Sunday, January 24, 2010

NBCC Shortlist Is No Reader’s Choice

The finalists for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced Saturday night in New York. Once again, the titles that made NBCC’s final cut seem to comprise a list more intended to make a small group of people feel erudite rather than making a large group feel passionate about books and reading.

On the other hand, these are not the people’s choice awards. But then, neither is the National Book Award. So where is the place where the passion of readers and the choices of critics can come together? And isn’t it time that the two become somewhat reflective of each other?

According to the NBCC’s Web site, the organization was “founded in 1974 at the Algonquin, is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization consisting of some 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns.”

Some people feel that conversations about books are dwindling and, certainly, the inches offered to book reviews in newspapers are shrinking. What can we do -- what can all of us do -- to make discussions about books more vibrant and more relevant to an audience that seems to not be entirely convinced? I’m not sure of the answer, but I know that it isn’t esoterica.

Here are the finalists in the fiction category:
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead)
Michelle Huneven, Blame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Holt)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Knopf)
Others shortlists are here.



Anonymous Barbara Friend Ish said...

I started to leave a comment, but it turned into an entire blog post. In brief: the conversations and collaborations you desire are already taking place--in the blogosphere and on social-reading sites. You can read the long-winded version here:

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 3:35:00 PM PST  

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