How Goodreads Choice Awards Sparked An Existential Crisis

“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.

8 thoughts on “How Goodreads Choice Awards Sparked An Existential Crisis

  1. Hello from a 2021-Goodreads-Choice-Awards non-voter who agrees with pretty much everything you wrote here! 😂 If you want, we can start our own category of fantasy readers because I’m also not dying to get my hands on most of these, despite not having read almost all of them…

    And the ones I did read don’t really make me more willing to try the others, either 😅 Like, in the adult category, the only nominee I’ve read is A Court of Silver Flames, and since you’ve read my review, I hope you know that I would not vote for it in a million years 🙄 And I totally agree with you that Rule of Wolves in no way deserved to win the YA category. That book was a supreme world-building and character development mess if I ever saw one!

    And even when there are more books among the nominees that I’ve read, I just feel really weird voting when I haven’t read all the choices. Like, how am I supposed to know whether another book might not be better? There’s no way I’ll read enough new releases in a year to know all of the nominees – I love my backlog too much 🥰 – and I don’t want to deprive some author of their vote simply because I haven’t read their book yet! So I’ll just not vote…

    Also, just to give you something else to be angry about, Goodreads did use to have a write-in option, where you could nominate books that weren’t already pre-selected options, but apparently, they got rid of that this year. Which has been hitting indie authors particularly hard, because that was one of the few ways their books could get at least some exposure… To be honest, the whole selection process now is kind of a mystery to me, but I do agree that it’s not much more than a popularity contest. If an author is already established and has a huge fanbase, other people don’t stand a chance **cough Rule of Wolves cough**

    But yeah, I’ll just not set too much store in these awards, I guess 😄 If I need good fantasy recommendations, I’ll just go to other sources. I happen to know a blogger whose recommendations are always pretty spot on, for example 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can totally start our own category of fantasy readers! 😁 The main reason I’m not too worried about not being into those books is that you love so many of the same books I do. At least I have one person to talk to 😄

      And I did wonder what you thought of A Court of Silver Flames winning that category 😂 With twice as many votes as number two even.

      I was also surprised that I had managed to read four books in that YA category because yes, backlog is too important. But I loved Any Way the Wind Blows so much that I just knew it wasn’t possible for any of the others to be better 😁 I had hoped Rowell was popular enough to win but I guess the Shadow and Bone show has done a lot for Bardugo’s popularity.

      I also remember that write-in option and actually looked for it this year to nominate The Haunting Season or maybe The Betrayals if it was eligible. I remember using it before so I was also a bit annoyed it was gone. I’m not sure how many of those write-ins actually made it to the 20 nominees but it was still a good feature.

      And thank you for that little comment at the end 😉 I also think I’ll continue to read books unworthy of a Goodreads Choice Awards nomination.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t even know how highly A Court of Silver Flames had won, so that piece of news is seriously making me lose faith in humanity 😳😅 Maybe if the Goodreads Choice Awards had an erotica category, the book could have gone and won that, but fantasy-wise, everything about it is terrible! I’ve never seen such a hodge-podge of weird plot and world-building elements, so I’m seriously questioning who all these people are that voted for it!!! 🤯 Writing in The Betrayals would definitely have been the better option.

        I’m very glad to hear I have more Goodreads-Choice-Awards-unworthy recommendations to look forward to, though 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree that our likes and dislikes are our own, and sometimes these award lists can be a pretty inaccurate thing to base our interests off. I myself have found little joy in reading the Hugo books, so I know exactly how it feels to ‘wonder if I really love my genre’. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read any of the books nominated so I didn’t vote in the GoodReads Choices Awards this year. I’m sticking to my backlog of books. There just too many new release to keep up with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also read mostly backlog books because yes, there are just too many new releases. I prefer to wait a bit as well to see if the hype is real or it dies down rather quickly.


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