The idea that any small group of people, no matter how intelligent, could emerge from a locked room to declare one book as the year’s finest is absurd. People like to say that awards foster discussion about contemporary literature, and that’s true. But if that is the real purpose, than let’s have a real discussion. Let’s make the judging entirely transparent. Let’s admit that the nominees were selected arbitrarily (one was originally published in 1988, though rereleased in 2006) and that we chose a number of books as finalists before any of us had even read them. Let’s lay bare any biases the judges might have. Let’s hear specifically why this judge preferred this book over that one. Let’s seed all 16 finalists in an NCAA-basketball type bracket and pit them against one another in a Battle Royale of Literary Excellence!
The first match of round one has ended with Absurdistan losing to Half of a Yellow Sun. But go past the basic match to read Kevin Guilfoile’s and John Warner’s commentary in From the Booth as you will find that they are commenting on the judging rather than the books which they often haven’t read. There’s also a Book Bloggers Office Pool. I followed this last year and had a blast (not having read most of the books in contention either). Highly, highly recommended.