Book Critics Circle, I can’t scoff too much at the concept. Though I’ll push Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones on everyone I know, the real value of the best-book phenomemon is the conversation it starts. First, in one’s own head; I always have to ask myself whether I’m second guessing on a book, if I missed something, why a book I love (or hate) is tossed out (or embraced) by people whose reading taste I respect. Books are simply too complex to allow for a reductive everyone-will-love-this approach, but they are meant to prompt talk, something that awards do in a really big way. So bring then on; just remember that whatever favorites you pick tells me alot about you.
Awards: What’s in Them for Us
By November 21, 2011on