William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2013

As the year hurtles towards Christmas the book awards continue to be decided.

Here’s the shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2013, and some of my comments and thoughts about the indexes.

  • The Boys In The Boat: An Epic True-Life Journey to the Heart of Hitler’s Berlin by Daniel James Brown (Macmillan) –  it tells the story of Joe Rantz, who grows up in obscurity during the Great Depression only to triumph over adversity as one of the US rowing crew that won
    gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The index has a lot of names of people and places. But the most noticeable feature is a lot of undifferentiated locators, which makes it difficult to know which bit of the book you might want to look at. For example, Adolf Hitler gets 31 locators, spread throughout the book, some subheadings would have definitely helped there to work out what the book could tell you about Hitler. Also, where subheadings do occur, the undifferentiated locators continue; the entry for George Yeoman Pocock has four subheadings, but each has a mass of locators, 28 for his work as a boatbuilder, surely that could have been broken down. I’ve seen in history books that up to about 10 locators is ‘allowed’, so perhaps this could have been broken down further to make it easier for the reader to use. Under the heading ‘rowing (crew)’ there are a lot of subheadings which require detailed knowledge of rowing terms to make any sense of, so for the general reader they are useless because they don’t have explanations attached to them. The indexer may have assumed a deeper knowledge of rowing than many general readers may have.
  • The Sports Gene: What Makes The Perfect Athlete by David Epstein (Yellow Jersey Press) The nature vs nurture debate discussed with reference to sports and athletics. A tidier index, without vast numbers of undifferentiated locators. Lots of useful subheadings, but not all of the subheadings have merited main headings of their own. The range of locators covered by most of the subheadings is usually included in the main heading. This is a little unusual, but can be helpful to direct the reader to the general place where the information appears, and tells them the overall extent of it.
  • Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld by Ed Hawkins (Bloomsbury) – about India’s illegal bookmaking and match fixing ‘industry’. Shockingly appears not to have an index at all. There’s a glossary of key names and terms, but otherwise dear readers you are on your own.
  • I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović by Zlatan Ibrahimović, David Lagercrantz and Ruth Urbom (Penguin) – Amazon only have the e-book version available to see inside. So I can’t see if there is one. [edit] A quick visit to Waterstones shows that this book does not have an index at all!
  • Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid (Racing Post)I assume it is about what it says on the tin. It looks like the index had to be squashed into a limited space due to space restrictions. It is printed in three columns per page of quite tiny print compared to the text of the book. The subheadings are in run-on format, which is another clue to space being an issue for this index. There are lots of undifferentiated locators, even when there are subheadings, which makes it difficult to decide which page to head towards.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh (Simon & Schuster) Amazon only have the e-book version available to see inside. So I can’t see if there is one. Slightly disappointed there as I quite like reading about cycling. [edit] A quick visit to Waterstones shows that this book does not have an index at all!

I am rather disappointed that three of these potentially award-winning books do not have indexes and one got a rather squashed effort, leaving only two with acceptable indexes. This probably tells us a lot about what the publishers think of the readers of the books without indexes. They probably think that the readers will read them once, and not return to them to refer back to favourite passages. Which is a shame, considering that the additional cost of an index for these books would be modest compared to the publicity costs of the books and the prize money awarded to the winner.

The winner was Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid, so congratulations to them. At least there was an index.

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