The Man Booker Prize is using the world of the internet to tackle stereotypes encouraged by prize culture
It is undeniable that as humans we feel a sometimes uncontrollable need to categorize; we are obsessed with labels, names and numbers. This quite basic human desire takes form in many ways, and one of those forms is prize culture. We need to label what is good, great and in-between. However, this desire can become complex when it starts to turn its hand to judging the supposedly subjective world of literature. From the Costa Book Awards to the Man Booker, to the Pulitzer Prize; various rewards exist in order to distinguish the very best books and the very best authors. These prizes offer an opportunity to promote new authors, new stories and the publishing industry as a whole. However, there is a dark side to this prize culture. Certain books when associated with a prize either through a longlist, a shortlist or winning the prize have found themselves also associated with a certain ‘type’ of reader because they have been defined as a certain type of book.
Arguably, this problem is particularly poignant for the Man Booker Prize. The Man Booker Prize was originally known as the Booker-McConnell Prize and has been awarded since 1968. This reward comes with implications which could be seen as off-putting to some readers. The work which wins this award is sometimes criticised as pretentious, over-thought and inaccessible. A supposed typical reader would be a university professor, a rocket scientist or someone with a similar IQ to Stephen Hawking’s … .
However, this year the Man Booker Prize has started to effectively debunk these rumours with the introduction of the Man Booker Vloggers. The Man Booker Vloggers consist of five book-tubers, so you-tubers whose channels are mainly dedicated to books. Their video content generally revolves around reviews, discussion videos and bookish tags. These book-tubers include Leena Norms from the channel JustKissmyfrog, Ariel Bisset, Jen Campbell, Jean Menzies from Jean Bookishthoughts and Lauren Whitehead from Reads and Daydreams. All five you-tubers have followed the Man Booker Prize from its longlist and have filmed videos which vary from reviews to interviews with the authors. All the reviewers come across as highly intelligent individuals with well-informed opinions, but they also bring a sense of accessibility to the prize. They are approachable. They are honest. They belong to the age of the internet, just like you and me. These books are not being read by only those in their academic ivory towers, but by ordinary people who just love to read.
In fact, my personal favourite video filmed by the Man Booker Vloggers was during their trip to Edinburgh where they visited book shops. They filmed the Disney Tag in which they had to guess the Disney song as quickly as they could from the opening lyrics. For me, this video represents the real reason I have found the Man Booker Vloggers such a success. Since during that video, I saw a true sense of camaraderie between the vloggers who had all been brought together because of their love of reading.
The Man Booker Vloggers have successfully demonstrated that these books can be read by everyone, but they have also shown how books have the power to bring diverse people together.