"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Awards. Join in the conversation.

Last week I caught the tail-end of the Grammy Award ceremony. I knew few of the musicians who won the awards and hadn't heard many of the songs before the evening event. I said something to my husband about how I am no longer in the age bracket to appreciate the Grammy awards and he said something snarky to me in reply. It was all good but it got me thinking. Did the Beatles, my favorite music group of all times, ever win any Grammy awards or were the Grammys even a thing in the sixties?

I looked it up and was shocked to learn that The Beatles only won five of them before they broke up. Five! And in reality one of those, the Grammy for best song of the year in 1967 went to McCartney and Lennon for "Michelle", not the whole group. In 1964 The Beatles won the New Artist Grammy and the Best Vocal Performance By a Group for "A Hard Day's Night." and in 1968 they won two Grammys for Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But here is the real shocker, in 1967 Revolver, thought by many. many people to be The Beatles best album was nominated for Best Album but lost to Frank Sinatra.

This last fact got me thinking about AWARDS in general. Revolver vs A Man and His Music, which one is played and admired more today? Revolver, hands down. So often awards, not just Grammys but also Oscars, Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Tonys, etc., seem to go to the wrong person/book/movie. Don't you think?

I have followed and promoted the Youth Media Awards from the American Library Association for years. I read as many YA titles as I could and tried to figure out what books would/should win the Printz, Morris, YALSA Nonfiction Awards. More times than not, I was surprised and often disappointed in the winner. But even if I wasn't disappointed, I usually had a hard time talking the students into reading the winners. The books were just too long, or serious, or nuanced, or adult-picked. Of course, there were some exceptions. Think Looking for Alaska, The Book Thief, and Speak as winners that also appealed to readers and have remained popular choices for years.

The Academy Awards will be handed out next week and I am going to make a prediction..."And the Oscar goes to..." the movie that few people will watch after this year. Shouldn't an aspect of the best movie/book/play be popularity? In 2010 "Hurt Locker" won for Best Picture. It won over "Avatar", which had broken all kinds of box office records. Everyone wanted to see "Avatar" and no one wanted to see "Hurt Locker." Shouldn't viewership/readership, at least to a small degree, factor into the decision of what wins?

As a judge for the Cybils Award (Children and Young Adults Bloggers' Literary Award) I know what it is like to be part of a team who helps determine a winning book. We discuss each nominated book and one of the things we consider is how much the book would appeal to our target audiences.  If we, the adult judges, like a book we also have to think of the teen/children readers. Writing, story/plot/accuracy/relevance/and appeal all factor into our decisions. I know the same thing is done for The Grammys and the Oscars but sometimes it seems that message wins over appeal.

On the flipside, Washington State hosts a book award, The Evergreen Award, which is based entirely on popularity. I'm sure other states have something similar. Students vote for their favorite books from a list generated by teen librarians. The winners are exactly the books you expect. Past winners were Twilight (2008), Hunger Games (2011), The Fault in Our Stars (2015). The inclusion of Twilight on this list of winners lets you know immediately that popularity was the only factor used in the selection. That isn't a good selection technique, either.

At a library conference a few years ago I overheard one librarian in conversation with another say that winning a book award was like a kiss of death in terms of circulation. Wow. That was harsh, but I wonder about the truth behind the comment. If you are a librarian, have you ever noticed that award books don't circulate as much as you expected? I suspect that may be truer with children's and YA books. It always seems to me that the adult award winning books I want to read have plenty of holds on them. In fact, I personally scour award book lists to advise my next book selections.

How about you? How do you feel about awards in general? Do you read award books? Watch award movies? Do you usually agree with the selection committee's decisions. Do you think that popularity should at least factor into the selection a bit? Please join in the conversation.




10 comments:

  1. I do think that awards can discourage people from reading a book because they think it's going to be too dense and serious. (and sometimes that's true!) I've seen most of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture and think they are all deserving. Although most of my friends disliked "Roma" I liked it and see why it was nominated. I thought "First Man" should have been in the group; it had terrific acting and revealed a lot about Neil Armstrong. I'm generally glad that the most popular films don't win or even get nominated. Many of them are nothing but action and violence.

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    1. I hadn't thought of movies that are popular often being the action/violent ones. You make good points.

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  2. Anne,
    You were always more aware of award-winning books than me. However, your relentless research in reading so many award books helped guide me toward my award reading. I’m still at a loss for movies that win the best film just as I’m perplexed when a bizarre title is selected for the Michael Printz Award. Teens do t care about awards; they just want to read good books. I agree with them. A gold sticker doesn’t draw me in unless I really respect the committee.

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    1. Did you think that the gold sticker on a book actually deterred selection? I pushed award books with my teachers and hence their students but many required a very hard sell.

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  3. An interesting post today. What do I think of awards? As a child and a teen and a young adult, I lived for awards. I used to say that I did everything to pump up my obituary. (How’s that for motivation?)

    As I got older, I tried to wean myself from being so outwardly motivated and focus on inward motivations. I turned down my school’s nomination for Teacher of the Year in one attempt to do so.

    It was pretty useless. I still like to win awards, however small, however meaningless.

    I do agree with you about award-winning books and films. Rarely are they the best of the year. I’m reading Merci Suarez right now, and, while it is quite good, it is nowhere near the quality of some of the books I’ve read for the 1001 Children’s Books list. I do like the idea of the Cybils including both literary quality and kid love for the book.

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    1. It seems like we have a nice balance on the Cybils Award judging. Though I am going to make one suggestion for next year....since we are all bloggers, we shouldn't be allowed to suggest a title for consideration unless we have already reviewed it ourselves in a blog post.

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  4. I don't tend to read books solely because they are award winners. I rarely actually know which books win awards. The only exception is the Agatha Awards. Those I see who was nominated, who won, and consider reading them. That doesn't mean I actually do, but I at least think about it.

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    1. I take it that the Agatha Awards go to mysteries. I'm on my way to explore them.

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  5. Award winning books and movies grab my attention, just to see what factors went into the decision, but I seldom enjoy a book or movie for those reasons.

    I am drawn to movies and books with great plots and characters...and a minimum of violence. I don't like action movies, either, so my favorites won't be in the award-winning lineup.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

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  6. Great post! I am often disappointed with award winners because the book / movie / TV show that I love doesn't win. I think part of the problem is that it is so subjective; no matter who wins, a huge portion of the population disagrees.

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