I have often wondered. I know I have neither the time nor stamina or even motivation to read everything ‘put in front of me.’ The idea of being a judge for a literary award strikes me as prestigious and maybe fun, but something I’d rather not touch with a bargepole.
It’s not only that it would take time away from pleasure reading and any other book activities I might want to engage in. But in some cases I simply don’t see how it’s possible to read all that an award’s scheme requires.
Likewise the needs of a professional reviewer. There are simply too many books. And you could be wanting a private life as well. It’s not unreasonable. Knowing how hard I find it, I have on occasion asked others, including proper, well-known reviewers, how they handle the influx of books, and at what stage they give up on one, and that kind of thing.
The answers tend to be that they read everything, or at least give every book quite a chance before leaving it. And I would like to believe that. I really would. But somewhere, something has to give. And I think it’s the truth, and not people’s lives.
So the fuss in the media about the Saltire Society Literary Awards when one of the judges claimed the others hadn’t read all of the books, was interesting.
There are other areas in life where I seriously doubt that people can have done quite as much as they say. It leaves me feeling inadequate. But I can’t claim I’ve done all sorts of things I haven’t. The time I couldn’t finish the book I reviewed – because it was scaring me – I said so. When I can’t read a book due to time pressure, but would like to mention it, I do exactly that. I mention it.
I am very lazy. I am also getting much slower with age. Both these facts are behind me doing less than I’d want to. And I definitely do not give every book that crosses my threshold the opportunity to grab me for as long as the first 100 pages. The ‘triage’ situation is anything from put aside immediately to read over a third of a promising book and then give up in disappointment.
(This blog post was made possible by the fact that someone else cooked my dinner. Lovely.)