Hello, pals and gals! Today I’m back with another ramble/discussion. Today, I’m talking about some feelings of superiority in the online book community and how it manifests in the community’s reaction to the Goodreads Choice awards.
Also, this is in no way to defend the Goodreads Choice awards. I think there are a ton of issues with them (which I talk about below), and people should discuss and criticize those issues. People are allowed to be upset with the choices, or the awards in general, or whatever. I don’t want to invalidate those feelings in any way. This is just one specific type of reaction, which I think speaks to a larger issue in the book community.
One thing I’ve always found interesting about the online book community is the subtle forms of hypocrisy within the community (
full post on that coming at some point). One of these is how the bookish community views themselves and views the general public, or people who don’t have an online bookish presence (for clarity, I’ll be referring to “online readers” and “non-online readers” throughout).
There’s always a ton of discussion in the bookish community about how you don’t need to read 100+ books a year, or own hundreds of books, or read only popular books to love reading or be considered a reader. If you read, you’re a reader. No one is more or less valid based on their reading preferences.
As long as, it seems, you’re still part of the online community.
It seems like the online book community sometimes has this feeling of superiority. They view themselves as more book loving, or “better readers”, than those who don’t have an online presence. I think most people don’t really realize they have this bias, and would likely (and will likely) deny it if you were to mention it to them. I don’t think most online readers actively hold this belief.
However, one of the ways I see this belief manifest is in the Goodreads Choice awards.
One of the common sentiments I see in the online community is something to the effect of “what? but these books aren’t even popular?”
To us. They aren’t popular in the online community. Clearly, if they’re being nominated for a Goodreads Choice award, they’re popular books.
I recently went to my local Chapters, and every single book that is nominated in the Mystery and Thriller category was on display. This was before the nominations had been announced. Further, I recognized a bunch of them from an excursion to Chapters my brother and I took in the summer. However, I haven’t seen at least seven of them discussed in the online community. Or they had been discussed by only a handful of people.
You could argue that I’m not involved in the Mystery and Thriller online community, and you’d be correct, so let’s instead look at the Fiction category. Four of them, I have seen discussed at length in the literary/adult fiction community. Two of them, I’ve seen discussed by a couple people. The rest (nine) I hadn’t seen online until this list. Some of those, I had seen at Chapters. Some of those nine had some of the highest number of Goodreads ratings, whereas one of the aforementioned four had some of the lowest number of ratings, despite being one of the most discussed online. So clearly, there is a disconnect between what is discussed online (on blogs, twitter, booktube, etc.) and what gets the most ratings on Goodreads.
I think there are valid criticisms of the Goodreads Choice awards. It’s often a popularity contest, with the most popular authors winning every year, despite the merit of their book (
however, the awards are user choice awards so idk what people are expecting). Often, somewhat because of this, they’re overwhelmingly white authors. They’re overwhelmingly traditionally published authors. Those are all valid, but they speak to bigger issues within publishing. Some people just disliked the books nominated and don’t think the book deserves it. But that’s ultimately personal preference and happens with every award, regardless of whether it’s peoples choice or not.
As mentioned, another criticism from people online is that they’re not representative of what people are actually reading. I think a lot of people feel that the Fiction category is missing some perhaps critical books. People often have a lot of thoughts about the fantasy nominees, and the romance nominees.
Again, this argument is really just “the books aren’t representative of what we, the online community, read.” But why is what’s representative of the online community more valid than what’s representative of non-online readers? Why are our reading tastes and preferences more valid than theirs?
In my opinion, it’s because online readers consider themselves “better” or “more” readers than non-online readers. I think the online community does a lot of good things; it champions diversity and underrepresented communities, including non-traditionally published authors. But I’m not convinced that that alone makes our reading tastes more valid. I think non-online readers would love to read more diversely, but again, that’s a larger issue with the publishing industry. I don’t think it’s the readers’ fault.
Sidebar: I think there’s also a disconnect between online and non-online readers just in general. Whenever I go to a book store, I always recognize a bunch of books from the online community, but there are also a bunch of books I don’t recognize that are being advertised as popular. Sometimes, they’re more diverse than some of the books promoted by online readers. My local Chapters has a huge Indigenous authors section. I have seldom seen an Indigenous author promoted online.
As a bit of a sidebar, I also saw this happen a few months ago regarding Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, which topped the New York Times best sellers list for weeks. I saw a few people on Twitter,,,, not complain, but exclaim how it was weird the book was so successful because no one was buying it.
I’m not saying either of these people thinks they’re superior to anyone. I’m not saying they think they’re better than non-online readers just because they’re online, or that they think they’re better than any readers.
But clearly someone is reading Five Feet Apart if it managed to top the NYT list for that long. Presumably some of those people who read it are “actually into” the book. Maybe it’s successful because, I don’t know, it was the biggest teen movie of the summer? And the teens who enjoyed the movie wanted to read the book?
Just because a book isn’t popular online doesn’t mean it’s an unpopular book. Surprisingly, people who don’t have an online presence read and enjoy books. And that enjoyment isn’t any less valid than the enjoyment of those who express it online.
I don’t really have an answer to why online readers hold this feeling of superiority, but if anyone has thoughts or insights, let me know. I think a lot of people think something along the lines of “if you talk about books, you love them, if you don’t talk about books, you don’t love them”. Or feelings that you can’t be a “casual” reader. Or maybe a feeling that if you’re more informed about the book community in general, you’re more of a reader. But I’m the least-informed person ever. I never know about when books are being released. There’s a reason I’ve done one anticipated releases book.
Does this make me less of a reader? Less of a fan of books or reading? I would argue no. It’s the same argument people always have in regards to sports teams or bands or movies. You don’t need to be 100% informed on everything related to a thing to be a fan of that thing.
So why do online readers feel superior to non-online readers?
Idk, but I’d love to know your thoughts! Have you noticed this superiority? What are your thoughts on it? What are your thoughts on the Goodreads Choice awards? Do you agree with me at all? Disagree? Let me know!
Thanks for reading! xx