Yesterday’s announcement of the shortlist for the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime fiction* reminded me, once again, that I am generally out of step with the rest of humanity (or at least judging panels) when it comes to book awards.
Of the three books shortlisted in the best fiction category for this year’s awards I rated Michael Robotham’s Bleed for Me a disappointing 2 out of 5 and failed to finish Garry Disher’s Wyatt. I haven’t yet tackled Lenny Bartulin’s The Black Russian so can make no personal judgement about that one.
In my opinion the best work of Australian crime fiction for the eligible period is Peter Temple’s Truth but it was not considered, apparently at the request of Temple himself, but even taking that into consideration there are several books on the longlist that I think are better than those selected and a couple that didn’t even make it that far.
It’s not only Australian award givers with which I am out of step. I’ve recently read the winner of this year’s Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year and found it the opposite of everything the judging panel said it was and the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for best novel which was a decent read but not, in my opinion, the best of those on the shortlist. Even the winner of this years International Dagger Award for best translated crime fiction wasn’t my personal favourite of the shortlisted novels (though it is a superb novel). I don’t even have much luck with non-crime related awards as I have only gotten a third of the way through the winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize despite it being a work of historical fiction about a period I enjoy. Sigh.
I’m no longer surprised when my opinions don’t match those of the people who matter but the fact that it happens with alarming regularity is the reason I rarely seek out books that are shortlisted for or have won awards. Whether it’s because I don’t have a clue what makes a good book (entirely possible) or because it’s all a pretty subjective game of chance in the end, choosing books by virtue of the accolades that have been showered upon them doesn’t really work for me.
What about you? Do you deliberately look for books that have won awards? Do you have more luck than I do when it comes to award winners? Do you think some awards panels set out to make controversial choices to generate discussion and, if you do, is that a bad thing?