Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Whitney Finalists and Why You Should Read Them

It's that time of year again! For those of you not familiar with the Whitney Awards, they're given each year to honor novels by LDS authors. Many of these are books with Latter-day Saint themes, but quite a few are on the national market as well. The books are nominated by readers (that's us) throughout the year; those books receiving enough nominations (currently 5 or more) go before a panel of judges who read each of the books in a given category and vote on the top 5. These "top 5" were announced as finalists at the beginning of February.

For those of us who weren't on the judging panels, this is where the fun begins. Many LDS authors, publishers, and others involved with LDS books are on the Whitney Academy, and we get to read the books chosen as finalists and vote on the winners in each of the categories. (Yep, I'm on the academy--go to and if you squint hard enough, you will find my name on the list there in itty bitty letters. :-)

It's a lot of reading to squeeze in to just a couple of months' time, but I've been having so much fun trying to hunt down copies of these books and making time to read them. Most of the nationally released books are available through our public library here in Wisconsin, and I had an Amazon gift certificate just begging me to use it to buy some of the other books I couldn't get locally. (Yeah, it had to beg me pretty hard...) I've ordered the other books through Interlibrary Loan; ILL hasn't been able to find a couple of titles, but they're usually pretty helpful at hunting down all these LDS titles that one can most often find in Utah libraries and bookstores.

To be honest, I probably won't get to read all of these books before the deadline. But I hope to at least read the ones in my favorite categories so I can vote on those. If I have time, I'll add in my next favorite categories. Most of the categories are really my "favorite" in some way or another, so I really hope to get lots of reading done.

If you visit you can click on a printable PDF with all the finalist books listed in their respective categories, with the author's name, publisher, and ISBN. It's very handy for taking to the library and asking them to order Interlibrary Loan books for you.

So why should you read these books? First off, while there are other good books out there by LDS authors that did not make the list, the ones on the list have been recommended by readers and voted on by judges familiar with the category. I was on one of the judging panels last year, and we began with many more books to chose from than the ones that ultimately made the finals. Personally I enjoyed reading most of them, but the finalists had that special "something" that pushed them over the top. So if you're looking for something good to read by an LDS author, the books on this list will all be good reads.

Second, for all you LDS authors out there reading this, we need to keep up with the other books on the market--particularly the "best" ones. We need to know what's out there and what people are reading. In that respect, I admit that sometimes I prefer to read a poorly written book so I can feel proud of myself for being able to write better than that (yeah, I know, that's a horrible attitude to have; I admit it), but what really inspires me to stretch and improve my own writing is to see the great things that others are doing with theirs. To that end, of course we should be reading other books as well. But, particularly if we are writing for the LDS market, we shouldn't lose sight of what others are doing there.

So there you go. Enjoy your reading, everyone! And don't forget, you can also nominate books published in 2010 for the Whitney Awards next year, again at In fact, I just nominated one myself. It's a good book and I wouldn't want it to be overlooked when awards time next year rolls around.


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