Mark O’Connell answers his own question:
By and large, awards like the Booker are intended to promote solid, well-written, more or less middlebrow fiction — the kind of books that broadsheet newspapers tend to give coverage to. And that’s surely a good thing for the publishing industry, for the literary editors of papers that still have books pages, for the small number of writers who get the nod, for booksellers and (I would guess) for the manufacturers of those stickers that get slapped with startling speed onto the dust jackets of shortlisted titles. But does it really matter at any other level — at the level, for instance, of literary culture as opposed to the publishing industry? I’m not convinced it does.
They’re great for the publishing industry, they’re great for the handful of writers who win them, and they’re great for the readers who would not otherwise have discovered those writers. But I don’t think anyone in their right mind should be looking for them to accurately reflect what’s really happening — what is truly vital and new and exciting — in contemporary fiction.
What about you? Do literary awards prompt you to read one book over another? How seriously, as a reader, do you take these awards?
Declaring that there are “books that it would be a shame to go through life not reading,” NBC’s Today show offers its choice of titles here.
More recommendations from NBC. I’m glad to see that one of my favorite books, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, is on this list.
My own addition to this list would be Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of David Baldacci’s first thriller, Absolute Power. I loved the book and had such high hopes for the film because it was, after all, Clint Eastwood. Alas, Eastwood decided he also wanted to star in the film and so had to significantly change the plot the keep himself on camera. And this change completely ruined the film.
What would you add to the list?