How do you decide what to vote for in the Goodreads Choice Awards?
The Goodreads Choice Awards are in their final round. As I was voting for my favorites, I got to wondering: How do other readers decide which books to vote for? Specifically, I’ve got three questions:
1. How do you choose between two books you loved? What are the criteria that make you pick one title over another within a category?
2. Do you ever vote for a book you haven’t read? If so, why? If not, why not? And if you do, how do you pick? Is it the one you most want to read, the one you’ve heard the most good things about, the one by an author you adore?
3. Do you vote in every category? Why or why not?
So how do I choose?
The first question is hard for me to answer, especially because it only came up in one category this year (Children’s/MG Books, if you’re curious.) If I rated more than one book the same, it’s hard to choose between them. I try to think about the quality of the writing, the usual nuts and bolts of plot and character development and prose style and so on. I also look at whether there’s anything that makes one book more thought-provoking than another. I might love two fantasies equally, but if one pushed me to think about an issue or idea that I haven’t thought about before, or pushed me to grow in some way, I would lean toward that one. I also consider whether the author did something new and/or unusually creative. And I look at things like diversity: is this yet another book with a white protagonist and a mainly white cast, or are the protagonist and/or other sympathetic major characters people of color, people with disabilities, people of various faiths, LGBT people? And if so, are they presented realistically, without stereotyping, and with respect?
The second question is easier. I don’t vote for books I haven’t read, even when I’m tempted to. And I am often tempted to, especially when it turns out I haven’t read any of the books that made the finals in that category, but I really want to read one or more. I ran into that with YA Fantasy this year; I haven’t read any of the finalists yet, even though several are on my TBR list. But I think that a book award should reflect what readers actually think about the book, rather than what other people have said about it, or how attractive the blurb is, or how popular the author is. I’ve read books by authors I love that turned out to be no more than meh. I’ve read books everyone was raving about, that I actively disliked or saw huge flaws in. So I prefer not to vote on books I haven’t read; they might not be as good as I’ve heard, or as I hope they are.
And that, of course, makes my answer to number 3 pretty easy. I don’t vote in a category unless I’ve read at least one book in that category. This year, that left me voting in very few categories in the finals: just Romance, Nonfiction, and Middle Grade/Children’s. And you could say I fudged Nonfiction. I had read enough of Hamilton: The Revolution to vote for it, but it had to go back to the library before I could finish it, and my second hold request is still making its way through the very long waiting line, so I’ve only read about 2/3 of it so far.
Please tell me how you vote — how you would answer my three questions above. I’m particularly curious about #2, because I suspect there is a wide range of opinions on whether or not to vote for books you haven’t read, and arguments to be made on either side.