Last year’s head judge, Dame Stella Rimington, was pilloried for saying she prized books that “people would read and enjoy”. Her fellow judge, the former Labour MP Chris Mullin, added that he liked a novel to “zip along”.
The chairman of the 2012 judging panel, Sir Peter Stothard, has loftier ideals.
“I felt very, very strongly that I wanted to avoid that thing where people say, ‘Wow, I loved it, it’s terrific’,” he said of the judging process.
“I’m afraid quite a lot of what counts for criticism these days is of that sort: how many stars did it get? Did I have a good time? Would my children like it? It is opinion masquerading as literary criticism,” said Sir Peter, who is editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
Let me first state the obvious – we are not in competition with the Booker Prize! We also do not wish to suggest that what they do is invalid.
The Booker Prize means that the winners will become best sellers and yet are often not very “readable”. Although we only work with self-published books, we have developed a system just the opposite of what this esteemed group of critics aspire to. Self- published books are often looked down upon as unworthy of traditional publication which we have proven, I believe, to not always be the case. We have readers located around the globe who read books for us and give us one determination –is this a book you would recommend to your best friend? When all the readers have provided their decision, we honor the book with our B.R.A.G.Medallion only if it has received a unanimous “Yes”. In this way we are finding books that “readers” feel are worth your time and money. After all, most of us read to be amused, thrilled, titillated and, yes, educated. We hope to encourage readers who want to find a great book to visit our website and support books that are good but probably will not reach the glorified heights that one with the title of Booker Prize Winner will inevitably reach.
The statement, “There’s no accounting for taste.” applies with books as much as with anything. I imagine people read for as many different reasons as there are people populating the globe. At the same time, evaluating a book to determine whether it should receive recognition from an “prestigious” group or organization should take on a certain responsibility.
No matter how important the information contained within, a book that lack readability will tend no to be read. Twenty years from now, an unreadable book will remain unreadable and unread.
A hundred monkeys sitting in front of a hundred typewriters…
Gibberish by any other name remains gibberish, no matter how self impressed the author may be or what credential the author may have. Reviewers take on a certain responsibility when they set pen to paper to evaluate written works. Sadly Sir Peter fails to understand even the basics. I’m happy others have differing opinions.