So, getting books to review before they come out is, I assume, a compliment to me as a blogger. But, I really don't know what to think about it and how to go about it. And I am not the only one.
On one hand, if I got only a couple of books per year, and they were all books that I would buy anyway, or something similar, or something from my wish list, that would be really cool. But what is one to do if one gets too many books, and some of those are not of real interest? Or, a book turns out to be bad - should one write a negative review?
I am still at the very beginning of this process. I know I do not need to write something worthy of inclusion in the New York Review of Books, but something short and personal. So far, I got three books, all three I agreed on.
I have read the first, although I have not promised anything about writing a review. It was (and I will try to write at least a little blurb about it) Institutionalized by Fred Smith and Joe Schmoe. I did not read it properly, though. Instead of reading it in a couple of sittings over a couple of days, I read it in a very fragmented way over a couple of months. That was the book that lived in the car and was read in waiting rooms at the dentist and such places, a couple of pages at a time. It turned out - this was a bad strategy for this particular book, with too many characters to follow and too many plot twists and turns to remember. I liked it - it is a great satire of the corporate world, sometimes too close to reality for comfort - but will I be able to give it a fair hearing? The brutally obvious satire (you know what Microsloth is, don't you?) was a little jarring in the beginning, but I was fine with it later on - the whole thing is a huge caricature, so such grossness goes well with the whole concept of the book. And an important part that blogs play in the story is a really nice touch.
I got the second book to preview just the other day, a book I really want to read and the author really hopes that I will review it (and hopefully pretty soon). That is Seeking the Sacred Raven : Politics and Extinction on a Hawaiian Island by Mark Jerome Walters.
The third one came yesterday, and I am also interested in reading it very much: Empire's Workshop : Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism by Greg Grandin.
But, should I hurry and read those first, or should I place them on the waiting list and read them whenever they come up on top, even if it is several months later? I was really looking forward to reading Intuition by Allegra Goodman as soon as possible. My wife just finished it and loved it. Everyone else also seems to love it - I am salivating at the thought of starting it as soon as I finish an old SF novel I am reading right now.
Then, I'd like to read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and then who knows what - I have a huge stack of SF, a huge stack of Lablit, a huge stack of science books and a huge stack of political/current events books waiting for me to read them. Do I make my own order of reading or do I let publishers dictate it for me? Should I feel bad if my review sees the light of day a year too late, or perhaps never?
I read really slowly these days - too much time spent reading blogs and blogging, not to mention the Real Life. When I was a little kid, I could read a picture book per hour. As a teenager, with bigger, more serious books, I read a book a day. In my twenties, school intruded, so I read about a book per week. In the thirties, I got too busy, so a book per month became a sad norm. Now I have turned 40 - does that mean I'll read one book per year? Hope not. But anyway, when am I going to read everything I want to read? And should I be the final arbiter of what to read and when?