Tuesday, February 05, 2008

NBCC Good Reads Winter List

The National Book Critics Circle has their "Good Reads" Winter List out this morning. It looks a lot like their Fall 2007 list, which I already derided last week. There was a major shakeup atop the fiction list, where Junot Diaz and Denis Johnson switched places. It's generated some chatter from bloggers, much of it negative. Galley Cat questioned the validity of a list with no blurbs and how that list compares to the recommendation of a friend, even a digital one: "And that, in a nutshell, is the battle between the new, participatory media which provides top-to-bottom opportunities for consumer engagement, and the old school media which relies upon experts and arbiters to explain what's what." The Millions thinks that naming the list "Good Reads" "smacks of cluelessness." But The Elegant Variation would rather light a candle than curse the glare, offering up detailed recommendations from specific contributors to the list. More in-depth write-ups of books that didn't make the final list are also available at the NBCC blog as well. Now, I might be biased, but I would say if you're really searching for something to read (and you already read a lot), head down to your local independent bookstore (or maybe its digital outpost).


At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Mark Sarvas said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post, guys. Yes, it's true, I am more of a candle lighter, though I think many of the criticisms raised here and elsewhere are fair. I did alert John Freeman to your posts here, which I think are especially thoughtful, and recommended he weigh in. Not to be perceived as a shill for the NBCC, but I will say that I think that they should be given some time to sort out the final shape of all this. I know from my own efforts at the Litblog Co-op that it can take a while for these models to fall into place. I think that if quarter after quarter ends up touting the same few books, then, yes, there's a problem to address. (And personally, I was a bit disappointed with the fiction choices - no one needs the NBCC to alert us to these titles any more, and I'll certainly say as much at tonight's panel.) But for the moment, with the climate as it is, my general feeling is that ANY discussion of good books is a good thing, and in that, I'm happy to participate. (I will also admit that when the GoodReads was run by me, I, too, blanked and didn't connect it to GoodReads, a site where I haven't spent much time. I think 'cluelessness' is harsh, and 'honest mistake' might fit the bill better - but I do support the idea of finding another name.)

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Patrick said...


I agree wholeheartedly about giving the NBCC some slack. As I said in the earlier post about the selection process, it seems to me that casting that wide a net means that only the well-known, the well-publicized, or the incredibly lucky will find a way to the top. Perhaps fine-tuning the system so that a rotating panel chooses each month, making the previous recommendations ineligible, or some other modifications will produce a list that will be useful while still maintaining a high standard of quality. As I said in the earlier post, I love the NBCC's awards, and I think my disappointment with their recommendations stems from a high expectation of them on my part. As such, I completely agree that any discussion of good literature is a good thing. I'll be at the event tonight, as I really look forward to hearing more about the future of the list, how it came about, etc.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous John Freeman said...

Hey Patrick, I just posted on your earlier comment, but one more thing -- I decided to allow people to revote their choices since the gap between this list and the 'fall' list was very short and full of holidays. That said, almost no one revoted their old titles -- i.e., the group who voted for Johnson and Pinsky this time was entirely different from the group who voted for them last time, so the list may have actually influenced the list, if you see what I mean. Which means it's working a little (actually, I just got an email from someone on the list who said she is going to go buy some of the titles on *this* list). By spring (i'll be long gone) I suspect the parameters will cut off 2007 books so you might seem an entirely new group of books, which would be nice. Maybe you guys can host the next LA event and we can talk about it then?


John Freeman


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