Discussion // Book Awards–Does Popular Mean Good?

23 November 2020

When I was writing up post ideas a big one which really got me excited to write was one about Book Awards. My mind bounced in a million different directions when trying to think of where to go with this post. The obvious route for me was Goodreads. It’s one annual book award I actually pay a small amount of attention to. Usually because you are given little option when you go onto the Goodreads website the end of the year they pretty much shove it in your face to vote. But then complaining about the Goodreads awards feels too obvious and feels pointless when some bloggers who are far more hardworking and proactive than me have created The Swoon Awards to vote in for romance books instead (if your read romance, seriously go check it out. You can nominate until the 31st December).


This left me a little stumped over where to go because I really liked the idea of a post about book awards but if my complaining post is redundant where do I go instead?


I thought long and hard and then thought to myself why do I even get so bothered by the Goodreads awards? I looked through the romance nominations for the past few years and I’ve read less than half of the books nominated each year. It shocked me for a moment, can I really be deemed a romance reader when I’ve not read so many popular romance books? I get the same feeling of being a fraud when I see lists which list the best romances ever and I’ve not read half of them. Why haven’t I read more romance?


But then I remember I didn’t properly recognise the brilliance of the romance genre for years and it was only the past few years I really began reading a lot of them so of course I won’t have read books that some deem as classics of the genre because a lot of these apparent ‘classics’ are in fact a little problematic (which the majority of romance readers recognise and do point out to newer readers as it won’t always be a good fit for them). And the other important thing to remember is that just because it’s popular does that really mean it’s good? I mean, look at the Goodreads awards, the books in the romance category tend towards authors with a large fanbase. Colleen Hoover has appeared in it every year without fail, sometimes she wins and sometimes she doesn’t but she has a large fanbase. This means her books usually come high up with the number of votes she receives. Then there’s E.L James, I think we can all agree that the 50 Shades series isn’t great, but it’s popular. Everyone and your mom (or even your nan) has read it. It means lots of people vote for it even when they don’t necessarily read a lot of romance. But it’s a perfect example of ‘just because it’s popular does not mean it’s good’.


Of course, I’m not saying that the winners books, or even the nominees are bad. Of course they aren’t, they’re on that list because it is recognised that a lot of people have been enjoying reading them. Some of them may not hold up with their popularity over the years, but the year they were nominated readers were talking about it. I think the Goodreads Award is great at recognising the books which are popular and readers are normally talking about each year. It is flawed because anyone can vote even if they’ve not read a single book on that list. Books which have mainstream popularity are more likely to win. I shouldn’t worry about reading all of the books on the list but if I have read them great. I love when books make the list I’ve enjoyed and if I see authors who I’ve loved appear on it I am celebrating with them. It’s a great point of recognition for authors, it shows they’re popular and I can begrudge no one for being excited about that.


So after writing this post you might be thinking maybe I won’t do my own nominations for The Swoon Awards and I most certainly won’t stress about it when I does. You know what I say to that? I say you obviously don’t know me because of course I’m going to stress about it. I’m going to stress about it right up until I hit submit on my nominations because that is just the type of person I am. Just because popular does not necessarily mean good I still want the books I love to get some recognition because that is nice for authors to get. I may not always agree with winners of the Goodreads Awards, but even I recognise the winner’s are books which are popular and you can’t help but pay a touch more attention to them just to see what the hype is about. I know that doesn’t mean they’re good, but as long as nothing problematic has come out about them, I’ll probably read just to find out what everyone else sees.


What are your thoughts? Do you follow book awards closely? Do you see it more as what’s popular for a year or that these books are the best?

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