Last Year
On 7 February 2012 the first Hatchet Job of the Year Award was presented to ADAM MARS-JONES for his Observer review of By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham.

He won a year's supply of potted shrimp, courtesy of The Fish Society.

Suzi Feay
Rachel Johnson
Sam Leith
DJ Taylor

Mary Beard on Rome by Robert Hughes (Guardian)
Geoff Dyer on The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (New York Times)
Camilla Long on With the Kisses of His Mouth by Monique Roffey (The Sunday Times)
Lachlan Mackinnon on Clavics by Geoffrey Hill (The Independent)
Adam Mars-Jones on By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (Observer)
Leo Robson on Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford (New Statesman)
Jenni Russell on Honey Money by Catherine Hakim (The Sunday Times)
David Sexton on The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy (London Evening Standard)

Newspaper book pages are on borrowed time. Readership is dwindling, review space is shrinking, reviewers are paid half what they were twenty years ago. The professional critic has yet to draw his last breath, but there’s no mistaking the death rattle.

We’ve not stopped reading – the UK book market was worth over £3bn in 2010 – but we are increasingly going elsewhere for literary recommendations. According to a survey by The Bookseller, only 15% of people said they found out about new books and authors from a newspaper or magazine review, with growing numbers relying on Amazon, blogs and Twitter. A single tweet from Stephen Fry will have an infinitely greater impact on a book’s sales than a dozen broadsheet reviews.

The chief cause of this sorry situation is, of course, the decline in newspaper readership. But plummeting circulation just makes it even more urgent for literary pages to prove they’re still relevant.

We need professional book reviewers. We need people who know what they’re talking about, whose voices we recognise and trust, even though we might not always agree with them. With more books being published than ever, you could argue that the hunger for authoritative advice has never been greater.

Editors have a duty to feed this hunger. This means asking why many people who like books think the book pages aren’t for them. It means challenging notions that professional criticism is inward-looking and self-serving. It means making sure book reviews are not simply informative, but entertaining.

Hatchet Job of the Year is a crusade against dullness, deference and lazy thinking. It rewards critics who have the courage to overturn received opinion, and who do so with style. Most of all, it is a public celebration of that most underpaid and undervalued form of journalism: the book review.

Awards Night

Cake by Sarah Eccles.
Email for more details.

All photos taken by Daniel Barnett Photography.

Sponsored by The Fish Society