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Do Literary Awards Affect Your Reading Choices?

An interesting discussion over at Mobile Read discussing the influence of literary awards have on reading behavior has me wondering the same thing about sf/f readers in particular:

Q: Do literary awards affect your reading choices?

For me, I’d say no. I have a hit-and-miss track record with award winning novels and stories. Thus I tend to just read whatever suits my appetite, which may or may not be an award winner. That said, I do have a super-secret desire to read through all the Hugo/Nebula winning pieces of short fiction.

How about you?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

16 Comments on Do Literary Awards Affect Your Reading Choices?

  1. Dino Mascolo // June 14, 2009 at 1:22 am //

       When I first started reading science fiction, about five years ago, literary awards were a big influence, because I didn’t know where to start. The first book to catch my eye was ‘Ender’s Game’, because it won both the Nebula and Hugo. Then I read ‘The Speed of Dark’, and ‘Doomsday Book’. All three were great choices. Since then it has been hit or miss for me also. Looking at the lists of award winning books also made me familiar with Author names.

       Now I know what I like and who I like. I read many genres, but find SF to be my favorite. I am greatly influenced by reviews today. I especially like when people talk about their favorite classics. I recently read ‘A canticle for Leibowitz’, and have just purchased Simak’s ‘City’, because of these types of blogs.

       I’m with you on the short fiction also.

  2. There are LIterary Awards?






  3. Yes.  Lack of an award does not affect my reading choice, but award-winners of some awards go on my tbr list automatically.

  4. In the past, definitely.  Today, because I haven’t read new SF in such a long time, I’d be inclined, like Dino, to look through the Nebula and Hugo award winners for novels to read what’s considered to be some of the better books (not that I’ve always agreed with the voters’ judgment).  I do this somewhat with movies as well, trying to collect the Academy Award winners for Best Picture (and nominees), although not with music – that’s a purely individual taste.


  5. Yes. The Arthur C. Clarke Award particularily points me to books which I may not have read but are worthwhile (or at least worth reading and disliking and discussing). I also like trying to read the BSFA shortlist. Hugo and Nebula novel short lists I’d love to read but very rarely do, recently there has seemed to be a real US populist slant to these awards which have made them less appealing.

    All in all I think awards are a great way to discover new novels.

  6. TheAdlerian // June 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm //

    I tend to avoid SF books that win awards. It’s been my experience that such books tend to be obtuse things which aren’t enjoyable to read. Certainly, that can’t always be correct, but I’ve been burned enough to not jump at such books. I won’t avoid them outright, but will investigate heavily before I spend money, and even more, time.

  7. I won’t pick up a book solely because it’s won an award, but award lists do inspire me to seek out more information on particular titles.  I’ve found some excellent books and authors by looking through the nominees for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.

  8. Hm. Tough question.

    Yes, I’m more likely to take notice of a book if it’s nominated for or wins one of the major awards (for simplicity’s sake, I’m just thinking of the Hugos and Nebulas here), if only because you’ll see the title in more news posts, etc.

    Am I more likely to read it? Two years ago, probably not. Nowadays it’s a bit more likely, particularly if I can get a review copy.

    Am I more likely to like it? Not in my experience. Historically the Hugos seem to reflect more the interests of the time than the actual quality of the book– and, as I’ve come to realize as I learn more about how the awards work, they probably reflect regional interests, as well. I love Philip K. Dick to death (as well you know), but I certainly don’t think Man in the High Castle is the novel that deserved the Hugo. (It’s kind of like John Wayne getting his Oscar for True Grit instead of, say, The Searchers. Or getting a second one for The Shootist, for that matter.) That said, there have been a number of Hugo winners that are among my favorite novels (Forever War!). I’m surprised that books like The Left Hand of Darkness were able to win a popularity-contest type vote– I could never get through that book, and I’d hardly call it a crowd-pleaser.

