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Do Book Awards Affect Your Reading Choices?

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Do awards affect your reading choices? This is a somewhat similar to the question of whether or not best-sellers affect your choices, but awards feel more compelling, somehow. There are limits to a longlist, to a shortlist, and it’s more dependant on opinion rather than both opinion and sales. The books have been curated, discussed, debated, and for all we try to get away from it, the thought that it’s a better signifier of quality is hard to shake off.

Awards affect my reading choices more than best-seller lists both due to the simple fact that there are fewer out there (thus easier to choose between) and because there is a lot more attention given to awards in general. There are more reviews to read, especially once the books are on the award radar, and the difference in coverage can and will have an affect on what you remember and keep in mind. It also seems to be the case that people find it easier to be honest, to speak out when they hate an award-winning book.

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Best-seller lists are numerous and everywhere; award shortlists tend to be easier to find and the lesser quantity means you’ll remember them more. I’d also say the variety of books is broader due to genres being more involved.

And yet amongst all these opinions and general thoughts of excellence, the fact that awards are judged by a set small group of people is often all too apparent. Shortlisted books can be ones the public thought bad – what were the judges thinking? The book makes no sense – are the judges in on something no one else knows about, are they just too far removed from everyone else? Is it truly an objective decision? This is where reviews are important, particularly reviews by those you trust and share reading tastes with.

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I’m currently (still, now) working my way through the Orange Prize shortlist for 2011. I’ve also one more book from the Young Writer Of The Year shortlist and some Man Bookers I hope to get to. These last few months mark a change for me – other than that Orange shortlist, when I’ve read shortlisted books it’s been accidental.

Awards definitely affect my thoughts and choices at the moment. I’m not sure how long that’ll last, if it’ll be a one time thing or a progression point, but I do like knowing I’m reading a book that many others have. I’ve found what works for me is a balance of popular books (in part so I understand what’s going on!), random choices, and books I’ve found by myself.

Do book awards affect your reading choices?



January 18, 2016, 4:48 pm

Awards don’t really affect what I read, except for maybe adding to reasons I already have to read the book. I tend to read books based on the genre, themes and author. If lots of blogging friends have enjoyed it too I can be swayed too.

Jenny @ Reading the End

January 18, 2016, 4:53 pm

I think they do a BIT. I don’t, for instance, try to read everything on a given awards list, but I do at least become more likely to remember a book’s name if it’s getting all kinds of awards. The awards that will make me more likely to read a book are probably the Tournament of Books and the Costa Awards. I’ve had good luck with those ones.


January 18, 2016, 7:21 pm

I never used to pay much attention to awards, but about a year ago I decided to set myself the challenge of reading all the shortlisted books for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. I’m about halfway through now, and although most of them were books I would probably have read anyway, I’ve also discovered some great books that I might never have picked up otherwise.

Literary Feline

January 19, 2016, 12:20 am

I can’t really say that awards do affect my reading. There was a time when it was otherwise–just by a small degree. I don’t follow any of the book awards these days.

Laurie C

January 20, 2016, 3:06 am

I pay attention to my home state’s book awards (Massachusetts Book Awards) and for some reason, if I hear something won the Man Booker Prize or was shortlisted for that prize, I’m likely to want to read it more. The Pulitzer and National Book Award and other awards I tend not to pay as much attention to. The Orange Prize is more on my radar lately, though!


January 20, 2016, 9:39 am

Jessica: That’s a good point to have, that it adds a reason. I like that, icing on the cake.

Jenny: I admire people who do, especially when they read longlists, though I wonder how they find the time! Yes, the name being out there a lot helps. I haven’t heard of the Tournament of Books but the Costa ones sound good – lots of categories if I recall correctly? Plenty of choice.

Helen: That’s quite something, well done! I can imagine you’ve a good list of recommendations on your hands.

Literary Feline: I wonder if I’m going through my small degree, as it were. I do think it’s good to have a balance of award books and others if you do read them.

Laurie: I like how you promote writers through your posts on you state’s awards. I wonder if it’s that second opinion, as such, in regards to your ‘for some reason’? The Orange Prize does seem to choose some great books (though admittedly I wasn’t keen on The Tiger’s Wife).

Laurie C

January 20, 2016, 12:53 pm

I didn’t really like The Tiger’s Wife either! But I think the only reason I read it at all was that it had won the prize.


February 7, 2016, 9:05 pm

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I remember reading the shortlist for the Bailey’s prize in 2014 and loving them, doing the same in 2015 and being disappointed, which has put me off doing the same this year. I’ve read some amazing books from following awards, and some awful ones as well. I guess it depends on how closely the judges tastes match my own and how good they are at spotting spectacular books.



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