2 April, 2012

"I Feel So Guilty..."

Commentary by Cherie Jung

One of our readers mentioned that they'd read somewhere that over 2,600 mysteries are published each year and did we get review copies of all of them? Frankly, it sometimes seems like we get that many but we don't. I'm not aware of that particular statistic but I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.

We get some of our review copies from the various publishers. Some from authors themselves. Some from libraries. (Especially if we want to read a book and the publisher doesn't offer review copies to us.) We also purchase some books that we review. Mostly when the publisher(s) don't offer us a review copy or, if we've annoyed them in the past with negative reviews on famous authors and the proverbially "Hell" will have to freeze over before they send us another review copy of that author's book.

Another omdb! reader asked how we choose which books to review. That's a fair question. I wish I had a simple answer for it. This is where the guilt feelings come in.

The books arrive, I post a list, and ask our reviewers which books they want to read and review. Easy, so far. Next I mail the requested books to the various reviewers and then wait for their reviews. In the meantime, I've likely added a few more books to my own "to read pile." Ha! I write "to read pile" as if there were only one. Sadly, at any given time, there are numerous "to read" piles with 10 or more books in each pile.

On one rainy day a few months ago, I tried to tackle the growing "to read" piles with a bit of organizing. After a fairly long afternoon, I had successfully managed to wrangle the books into newly sorted piles. There was the "read next" pile, with only 26 books. (I had thought of just putting all the waiting books into that pile but that wouldn't have been very sporting of me.) There was a "must read" pile. (I truly have no idea what the difference is between a "read me next" pile and a "must read" pile. But it looked good in theory.) There was a "maybe" pile and a "read later" pile. The "read later" pile was for those books I felt I should review since I asked for them when they arrived but I was really no longer interested in reading them. I refrained from creating a separate pile for "books from author friends." I didn't want to give them a place (or pile) of advantage over other books by authors I didn't know personally.

Satisfied with my newly organized piles, I settled back with a nice cup of tea to admire my work when disaster struck. Not a major earthquake or flood. Nothing like that. But did I mention I share a home-based office with five semi-feral cats?

You can probably see where this is going...The cats don't understand piles or stacks of books as anything more than something that needs to be toppled and spread around as quickly as possible. Clearly I was going to need a plan B.

Why don't I simply read and review books in a "first in, first read" order, you say? Oh, yes. That would be a fine system...if I could stick to it. I've tried that method more than once and every time, some newly arrived book catches my eye and "floats" to the top of the nearest "to read" pile, thus sabotaging the method.

Before my stroke, I used to read 3 or 4 books a day. Now I only read 3 or 4 books a week. Books for review seem to arrive faster than I can read them these days but I have improved my sorting plan. I bought clear plastic bins, with lids, at my local office supply store. Each bin can hold up to about 30 books with no cat access. At present, I have three full bins waiting to be read and reviewed. Not counting the e-book review copies sitting on my computer. Oh, dear.

I wish I could magically read all of the books patiently waiting to be read and reviewed in my possession but I'm not magically inclined so they'll each have to wait their turn, whenever that is. In the meantime, here comes the postman with a stack of packages — more review copies, no doubt. Note to self...buy more plastic bins.


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