by Jennifer Gargiulo, Manager, Ives Squared

It’s that time of year again, where Goodreads bombards it’s users with requests to vote on the Goodreads Choice Awards. Now, I’m all for book awards…I have even participated in and chaired awards committees. So while I’m not super fond of the way this particular award is selected, in general, I believe that book awards can be a great way to introduce authors to new readers and readers to new genres!

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2022 Eligibility

The Goodreads website states:

Books published in the United States in English, including works in translation and other significant rereleases, between November 17, 2021, and November 15, 2022, are eligible for the 2022 Goodreads Choice Awards. Books published between November 16, 2022, and November 14, 2023, will be eligible for the 2023 awards.

We analyze statistics from the millions of books added, rated, and reviewed on Goodreads to nominate 20 books in each category. Opening round official nominees must have an average rating of 3.50 or higher at the time of launch. A book may be nominated in no more than one genre category, but can also be nominated in the Debut Novel category. Only one book in a series may be nominated per category. An author may receive multiple nominations within a single category if he or she has more than one eligible series or more than one eligible stand-alone book.

What I like about the award

The biggest thing that I like about the Goodreads choice award is that it is the only 100% reader selected award. The nominations are based on reader statistics, and then readers vote on the winners. This means that the books that win often have the highest number of readers that liked the book.

The second thing that I like is that the books are broken down into multiple categories rather than just being a conglomeration of titles. By breaking things down, I can not only look seriously at the genres that I regularly read, but I can peruse the titles in genres that I don’t immediately gravitate towards, in order to see if things look interesting. For me, this is especially true in the “history” section of non-fiction. I love history, but I do not regularly pick up non-fiction books. The award introduces me to titles I wouldn’t even look for normally.

What I don’t like about the Award

The first issue that I have is that books must be published by November 15, 2022. However, the voting process also starts on November 15, 2022. This means that books could potentially be nominated based solely on the opinion of readers that are constantly reaching out to publishers for advanced reader copies (ARCs). It means that readers who rely on the public library for access are more likely to not be able to read these titles in time to vote.  Is this a huge issue? Not particularly, because for the most part, the nominated titles have been popular for a few months at least.

The second issue is that there are 20 books in each category in the first round, with a total of 17 categories. That’s a total of 340 books. Nobody will be able to read every single book in every single category. That’s not a big deal. The first round is to turn the top 20 into the top 10. However, I might want to read every book in one or two categories in order to actually vote in the final round. But for me to read every book in even 2 categories, I will have to be averaging 3.33 books PER DAY in order to read them all before the voting deadline. So instead, what you have happening is people will vote for their favorites of the ones they’ve read-which might only be 1 or 2 titles. I know that I’ve done this before. I’ve also heard of people voting for books that they want to read, but not that they’ve actually read.

You also have the issue where certain authors are regularly publishing books within a continuing series. Sarah J. Maas comes to mind immediately. She has a TON of books out, and her readers are all very loyal. So of course, her statistics might trend higher than other YA fantasy authors. That does not mean that her books are actually good, just popular. (Please note that I’m not actually making a judgement call. I’ve never read her books).

Are the books worth reading?

This is a big question that is an impossible question to answer, unfortunately.  Everybody has different interests and opinions regarding books.  That being said, I never think that it hurts to read new books.  Reading something new can expose us to new ideas and take us out of our comfort zones. It can also reinforce that we like certain genres or tropes above others. Regardless, reading in and of itself is worth it.

However, the question I think you’re trying to ask is are these books objectively good?  And, my answer would have to be “I don’t know”.  I haven’t read them all.  But that’s the great thing about Goodreads-you can look up reader reviews/star ratings and make the decision for yourself.  In my opinion, I would say that the Goodreads Choice Awards is more of a list of the most popular books of the year, rather than books that are objectively good- but there is nothing inherently wrong with that. 

Where can I find the Goodreads Choice Award Titles?

You can find a list of the Goodreads Choice Award winners, along with the other nominees here. You can also find most of them right here at the NHFPL!

And now that it’s 2023, don’t forget to set this years reading goals!  Mine is 52 books (1 a week).  What’s yours?