Recently, a friend emailed me about a job opening for a book reviewer position, “since I think it’s aligned to your career path right now”.
Every week I get emails from companies that want me to read, review, and promote their books, though most aren’t at all like what I really read.
Even without adding in my work for SF Signal, I write more words about books than I write any other kind of non-fiction.
And it’s all making me want to bang my head against the wall.
I read because I love reading, and because it’s part of the process of becoming a better writer. For me, reading is a step on a path toward my goals, not the end of it. I’ve talked before about how I’m not a book reviewer, but I admit that there are times when the bulk of what I post here is me talking about the books I’ve read. Lately I’ve written long, detailed summaries, because I’ve already had that conversation with myself in my head, so why not share it with you? Maybe someone else is looking for a book that does a thing the book I just read did, and my review will help them to find it.
But I’m not a book reviewer. My aspirations don’t include simply being a consumer of literature – I am and will continue to be a creator of it. Reading and then thinking about what I read is part of the writer equation, and by posting reviews here I’m just showing my work.
There is no possible way that I will read everything I want to before I die. It’s never going to happen. The best that I can do it to devote as much time as I can to reading and accept that there are stories I won’t get to. More and more I think that spending time writing a straight review is taking away from being able to read or write something else, but… I’ve been hesitant to talk about books the way I want to because I wasn’t sure if anyone else would care about my deeper thoughts on the book I was discussing, beyond “is it good or not?”
I wondered: Do I know enough to have my opinion respected? Am I well read enough to make the right connections, the right correlations? There’s very little mainstream junk-food reading in my reading list for this year; it’s just not my style. My to-be-read pile includes some genre classics, a lot of small press, liminal or interstitial work, non-Western fiction, poetry, non-fiction essays, and non-speculative literary fiction. Does anyone else even want to hear about the titles that I most love to read?
And then I remembered that I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I’m going to read what I like.
I will still mention some of the books or stories I think you should read, in brief. I’m more interested in talking about how I was influenced by a particular work, how books are connected, or whether I agreed or disagreed with a certain author. I hope you stick around, because I’d like for my readers to be people who have read or want to read the kind of books I’m reading. I’d like more comments, more discussion. Tell me what you thought of it, ask questions, suggest something for me to read next. Let’s read deeper.
Let’s read better.