Monday, January 19, 2004

Organizing your reading time 

I was so close to bitching out the mailman today, who has a habit of being ridiculously late in delivering. By 4 PM I was certain that he'd mistakenly thought Canada celebrated Martin Luther King Day as well, but lo and behold, a shiny ARC appeared in the mailbox, expressed from the UK. Now, the dilemma; I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book I'm reading now (Ray Shannon's MAN EATER, which is as hugely enjoyable as the reviews and word of mouth had led me to believe) and am faced with the task of picking what to read next. Now, my TBR pile (short for To Be Read, for those not well-versed in bookspeak) isn't as unwieldy as some--there are only about 15 books unread, puny compared to those who have mountains and stacks of books still waiting to be perused--but it's full of books that I'd like to read, that I haven't gotten around to reading, or am saving for some kind of rainy day.

But oh, that proof copy....it beckons with its siren call, luring me to try it with the temptation of instant gratification. No matter that the publication date's not for another six months and that any review I could write won't appear till then, in all likelihood. Never mind that if I read it now, by the time everyone else gets around to doing so, I'll have forgotten all of the plot and most of the characters. (the only book that it almost doesn't matter if such a thing happens is the latest by George Pelecanos; Little, Brown puts out the ARCs so far in advance and puts out enough of them that most of my friends and colleagues have read it long before the pub date; I suspect, however, this practice may change at some point soon.) But....I wanna read the book already, dammit.

All kvetching aside, this does highlight the way I prioritize my reading: in short, manuscripts take priority over ARCs; the longer the lead time, the more likely it is to be read immediately. First edition hardcovers are then read before those out a while, which take precedent over paperbacks. And trade paperbacks are more likely to be read by me than the mass-market format. Is this an absolute hierarchy? Of course not, but essentially, the more immediate a book is, the more likely I'll read it right away. This rule also only holds for crime fiction; all bets are off for other genres and more mainstream work, although because of it, I'm more likely to let an older, literary work languish on the TBR pile than I would a new crime release.

Chances are that I'll get to a couple of books in the pile before I tackle the proof. But I might not. And now I'll turn it to the floor: how do you prioritize which books get read? Does it matter if a book's more contemporary or not? And if galleys come your way, do you drop everything to read them?

UPDATE: Have now finished reading MAN EATER, which I still enjoyed but...at the same time I thought it a tad too slick somehow, like I could see the gears shift from plot point to the next. But if you like your regular dose of Elmore Leonard, this book fits the bill just fine. I suspect I'll like "Shannon's" backlist written under his real name (Gar Anthony Haywood) more, though. And I've decided the ARC will wait for a few days yet; John Dufresne's LOVE WARPS THE MIND A LITTLE's been languishing in the pile for too long, and as I like to alternate between crime fic and mainstream stuff, now's the time to pull it out.

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