Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The curse of book blogging

Recently something has been bothering me. No matter how much I reorganise and recategorise my to-read list, or sort the hundreds of books into my Kindle onto more manageable lists, or try to be brutal about sidelining books I probably won't read, or those that look a bit trashy... There's no getting away from the fact that there are more books I want to read in the near future than I can even hope to get through. And the more of an audience I gain as a book blogger, the bigger this problem becomes. Advance review copies, ebooks from NetGalley, and books I've won in Goodreads giveaways pile up with those I've bought, borrowed from the library, been given by someone, acquired in a Kindle sale, or just want to read again because I loved them so much the first time. Altogether, it's becoming a bit of an impenetrable labyrinth which would probably take me a year to read, and that's just what it's like now.

How do I decide which books are worth reading, and which should be read first? My instinct is to read new releases before anybody else does, so if I have an advance copy, I'll usually try and read it before it comes out - although this recent post at Savidge Reads got me thinking about how wise it is to do this. After all, who will really be that interested in a review of something that isn't released for several months, apart from other reviewers? (Here I must admit that my motives for reading books early are purely selfish: I want to be the first to read and the first to review more than I want people to take notice of my reviews.) I also feel duty-bound to read advance copies quickly because, as a book blogger and Goodreads reviewer, I've been granted access to them for a reason. This sometimes leads to me pushing books I'm only half-heartedly interested in to the top of my list. On NetGalley, for example, I only ever request things with the best of intentions, and almost always mean to read anything I'm approved for immediately - but then I get approved for two more, and buy something for my Kindle, and get something else out of the library, and that 'priority' gets pushed further and further down the list until I forget about it altogether.

The other issue here is that once you start getting used to receiving advance copies, it becomes an expectation. I don't mean by this that I think I 'should' be getting them or that I deserve them - but once you know that reading books before they even come out is a possibility, it's difficult to get out of that mindset. Instead of being determined to buy a book on the day of release, you become fixated on getting it at some point - any point - before that day. How early is it possible to get hold of it? How come one of your Goodreads friends is reading it already? This can easily become an obsession, and it's at this point you end up with a blog full of reviews of unreleased books, perhaps the literary equivalent of that fashion blog thing where every item in every post has been 'gifted' by some brand or other.

So far I've read 90 books in 2013, and well over half of those were released this year. I do love getting to new books first, but I can't help but think this obsession is getting in the way of all those other great books I could be discovering. When was the last time I picked up a classic, for example? Or just a book from five or ten years ago?

Pictured above are: Beggar's Feast by Randy Boyagoda (16th January 2014), The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto (28th November 2013), and The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner (12th Septe,ber 2013) - all of which I won in Goodreads giveaways - along with a copy of Neil Spring's The Ghost Hunters, which I picked up at the supermarket with the intention of reading it over Halloween (!) Needless to say, that's just a handful of my to-read pile, with the majority (thankfully for my personal space) residing on my Kindle. My aim for December is to get all my advance copies (including those that are no longer 'advance' because they've been released since I got them) read and out of the way, ideally in some sort of order... A daunting task, as I have loads of the things, but at least December is a month when absolutely no interesting books get published. After that, I'm not sure - I don't want to have to plan out my reading book by book, as part of the pleasure is choosing whatever you happen to feel like reading at any given time - but in 2014 I'm determined to make more of an effort to work through at least some older books I've been meaning to read.

How do you decide what to read next - do you like reading new books before anyone else does? And do you find it interesting to hear about forthcoming books months ahead of their release?

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  1. I completely understand this post, but from a beauty blogger perspective. Inundated with products with only one face and not enough time to try them all.

    As a fellow book lover, I have a question! My 'reading time' is usually on the train to and from work (and sometimes before bed, although I usually feel guilty reading when at home because it's time I could be spent blogging). More recently though I've been listening to music on the train (I get very anxious on public transport sometimes and I find music distracts me more than a book does - my thoughts tend to wonder with books if I'm not entirely into them) and so I've been hardly reading recently.

    When do you read all of your books and how do you make time for them? It might be a silly question but I'd love to know your answer! Katie x

    1. I don't know the answer, really! I just find time whenever I can: on my lunch at work, whenever I'm waiting for someone/something, sometimes before I go to sleep... I suppose it helps that I'm a really fast reader? Sorry, that's not a terribly helpful answer is it! x

  2. It is so nice to read an honest account of this book blogging dilemma. My blog has been on hiatus for the past couple of months and it's partly to do with this 'pressure' to read the newest books, and to get them read and reviewed as quickly as possible. I'm just starting to get my enthusiasm for blogging back again as I've realised that all that pressure is self-imposed. As long as I'm reading books I'm excited about, and at a pace that allows me to enjoy them, then hopefully that passion will come across in my reviews and people will want to keep reading my posts - even if I'm posting about books that are years old! And I have to admit that when I'm scrolling down my blog reader I am more likely to be intrigued by a post about an old book I've never heard of rather than opening the seventeenth review of The Goldfinch, for example.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I'm relieved to know someone else knows what I mean and it's interesting that you'd rather see a review of an old book than a new one that everyone's already talking about - that does make a lot of sense!

  3. Great post! My list of books to read is so long, and as I did a lit degree I kind of pressed pause on reading for pleasure for a while (no time!) so my list has only grown.... I'm racing through books again now, but my pile to read is so huge...


  4. 90 books sounds impressive; I won't make it to 40 this year. I'd also be interested in where and when you read.

    I often don't know what I want to read next, and my to read-pile is never really helping. It's always very mood-related. I've got a large pile of books I got because I felt of reading them, and a slightly smaller pile of books I thought I wanted to re-read, but then I find myself craving Victorian novels so I've got to go get some of those.

    I'm not really bothered whether I read a book before anyone else. I only feel bummed sometimes when, through work, I come across a book that sounds amazing but is going on sale three months hence and I can't get my hands on an advance copy.
    That's the reason I don't want to hear about books months before they publish – when I see something I'm interested in reading, I don't want to wait, I want to have it NOW. By the time it finally goes on sale, I'll probably have forgotten about it.