The flood of awards--literary and cinematic--that come churning out of your preferred news delivery device this time of year is almost as overwhelming and/or annoying as all those "Best of" lists that precede it. Because there are just so many awards with maddeningly similar names--Quick! what's the difference between an Obie and a Tony?--it’s hard to choose which (if any) to pay attention to. Facing another round of glitzy award spectacles, many of us ask ourselves a very good question: “Why should I care what these people say I should read or watch or listen to?”
Which is sometimes followed by the even better question, "Does it really make sense to judge works of art on a best / worst scale?"
If you have an answer to the latter, I'd love to hear it. The answer to the former is volume. There is just too much stuff out there. Cultural product comes at us so relentlessly, we can’t possibly catch everything. We end up like Lucy and Ethel  at the candy factory, stuffing our mouths and pockets full, and letting the rest fall on the floor. We inevitably miss a lot of the best stuff. The award nominations and "Best of" Lists stop that conveyor belt temporarily. They, in essence, tell us this, "If you want to continue to be considered culturally literate, this is the one book (movie, record, etc) you cannot miss." And that is not a meaningless contribution to the conversation.
Did I mention the National Book Critics Circle  has announced its 2012 nominations honoring “the best literature published in English in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry.”
Who better to trust during awards season than the people who tell us what to think year around?
You can find most of NBCC's nominees on the shelves of your Harris County Public Library.
Open City  / Teju Cole
The Marriage Plot  / Jeffrey Eugenides
Stranger's Child  / Alan Hollinghurst
Binocular Vision  / Edith Pearlman
Stone Arabia  / Dana Spiotta
A World On Fire  / Amanda Foreman
The Information  / James Gleick
To End All Wars  / Adam Hochschild
Liberty's Exiles  / Maya Jasanoff
Pulphead  / John Jeremiah Sullivan
One Hundred Names for Love  / Diane Ackerman
Memory Palace  / Mira Bartok
It Calls You Back  / Luis Rodriguez
Harlem is Nowhere  / Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Unferth Revolution  / Deb Olin 
Is That A Fish In Your Ear  / David Bellos
Otherwise Known As the Human Condition / Geoff Dyer 
The Ecstasy of Influence  / Jonathan Lethem
Karaoke Culture / Dubravka Ugresic
Out of the Vinyl Deeps / Ellen Willis 
Comments, contentions and suggestions for future posts are always welcome.
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