Finalists for the 2007 National Book Award were named yesterday. The winners will be announced in New York in November. After looking at the list of finalists, I am once again surprised at the number of books with which I'm not familiar. As an acquisitions librarian, reading book reviews is a major part of my job, and I normally feel like I'm pretty much on top of things -- until this list comes out each year. This brings up the question of the value of book awards and what they really mean to the average person. The answer is probably not all that much. Yes, as a librarian, I want to make sure that we have all the major award-winning books in our collection. However, that doesn't mean that I necessarily want to read all of them. As long as I'm making confessions, I read more fiction than nonfiction. Nevertheless, I was actually more familiar with the titles on the nonfiction list this year.
On a related note, NPR had a story today about bestseller lists. They make a similar point by saying that bestseller lists, such as the New York Times no longer carry the weight they once did. This probably has to do with the fact that people have access to book news and reviews today that they didn't have before Amazon and Google.
However you choose the books you want to read is fine, as long as you READ!
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
Varieties of Distrubance by Lydia Davis
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton
Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson
Time and Materials by Robert Haas
The House on Boulevard St. by David Kirby
Old Heart by Stanley Plumly
Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Young People's Literature
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One by Kathleen Duey
Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Last year's winner for fiction was The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.