I am an avid reader of fiction – not only because I am a literature student, but because much of my identity throughout my life has been built upon books. I can name a handful which have really changed me as a person (which is another blog, I suppose), and I firmly believe that the role of good literature is to change you: in the sense that you shouldn’t be exactly the same person as you were when you started reading it. It should make you think, shake up your pretensions, or just open your eyes to a different perspective. But for my love of literature, I can’t extend that to a love of literary awards.
That is not because I think that the awards are totally defunct. But because, conceited or not, I would much rather make up my own mind. I like to read the shortlist, and am even mildly interested in the winner, but just as I enjoy films that cleaned up at The Oscars, I also enjoy ones which received very little critical acclaim. And the same can be said about literature.
In fact, when I think about it, I am much more likely to be encouraged to read something my parents or my friends have recommended, than something a panel of critics, whom I have never met and never will, say is worthy of merit. That is not to say I think the critic does not have a very valid role – hell, I spend half my life quoting them – but in terms of recommending my next book? I’ll make up my own mind, thank you.