Thoughts on Readers Choice Awards

Recently voting for Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Books of 2014 was open, and it occurred to me that I didn’t like awards like these. While I think it’s awesome that readers get to have feedback on what books were awesome and that they liked the best, I question the way that the voting is actually done.

When I went to the voting page to vote, I was faced with a really interesting situation. I wanted to vote for I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson, because I enjoyed that book a lot. Yet when I reached to the page, I hesitated. “Best Young Adult Fiction of 2014,” the category that the book fell under, had 14 other books to choose from – none of which I had read. Can I really say that this one book that I had read is better than all of the other books when I haven’t read a single one?

I’ve considered the possibly of reading all of the books in the category by which to make a more informed decision. Yet the schedule of the voting actually made that really difficult. Consider the timing:

Opening Round: November 03 – 08

Voting open to 15 official nominees.

Semifinal Round: November 10 – 15

The top five write-in votes in each of the categories become official nominees, bringing the total to 20 nominees per category.

Final Round: November 17 – 24

The field narrows to the top 10 books in each category, and members have one last chance to vote!

 

Even if I wanted to read the 15 titles in the category (20 titles after the 10th) I really only had 12 days to do so. I don’t know about you, but I can’t read that fast. Even trying to read the final round contestants only is next to impossible. Now of course if I had read only new books published since last November, then perhaps I might have read a lot more of these books before the voting happened. But unless if there’s a way to accurately anticipate which books are going to be a part of the voting, then I think it’s unlikely you would have read all of the books before the voting happened.

And let’s not forget: this is only one category. There are 20 categories in total. According to my math, with 20 books per category, we’re talking about 400 books to read and vote for. I think it’s pretty safe to say that readers are not reading every single book before voting for the “best” book.

So I wonder: what is it that we’re voting for? If we can’t read all of the books per category to be able to choose the “best” book, how do we choose which book to vote for? In the case of “Best Young Adult Fiction of 2014” I was considering voting for the single book that I had actually read from that category. I don’t know if it was the best book, it was simply the one I had read. So then are other people voting for the books that they have read and recognize? If that’s the case, I don’t think we can call these the “Best Books” of 2014: rather, we should be calling them “Books That Got Read The Most” awards.

It bothers me that it’s hard to make an informed decision about these awards, so I think I’ll refrain from participating. I would much rather have an award where I can read all of the books first, and THEN vote for which one I thought was the best.

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