Editor of the TLS and Man Booker Prize judge Sir Peter Stothard’s interview on The Independent website, which you can read here, caused outrage in the social network-sphere yesterday. In the article he claims that there has been a “decline in current standards of literary criticism” and says “the rise of bloggers will leave the industry ‘worse off'”.
According to Sir Peter, not all book critics are worth listening to. “It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste… Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.”
Um … I strongly disagree. To be honest, I probably haven’t read many Man Booker Prize winning books, for the same reason I haven’t watched all Oscar winning films – often the works that are critically acclaimed just don’t tick the box for me. Often they have technical merit but are pretentious and slow. This is not true all the time, of course, but it feels sometimes that critics decide that we should all like something but it just doesn’t connect. Conversely, books or films recommended by book bloggers, other writers or friends usually connect more with me. Maybe my taste is just too simple but I really enjoyed the last four books I read and all were recommended to me. Before that, I read two critically acclaimed books, which frankly I found weird.
Yes some people may be able to article their opinion better, they may have more experience with reviewing or they may read more books than other people and can spot better page turners than others but I think most authors would agree that book bloggers are worth their weight in gold. They read because they love it, they do it for free and are mostly honest in their reviews. Generally, books that are word-of-mouth hits sell far more copies than critically acclaimed ones. Just look at the playground swapping Harry Potter – you might have heard of it 🙂 This is because readers fall in love with them and want other people to share that love.
I will continue to buy books from recommendations and know that if someone begs me to read a book it’s because they had an emotional response to it, not because they think they should like it or were told to by a critic.
So, what do you think? Does the opinion of a citric mean more than a book blogger? How to do you decide what to read?