Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Salon: New books or old books?

Happy Sunday, everyone! It's the wonderful time of year in upstate New York when it's sunny and spring-like during the day and still crisp and wintery at night. For me, it's the best of both worlds. I can spend time outside reading during the day and still snuggle in at night. I've had a hectic few months, but our new apartment is getting more put together each day, which gives me (thankfully) more time to read. Mr. Nomadreader and I are off to meet a friend for brunch on the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark's fantastic patio, which is even better now that we live close enough to walk. After brunch I'm looking forward to an afternoon and evening full of relaxation and reading. I'm currently devouring Sara Gran's quirky, dark, and beautifully written forthcoming mystery Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, which is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. I'm also hoping to start The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon today.

New or Old?
My Waiting on Wednesday pick this week was the forthcoming novel by Lydia Millet, Ghost Lights. I first read Millet last April after she was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist. As soon as I heard she had a new book, I rushed to know more about it. When I discovered it included a character from a previous novel, I got to thinking. When did I become anti-backlist?

For years, I kept a list of authors whose works I wanted to Read Every Word. About once a month, I would search Books in Print to see when they had new novels coming out, but I also got caught up on their already published titles. The world of book blogging has made me more aware of publishing trends. In many ways, I'm more aware than ever. I correctly predicted a third of the Orange Prize longlist. In some ways, however, I'm less knowledgeable than in my days as an independent bookseller. Even at an independent bookstore in an affluent, well-educated Atlanta neighborhood, we mostly sold bestsellers. I could list the titles and order of all the typical bestselling authors. Now? I'm a little out of the loop, and I'm okay with that. I'm a literary fiction devotee, and I love being part of the conversation.

When The New York Times named their five best fiction picks for 2010, I had already read all three novels (short stories interest me less, as we all know.) Tomorrow, the Pulitzer Prizes will be awarded. I'm hoping I've read at least one of the three. There is a certain level of gratification that comes from being an evangelist for a book before others are. There's a joy in being part of the conversation about contemporary literary fiction. I have no plans of leaving the conversation anytime soon, but I do want to incorporate more backlist reading.

A New Goal: Backlist Reading
I'm adding a new reading goal for 2011: read at least one backlist title a month. I may find it browsing the shelves at my wonderful public library (I do love now being a few blocks from the downtown branch with the city's biggest collection) or I may choose to explore the older titles of authors I've enjoyed. Either way, I'm determined to squeeze in at least one backlist title among the new releases I enjoy each month.

Now tell me: do you prefer new releases or backlist titles? 

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  1. I love the new titles I think because it's fun to have read all the new stuff and be able to talk about it. I like trying to keep up with the trends in books. But before blogging, I, too, was devoted to collecting and reading an author's entire backlist if I liked them. I would keep track on an excel spreadsheet of what I had and hadn't read, LOL! I just recently read a backlist title (Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones) and loved it so that was motivation to try to be more conscious of that.

  2. I always preferred to read the latest released titles, but I've grown tired of seeing so many reviews on the same book, that I am trying to read some of my older books now.

  3. Yes, same here, I suppose I try to do a little of everything: at the moment I am working through Haruki Murakami's back list, but like Jenny I do like feeling part of the loop when I've read something that's new and wins an award. I feel I've championed it a little. Then I feel I ought to try and support other writers that write really good books and don't get publicised at all. Ah, it's a hard choice;-)

  4. Lately, I've been reading more older titles, since more of my recent purchases have been from used/thrift stores. However, there is definitely an appeal to having read the newest releases and being able to talk about them with fellow bloggers. Also, it's nice to get to a book before it gets so over hyped that I get weary of reading it for fear of disappointment.

  5. I don't like to read what everyone else is reading, although it happens all the time. For that reason I prefer backlist titles.

  6. I am a new follower of your blog. This is a great question. I get distracted by new titles now that I blog, but I often wish I spent more time dedicating myself to reading more deeply. I think your plan to alternate a bit is a good one.

    Also, my new books often become backlist books, because there are too many of them.

  7. @Jenny - Tayari Jones is an author I've been meaning to read for years. I bought Leaving Atlanta for my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it this summer!

    @Diane - I'm also loving the luxury of 4-week checkouts on older books at the library instead of 7-day. It gives me more freedom to read what I want to!

    @Claire - If only we could read and write for a living, right? Murakami is an author I hope to read for the first time this year too.

    @Jenna - I love being an early champion of books too. It's nice to have the freedom of backlist titles too!

    @LBC - Welcome! I have the same problem of wanting to read far too many new books that they are old by the time I read them!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!