Books and National Book Award Books

The 2014 list for the National Book Awards have been released. Perhaps the time has arrived for a another slew of good reads because surely all of the books on the list are qualified texts. The content of these contest lists have been a debate on both sides of the English speaking Atlantic Ocean complete with accusations of judges who do not read all of the texts, unqualified readers, and the ubiquitous crossroads of greed, pride, and publishers.

Since the shift from bookstores to online purchasing and ebooks, finding reliable recommendations for books has become more difficult. Barnes & Noble puts its sponsored content first, complicating its site with different levels of paid adverts. The category may be written as “Staff Recommendations” but publishers and authors can pay to be included in that category. The bricks and mortar B&N bookstore is often a showroom for books that will be purchased online. The books laid out on the table are often in purchased slots.

The successful reader-driven sights have been purchased by for-profit companies. was the largest and most popular of the reader generated recommendation sights but the website was acquired by Amazon. Amazon now controls the recommendation search engine. Alternatively, readers can seek out reviews on Social Media sites such as but the content is skewed by the readership, which is often High School and college. There are other sub-reddits such as r/mystery and r/sciencefiction yet these sites tend to draw the highly motivated fans more than the casual readers who just want a good read because “I’ve some free time.”

The sheer volume of books available has exploded. Many are self-published; many are bland and repetitive as was always the case with pulp novels. What a joy the delete button can be. I miss the sound of a lousy paperback thumping into the bottom of the trashcan but I still get satisfaction when the “Are you sure?” screen pops up and I press “yes”.

By Glenn Jacob

Rabbi, Community Leader, Fundraiser, Board Development, Non-profit management, strategic planning, educator, writer, and editor.

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