I know I always say this, but when I read books like this I want i) a better understanding of books I have already read and ii) suggestions of books I might read in the future which may appeal to me, and I got plenty of both here; I also was provoked to start thinking (though not sufficiently to complete the thought) about the books which received popular and/or literary acclaim which I just didn't like (including Little, Big, Light, and The Sword of Shannara). Mostly I found myself nodding in agreement or realisation with just the occasional raised eyebrow - Diana Wynne Jones surely wrote more than four books in the 1970s (p.139)?
For the non-fiction category of the BSFA awards, I have to choose between only two nominees: this book, or Deepa D's January 2009 blog post "I Didn't Dream of Dragons". Of the other three nominees, Hal Duncan has withdrawn his own (excellent if very lengthy) blog post on "Ethics and Enthusiasm" from consideration, recommending instead that people vote for Deepa D; I haven't seen Interzone recently, which is certainly nobody's fault other than mine, but means I have no opinion on the merits of Nick Lowe's "Mutant Popcorn" column in 2009; and although I greatly admire John Clute, the publishers of his Canary Fever have made it abundantly clear on their website that they are not interested in doing business with people like me who don't have sterling or US dollar bank accounts, so I am unlikely to see it before the voting deadline.
Deepa D's essay is heartfelt and moving, and was one of the best things to come out of last year's bruising RaceFail discussions; indeed it ties in to my professional work to a certain extent, which I rarely get with my reading of sff criticism. It was of course only one part of a much wider conversation (and some people, such as Hal Duncan, will vote for it in order to support that conversation as a whole). I will vote for Mendlesohn and James, however, as their book happens to scratch my particular itch; and in the end that is what voting and awards are all about.