Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Time for the Whitney Strrrretch

Whitney finalists will be announced February 1st. I don’t yet know when ballots will be due, but I’m guessing sometime in April, since the Whitney gala is May 7th. Thus, I’m trying to get a jump on Whitney reading by targeting books I think might be finalists, which beats trying to read a zillion books in two months. Last year I ALMOST read all the Whitney finalists. I missed it by two books (as Agent Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by that much."). Last year there were 30 books. This year, there will be 35, since there are now seven categories. The Whitney Committee has decided to split YA into two categories—YA General and YA Speculative. This was an excellent decision, since even with the split, both YA categories are sizeable—there are 13 nominees in YA General, and YA Speculative is the largest category, with a whopping 26 nominees. Other bits of Whitney nominee trivia: the smallest category is Historical, with seven nominees, and the second largest is Romance, with twenty nominees.

So far, I’ve read a grand total of eleven of the nominees—four in General Fiction, one in Historical, one in Romance, three in Mystery/Suspense, two in Speculative. One of those two Speculative books was Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, which was AMAZING. I figure Way of Kings will be a finalist, and I figured I’d better read it—all thousand pages of it—before the finalists were announced, or I wouldn’t have time afterward.

I’ve also read two books that were nominated but weren’t eligible—Devil’s Food Cake and Key Lime Pie, Josi Kilpack’s mysteries. Josi is the current Whitney President, which is why her books aren't eligible. But I still get credit for reading 13 nominees, right? But no matter how I juggle the stats, I’ve still got a lot of reading to do. I’m currently reading Matched, by Ally Condie, and thoroughly enjoying it. And for my Kindle (I want to have a paper book and an e-book going at the same time), this morning I bought Wrong Number, Rachelle Christensen’s highly praised debut mystery novel.

Matched and Wrong Number are two books that appeal to me (dystopian YA fiction and mystery fiction), but as I read for the Whitneys, I’ll end up reading many books that I wouldn’t have chosen to read otherwise, which raises the question of the day: is it possible to admire a book and deem it an excellent book without particularly liking the book? I say yes, it is. Liking a book isn’t necessarily the same thing as thinking it’s a well-written book. For example: sometimes I have difficulty with books in the romance category because I’m not much of a romance fan. I enjoy a little romance in the books I read, but when the romance is the center of the plot, I sometimes have a harder time with it. I think of one book I read last year that was painful for me—not because it was a bad book; it was well-written, and I’m sure romance fans loved it, but it just didn’t appeal to me. But objectively, I could see it was a skillfully written novel. Another book I read—this one in the historical category—was a book where my personal enjoyment of the story ranked about three stars. But it was a superbly written book. In fact, I even nominated it for a Whitney.

I like the way Whitney reading pushes me into trying new authors and different genres than I normally read. It’s good to stretch, even if I occasionally struggle with a book that's just not to my tastes. How about you? Have you read books that you admired or respected, while not particularly liking them? Which genres do you read in most often—and if you’re a Whitney Academy voter, which categories require you to stretch the furthest from your usual reading?


At 1/12/2011 4:43 PM, Blogger Steve Westover said...

That's a LOT of reading. Enjoy!

At 1/12/2011 5:38 PM, Blogger Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I admire those that tackle whittling down the Whitneys. That's a lot of reading in very little time.

I feel bad for those in YA Speculative though! that's some very very tough competition!

At 1/12/2011 6:07 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I love that you can distinguish between "well written" and "not my cup of tea." So many people can't--they think if THEY don't like it, a book must be poorly written. As a Whitney judge over the years, I've tried very hard to base my votes on quality, not personal preference.

I've found lots of great books I never would have known about or read if it hadn't been for the Whitneys. One of many reasons I love the program.

(And hot dang, what a year for me to NOT have a historical out. My odds would have been decent to be a finalist. But General? Wickedly competitive this year.)

At 1/12/2011 7:32 PM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

Many of the classics fall into that category for me. I can see WHY the books are revered and constantly reprinted, and the genious behind them. They just aren't MY favorite stories.

At 1/12/2011 9:05 PM, Blogger Rachelle said...

I love your thoughts here. This is a wonderful post to expand upon to help readers understand why books can receive so many different rankings on sources like Goodreads and Amazon. I have pretty varied tastes, but I have to agree with Michael above--a lot of the "classics" leave me scratching my head as to why they're deemed classics. I'll admit to loving some and hating others. :)
Thanks so much for mentioning my book--hope you like it.

At 1/13/2011 1:02 PM, Blogger Th. said...


The book I always use as an example is Nineteen Eighty-Four. Clearly one of the great books, but I hate it. Really really hate it.

At 1/13/2011 1:12 PM, Blogger Steve Westover said...

I actually love 1984 but I can't stand reading Dickens or Faulkner.

At 1/13/2011 6:19 PM, Blogger Anna Buttimore said...

I can't stand Dickens either. I hate books that leave you feeling upset or unsettled, and Dickens fits that category. Another one is Audrey Niffenegger. I find her books are superbly written, and gripping, and original and ... I still don't like them.


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