Charles McGrath was a fiction judge for this year’s National Book Awards. It was a daunting experience trying to read 407 novels/short story collections in the space of a few months. Getting through only one book a day “felt like a day of delinquency”:
My boat didn’t get painted until halfway through the season. My golf game grew rusty and my handicap soared. And yet the books kept coming — by mail, FedEx, U.P.S. Every day there was a fresh pile on my doorstep: books from big publishers, small publishers, university publishers; hardbacks, paperbacks, galleys, loose manuscripts.
It was an ultimately rewarding experience, if nothing else than to make it clear that there were only two purposes to reading fiction: “to experience beautiful, original prose and to learn something about people and their nature.”