One of the greatest points of contention in the literary world is deciding on the parameters that accurately judges the success of a book. Is the success of a book or an author determined by the number of literary laurels it has garnered or the real and tangible difference it has made to the society and the human civilization as a whole?
I don’t think this issue should ever be in doubt. An award-winning book happens to be appreciated by a few but doesn’t necessarily have to touch a real chord with the masses and adds no value to the human civilization, and is therefore side-lined by the anvils of time. Any book can only have a truly material difference if it is accepted by the populace and its message/learning is implemented in spirit and substance which leaves a coherent impact on the human civilization.
Just imagine what impact books like Iliad and Odyssey by Homer; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; The Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft, books by Isaac Newton and Sigmund Freud, all the works of William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin would have had if no one had read and assimilated its teachings and lessons. Would we be talking, discussing and be debating it even today just because it might have won some prestigious award but no one had truly embraced them?
There are many books that one can call out that although won acclaim, appreciation and awards, no one really recalls with great fervour. The real fact of the matter is, although the book might have been good, it wasn’t instrumental in influencing and shaping our minds and affecting our society as it never was wholeheartedly accepted by the readers other than some elite body or institution.
It has also been said time and time again that revolutions are not scripted just on paper but are rather envisioned and executed by the hard toil of the men and women on the ground against great odds. It is through the great books on change and progress chiseled by brilliant and forward thinking minds that wonderful transformation has been brought about.
It is not awards or the acclaim alone that instils this power of influence onto these great books that in turn stimulates the harbingers of change, but it is because they were read and maybe reread many times over by the architects of change that made all the difference. Awards only fills shelves but great books catapults the human civilization forwards by embellishing concerted action that guarantees results.
If it were not for the great books authored by the transformative minds of respective ages long gone, the key players of change would never have been motivated to challenge the hypocrisy, status quo, stagnancy and inequality, and this world would have been much the worse for it. So, an award-winning book that nobody reads leaves no real impact on human civilization. So, next time you are judging a book, don’t think twice.