Some facts and opinions about the Good Read books
Over the 15 years of the Waverton Good Read Award we have accumulated a database of almost 1000 books (an average of 66 per year) which have been submitted. We have also had more than 10,000 readers' comments! In this section you will find a few of the facts (on the left) and opinions (on the right) which we have been able to gather from these two wonderful resources.
Book length in pages is not a particularly accurate measure of the actual length (in words) of each book, which also depends on the font size and page size. But it's all we can get from Amazon or publishers' details (or from opening the book!). On this basis:
- The average length of submitted books is 339 pages;
- The average length of long-listed books is 355 pages;
- The average length of shortlisted books is 388 pages, and;
- The average length of the winners is 365 pages.
- The longest book submitted had 865 pages (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in 2005).
- The shortest book submitted had only 112 pages (Sleeping Patterns in 2012)
The average book title is 17 characters, but
- The longest was 75 characters (The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, in 2012)
- The shortest title was only 3 characters (26a in 2005)
Background of the writers
We have recorded (where we can find it) the gender, age, region and education of each author. You might be surprised at how difficult this is to find for some authors, so the data is incomplete. However, we have the information on gender for almost everyone (apologies to those whose gender is more complex than just F/M) and the other information for about two-thirds of the authors, so the averages are over many hundred people (600 to 800).
Over 15 years just over half of all our authors were female (58%) and the percentage has grown slightly over the period. In the early years women writers were actually in a minority (44% and 42% in our first two years) while since 2010 they regularly account for just over 60% of the titles.
The majority of our authors, although far from all, are graduates. Of the 600 or so whose university we could identify, fully 20% had studied at Oxford while a further 13% had been to Cambridge. So a third of all graduate authors had an Oxbridge degree. Many had also been on a "creative writing" course, with UEA and Bath Spa being quite popular.
Of course many authors have moved around, with London proving magnetic for many. However, many writers retain a regional allegiance. Very roughly the distribution is:
- London 32%
- South 25%
- North 11%
- Midlands 9%
- Scotland 8%
- Ireland 6%
- Wales 4%
- Overseas 7%
Just for clarification, the Award is open to writers from UK and Ireland, and we now ask that writers be "normally resident" in this area, but we can't stop UK-born people moving around the world!
This is probably the least accurate data we have: Some people are amazingly coy about their age. However, as far as we can judge, the average age of our authors is about 40, and it is much the same for those long-listed, short-listed or winners. We can be a bit more precise about the youngest and oldest. At the time they published their book, the youngest author (Helena Coggan in 2015) was 15, while the oldest (Myrrha Stanford-Smith in 2010) was 82.
Time of the setting
It's not easy to define the period in which each novel is set, partly because several of them jump forwards and backwards in time. However my (Peter's) rough categorisation follows. I have defined "historical" rather loosely as "set more than about 20 years ago". This gives:
- Contemporary 672 (68%)
- Historical 255 (26%)
- Future 19 (2%)
- Fantasy 48 (5%)
From which you can see that we have very little SciFi, a sprinkling of fantasy, a quarter set in the past and two-thirds set in our times
The comments below have been anonymised, although you might recognize your own words! They are all from different readers. We have tried to avoid spoilers.
"This book grew on me. Initially I thought that the three/four strands were too much, but by the end, I think the novel hung together and it did get me thinking" The Hopkins Conundrum
"A rather depressing novel, with an awful description of dying from cancer and a depressive intellectual snob as its central character. Clever, but not a good read" Darke
"Could have been set anywhere tho' Paris is appealing. Full of metaphor and imagery which create atmospheres at varying levels in time and place. It works well" These Dividing Walls
"Although the setting in a ward of patients in comas is uncomfortable, the plot and its unfolding is very well crafted and the book kept my attention" If You Knew Her
"I found this quite slow, too much building the back story of the characters. I found I was skipping pages to get to the heart of the story. I just didn't have the patience to last out. Maybe it was just not my type of story." The Esquimaux
"A haunting tale crafted in the most beautiful language. This book is emotionally intense, exploring both grief and love with immense sensitivity. The story evolves along an unexpected line which I thought would spoil it for me but I still loved it." A Thousand Paper Birds
"Very unusual and thought provoking book. Extremely sad at times and made you think about children brought up in awful situations by totally unacceptable adults. The book was however lightened by the great acts of kindness shown to Tomas, and by his amazing resilience to everything life threw at him" Not Thomas
"I didn't like the paranormal theme although what I read was well written." The Upstairs Room
"Disturbing back story written with a simplicity that somehow made it all the more powerful. No sentimentality. Very clever, that writing about such awful events can be done in a way that can make you laugh without detracting from the awfulness of Eleanor's background. You were behind Eleanor and her struggles to lead a life like everybody else even though it is all so alien to her." Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
"I couldn't learn to like anyone in this book" All the Good Things
"Loved this. A cautionary tale of life under a regime where you have no rights" Electric Souk
"Loved this book, the writing style was excellent and just swept me along. Poignant, moving, believable scenes and settings wonderfully described. Really hope this gets into the long list." Little Gold
"I enjoyed the humour and characterisation but I felt the reveal at the end was disappointing. The murderer wasn't convincing." Himself
"A beautifully written book. At first, the use of the 2nd person was strange but I decided to stay with it and was well rewarded.The pace, the texture, the relationships were perfectly pitched." Montpelier Parade
"I read the first 50 pages but found that I had no interest in the characters or what might happen to them." Rockadoon Shore
"Interesting story. My only criticism would be that the denouement came rather suddenly and the ends of the story were tied up very quickly which seemed at odds with the narrative." Clementine and Claudia
"I felt I had to finish it as it was an important story about Cairo and a popular movement. More reportage than a novel" The City Always Wins
"I wanted to like this a great deal more than l did. The fatal flaw for me are the literary conversations of the protagonists, reflecting the author rather than believable characters. Surprising from someone with experience as a script editor. I think Miranda Emmerson would be happier writing more serious fiction" Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars
"Generally not too keen on thrillers but this one kept me riveted." Good Me, Bad Me
"Found the chronology confusing and disjointed. Some aspects of the plot unpleasant and disturbing. Not a good read for me" The Clocks in the House All Tell Different Times
"This is a very quick read. In some ways nimbly deals with what can be a crippling disability. Great for a train journey" Making Space
"A bit dull and I found the main character irritating. There's a lot of hype surrounding this one as the writer is very young it seems. Nothing has happened so far apart from her affair with a married man. Gave up." Conversations with Friends
"Charming. Easy to read. Story unfolds at a gentle pace but never bores. Love triangle with convincing characters .I particularly enjoyed the setting in Jamaica as I knew nothing about that country. Interesting issues explored- Kat battling sickle cell anaemia and that a man can love two women at the same time!!" Swimming with Fishes
"Very average story written by someone "famous"! Easy read, simple story, simple 1 dimensional characters. Bland - but I do recognise the achievement of writing a book and don't feel in a position to knock it too much, as I haven't written anything! Bought as a present by someone who listened to a radio interview, which made the book sound more exciting than it actually is!" Holding
"No doubt well researched but didn't enjoy this at all, unpleasant topic and not something I would choose to read about." Widdershins
"There are two novels about witch finders in this year's WGRA and this is by far the best. The pervading atmosphere of threat gripped me and I understood how difficult it must have been to speak out against the practice" The Witchfinder's Sister