“There’s a candle in my window.”First line in Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell
Are you even a book blogger if you haven’t written about the Goodreads Choice Awards at least once? I’ve never dedicated an entire post to that controversial topic so that’s what I’m doing today. As the reader I am, this is mainly going to be about the fantasy categories and how those, as my dramatic title says, sparked an existential crisis for me.
Goodreads announced their winners this Thursday, but as always, even the nominations are getting people worked up. I’ve seen people complain about the lack of self-published books and even the inclusion of the sub-genre fantasy romance in the fantasy genre because then “real” fantasy can’t win (they don’t say that but it’s what they mean). To address the criticism about the lack of self-published works, I feel the need to remind people that Goodreads Choice Awards is a popularity contest and self-published books are very inaccessible. You don’t find them at the libraries so people without the means to buy them can’t read them and therefore won’t vote for them. And no, it’s not a problem that Goodreads Choice Awards is a popularity contest that allows everyone to vote. You see the same thing in other areas such as music and movies, and there should be room for those awards too. It’s very simple and I think it’s totally fine that there are no self-published books in the Goodreads Choice Awards. It’s not the contest for those.
Now I want to take a closer look at this year’s fantasy category which I can reveal is at the root of this existential crisis I’ve been talking about.
Above you see the ten finalists in the category. I have read none of them which isn’t that surprising since I don’t go crazy over new releases, but what is more important is that I also don’t have any interest whatsoever in reading any of them. Says the self-proclaimed fantasy reader about the fantasy category. You see my problem? Can I really call myself a fantasy fan when I don’t have an interest in the ten most popular books of the year? You can almost make that the twenty most popular because in the initial round only one of the books was on my TBR.
Upon realizing this, I checked the nominees for the Hugo and Nebula Awards because maybe I just like what you’d call the more critically acclaimed ones, but while I did have more luck there it wasn’t much. For example, my most hated book of this year was nominated for Best Novel at both of those awards last year. And then my crisis was real. I suddenly felt very out of touch with my fellow fantasy readers and unsure whether I could even call myself a fantasy fan anymore. It’s a term I feel very attached to so letting it go feels wrong.
But before I get ahead of myself, Goodreads has another fantasy category: Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction.
This was the only category this year that I voted in because I’ve actually read an entire four books within it (I don’t think that’s ever happened before). Those were Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare, Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell, A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir and Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo. Here you might think “hey, problem solved. You do read popular fantasy books.” Well, yes, but one thing all four books have in common is that they are series continuations so of course I’ve read them. I still have no desire to read any of the others. And in case you were wondering, I voted for Any Way the Wind Blows because I’m still not over that, and I’m most definitely not over Rule of Wolves winning because that one was the worst of the four I’ve read.
So in conclusion, do I just need to accept that I have an obscure taste in fantasy books and accept the limitations that go along with that? Yes. I guess I just thought I’d already done that. I’m not oblivious to the fact that most of my favorite books have difficulties climbing above an average rating of 4, and I’ve written more rant reviews for popular books than I can count. I just think Goodreads Choice Awards made it very obvious and that forced me to have some thoughts. Of course, I’m still going to call myself a fantasy reader but I’ve become more aware of the fact that I don’t need a book to go all high, epic and medieval in the fantasy department. The tiniest fantasy element can be enough, and low fantasy books just aren’t super popular.
This post was just a bunch of random thoughts I had to get out of my system, but if you relate to not wanting to read the nominees, please help me validate my feelings. Generally, I don’t have problems with the Goodreads Choice Awards, only that it’s mainly for the ARC-reading folks and not the common reader, but there’s not much to be done about that. What do you think of the awards? Did you vote in any of the categories? Talk to me about anything you want in the comments to match the messiness of this post.