    I trust the Nebulas a little more to pick a novel of quality, and yet looking at the list of winners I think I’ve read a greater proportion of the Hugo winners. (Though I’m a bit surprised to see how many years the same book has won both.)



  9. Hejsa!

    My “niche” is reading “best-of” anthologies, and other reprint anthologies. (I like short stories better than novels.) The process where TWO (not just one) editor likes a story enough to print it, also means to me there’s a greater chance I’ll like it.

    I also read these anthologies from yesteryear. And man, some of that is strange. What were they doing in the 60s??? But it’s still better than picking up a magazine from that same year.

  10. Generally, no.

    If I’m picking up something new at the bookstore, it’s because the book has been written by a favourite author, or because it got a good review from someone who’s recommendations have worked out in the past, or because something about the plot that I’ve picked up from a quick scan catches my attention.

    Whether the book has won an award usually doesn’t factor into my purchasing decision, unless I’m looking at old titles from my favourite authors that I might have missed and if I see an award win, it might spur me to read that particular book sooner rather than later.


  11. With you all the way about literary awards, including the secret desire.

    Where I do like to use awards to influence me is with wines! 🙂

  12. Awards do affect what i read but not directly.

    I like to choose and weed out books myself. but im more likely to listen to recommendations of people who understand what i like in a story or people i trust who convincingly talk up a book. but if i have a book recommended that im not sure of and then i hear it’s won some pretty cool award, im far more likely to check it out. i won’t read a book only because it’s won an award, though.


    The Shadow Speaker (Hyperion/Disney)

    Zahrah the Windseeker (Houghton Mifflin)

  13. It depends on the award.

    I have almost zero trust in the Hugo awards – the people who vote for that award are often looking for  a different kind of book than I am. Some can be good, but the voting process just doesn’t add up.

    The Nebulas are hit and miss for me. I have hopes that recent changes will make it less of a popularity contest of a writers’ club.

    I have the most confidence in a selection process like for the World Fantasy Award, however, that doesn’t mean the selection will ultimately appeal to me.

    So, I may pay some attention to winners and short-lists, the honest truth is that it has almost no influence on what I buy and choose to read. I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what chances I want to make in book selections.

  14. Absolutely.  I use the awards as a pre-screening to help me avoid below average books and to help me find new authors to try.  Since each award has it’s own nuances/criteria/problems, I monitor several and look for the novels and/or authors that are nominated consistently across multiple awards and years.  I use the results as a general indication of quality and then I do my usual research for synopsis, excerpt, review, recommendation etc. to determine if it’s something I will like.

    Just becasue it’s nominated for a lot of awards does not mean I’m going to like it but I get a higher percentage chance of getting a good book and it gives me greater confidence in my choices when I plunk down my cash.  It’s worked really well so far though I still get an occasional clunker.  That mostly happens when I buy books based on the noms alone without doing my due diligence.  My method has lead me to many new authors and some great reads that I would likely have missed if I just went browsing at the bookstore.

    I currently follow 10 different awards for best novel:  Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus (SF & Fantasy), Campbell, BFS, WFA, PKD and Clarke.  I kept on adding new awards to broaden my choices which eventually made things rather complicted so I ended up building a personal web site to simplify the process.  It occured to me that other folks could benefit from that data so I got some friends together and we made it a public site and it’s just grown from there.  You can check it out by clicking my name below.

  15. Very very rarely. A reccomendation from someone intrested in the same genre will always get me first. I will say that awards do sometimes keep things on the shelf or in print a little longer so it probably increases my chance of trying them.

  16. Richard // June 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm //

    Sometimes, I suppose.

    I’ll check an award if I’ve not read the author and am looking for something new to read but am a bit worried that other positive stuff I’ve read is horrible fanboy guff-spew. 

    Awards are just another filter for me, really.  Anybody that doesn’t need some kind of filter needs to be congratulated on having a life of complete leisure.  And immortality.

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