February 13th, 2015


What is the best-known book set in the Netherlands?

See note on methodology

I was never in much doubt about this. But to clear one item out of the way, I am disqualifying the top book by ownership which is tagged "Netherlands" on GoodReads because only a small section (though important for the story) is set in Amsterdam; it is mostly about teenagers suffering from cancer in Indianapolis. It was published in 2012 and the film adaptation came out last year. It is:

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Excluding that, there is a very clear winner by ownership on both LT and GR, also tagged "Netherlands" most on GR and second-most on LT, a non-fiction memoir of living in Amsterdam in desperate and tragic circumstances, written in 1942-44 and published in 1947, two years after the author's death in Belsen. I suspect that she is the youngest writer who will feature in any of these posts, by quite a long way. I'm actually in the middle of reading it in the original Dutch at the moment. Needless to say, it is:

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One other book worth noting here is the one most often tagged "Netherlands" on LibraryThing, and with second most readers after the 1940s memoir. It's a novel set in Delft around the life of Vermeer, ie the seventeenth century, published in 1999 and adapted for film in 2003. It is:

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The best-known work of fiction, as opposed to non-fiction, by a Dutch writer set in the Netherlands appears to be a 2009 novel about two brothers out for dinner with their wives, discovering that their sons have done something dreadful. Apparently Cate Blanchett is even now directing an English-language film version. It is:

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What the online ratings say about the BSFA and Kitschies shortlists

O frabjous day! Both the BSFA and the Kitschies have published their shortlists for this year's awards for SF. As I have done in previous years, here are the statistics for the number of owners, and the average rating, that each of the shortlisted novels has on LibraryThing and GoodReads.

First up, the BSFA, which has given us an unusually wide choice, eight novels due to a multiple tie for fourth place in the nominating process.

ownersav ratingownersav rating
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North75354.003374.07
Ancillary Sword, Anne Leckie43084.093174.16
Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge3344.18534.27
Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor2683.72494.06
Wolves, by Simon Ings1013.37283.70
Europe in Autumn, Dave Hutchinson853.81363.64
The Moon King, by Neil Williamson403.50173.70
The Race, by Nina Allan164.4483.63

Apart from the fifth and sixth placed books, the order is consistent between the two systems, and it's also fairly clear that Harry August and Ancillary Sword have both wildly outsold the rest combined; though it may be worth noting that Cuckoo Song is more popular on both systems among those who have read it.

Last year, the BSFA Award had two winners, for the first time in its history. As the ratings stood on the day the shortlist was announced, Ancillary Justice was top on Goodreads and second on LibraryThing; Ack-Ack Macaque was third on GR and fourth, i.e. second last, on LT. These statistics may be a decent guide to what has already sold well, but only the vaguest of indications as to what will actually win.

A similar, if not stronger, warning applies to the Kitschies, where there are two shortlists to consider. The Red Tentacle, for best novel, consists of the following five books:

ownersav ratingownersav rating
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith51303.762313.73
The Peripheral, by William Gibson33604.043203.98
Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor2673.72494.06
The Way Inn, by Will Wiles1053.50312.83
The Race, by Nina Allan164.4483.63

Again, two strong leaders, but this is a juried award, so even less likely to be reflective of purchasing patterns, and I note that The Race is rated highest by GR users and Lagoon by LT users. Having said that, last year the winner was indeed the leader by this system.

The Golden Tentacle, awarded by the Kitschies for best debut novel, also has five nominees, but here there is a very clear front-runner:

ownersav ratingownersav rating
The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara 31223.542553.67
The Girl in the Road, by Monica Byrne 8903.561093.59
Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta 8503.781083.92
Viper Wine, by Hermione Eyre783.56313.88
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers 544.333-

Note however the strong showing of Memory of Water, highest rated on LT and second highest on GR.

I am necessarily being a bit circumspect in my commentary this year, but I've read eleven of the sixteen books above, and enjoyed almost all of them.