I Have Not Read Your Book (Yet)

True confession time: I (probably) have not read your book (yet).1

Like most—hopefully all writers—I’m a big reader. I have loved books since I was a little kid, and that love for fiction compelled me to attempt writing my own. But one of the sad realities of being an author is that I can’t read as much as I want to, and not nearly as much as I should.

timeenoughatlastI say “should” because even though reading is fun and relaxing, for a long time I’ve also felt some anxiety around them. I firmly believe that to be a good writer you need to read a lot. You need to read anything and everything. And given my druthers (a phrase I’m sure I picked up from a book at a young age!), I would be reading as many books as I can. As a YA/science fiction writer, I also think I should be keeping up on what’s being published right now, participating in conversations about current books, recommending them to others.

As I become friends with other authors and/or like them from panels and their blogs and online interactions, of course I want to read their work! I especially want to help support debut authors, because those first book sales are so, so important. But, well, there are so many of you and so many books coming out every year. Every week.

Some recent estimates of the number of books being published in the United States are in the range of 300,000-400,000. What. In a busy publishing week, like last week, there are typically at least four YA books published by people I know in some capacity, and many more intriguing books that I add to my increasingly unwieldy t0-be-read list. Just keeping up with the “happy book birthday” Tweets is taking more effort than it used to! (The depressing flipside of this for authors is “Ahhh! How will my book be noticed among the 30 that are coming out on the same day? Woe is me.”)

Sigh.

Sigh.

I’m falling behind, missing out on most of the major books that people have been talking about, and I feel embarrassed. Just one example: The Martian was recommended to me repeatedly a long time ago, and it was on my list but I still haven’t read it; now the movie’s coming out, and I wish I’d gotten to it sooner. There are plenty of classics and books considered canon that I certainly should have read by now, but I’m even more ashamed about the books by good friends that I haven’t actually made time for yet. The guilt mounts when I know they’ve read my books because they’ve told me so or reviewed them. This isn’t a quid-pro-quo game, but I do want to reciprocate more when I can. Reviews are so, so important too!

There are plenty of good reasons why I haven’t been able to read everything… I waste too much time on the internet, which I’m trying to cut back on. Family life has required more of my time, what with a baby and all. Work always takes up a huge chunk of time. I’ve had some pretty tight deadlines on my books, too, and I need to do a lot of research for them to boot. I love watching movies and TV, which I make even less time for but still, that’s time I could be reading… And what about video games? I miss those!

Another “problem” is that with so many books to choose from, when I do have time to read, it’s hard to pick which to open next so I just grab the shiny new thing, and older books just get pushed further down on my list. Lately, it seems like I prioritize ARCs, because I want to read them before the real book gets published, and library books, because those come with deadlines.

Double sigh.

Double sigh.

Sometimes a friend or another author will apologize for not having read one of my books yet, and I wave them off.2 Who am I to judge? But this only reinforces my idea that there’s some expectation that you read your friends’ books. Should I be apologizing too? Am I lying by omission? I’m more likely to simply not mention it if I haven’t read their book, but then I wonder, maybe they think I read it and didn’t like it? There’s also the hope that your friends are buying your books, and that’s where I do a little better. Chances are, I may not have read your book, but I did buy it, and that must count for something, right? Then again, with so many books coming out every week, I can’t buy or store everything, so I at least try to signal boost as much as I can.

Does anyone else feel pressured to keep up with new books? Books by people you know? If you haven’t read your friend’s latest book, do you tell them or not?

  1.  Oh no, I’m not referring to you. Of course I’ve read your book! Duh. Loved it.
  2. Really, it’s okay. But feel free to post a positive review anyway 😉

22 Responses to I Have Not Read Your Book (Yet)

  1. Cheyenne Sep 25 2015 at 4:51 am #

    I definitely feel this. My TBR list/pile is towering, and yet I’m a rereader, rereading anywhere from 1-5 of my favourites each year. This makes getting to all the shiny new stuff even more difficult! And with an armload of critique partners whose manuscripts I adore reading and critiquing each year, it makes my TBR list even MORE elusive.

    I find that setting myself a definite goal helps, but also, setting daily time aside specifically for reading — not the internet, but actually reading a book without any distractions. I’m trying this out now. Hopefully, it will help. It’s sad that one of the things I love most gets pushed to the side, but c’est la vie!

    As for reading other people’s books, if I’ve read it, they’ll know. No one’s Superman and life’s too short to worry if other people are upset about it, because chances are, they’re buried in busyness as well, and haven’t read all the books *other* people have given/sold them.

    • E.C. Myers Sep 25 2015 at 8:41 am #

      Oh yeah, there are so many books I want to reread too, but I never feel like I can justify it because there’s so much I haven’t read yet. But I like the idea of scheduling time to read; I actually miss my daily train commute because it was protected reading time, which is perhaps another reason I’ve fallen so far behind. I guess I need to just concentrate on enjoying reading without all these other anxieties.

  2. Brooke Sep 25 2015 at 5:39 am #

    I have 2200+ books on my TBR on Goodreads. Yep, you read that right. Once in a while, I go through and say, “Am I really ever going to read this? Why is it on my list?” Then I whittle things down (maybe to 2000+). I try to read my friends books as soon as I can, but often times I just cannot. Like you, I prioritize ARCS, and library books if I happen to go take one out instead of buying a book! And I certainly have tons of books my friends have read and I haven’t. Ones they say, “I can’t believe you haven’t gotten to that yet. What are you waiting for?” What am I waiting for? I’m waiting to not have a job to go to full time. Or kids to take care of. Or a house to keep clean. There are lots of things I’m waiting for! But I don’t think those things will happen. At least not any time soon. So, yeah, my TBR grows, as do my bookshelves, and I get buried under the mountain. But it’s a nice mountain. It smells good because it’s a mountain of words full of thoughts and dreams and places where I know I’ll get lost and enjoy myself immensely.

    • E.C. Myers Sep 25 2015 at 8:43 am #

      😀

      I am happy that I know there’s always be something to look forward to, a book I’m excited to read, whenever I get around to it. There’s just so much media out there to consume, I sometimes despair because I can’t possibly experience all of it.

  3. Marc Vun Kannon Sep 25 2015 at 6:30 am #

    I’ve been reading since I learned to read, and much of what I know about writing i figured out by paying attention to what I read. The main thing I learned was that I didn’t like the way other books were written. I wanted books about people doing things, and I saw nothing but books about things being done by people. I don’t care about the mystery, I want to know about the guy solving it. What does holding a sword do to the guy holding it, when he’s never held one before. As time went on I felt less pressured to read books, since few were satisfying anymore, and none were like the books I was writing so even the comp title angle was out. I figure anyone who writes as much like I do for me to want to pay attention is probably as marginalized as I am. When I do trip across such a writer I try to keep up with them, but I don’t go looking for them, they’re too hard to find. I don’t try to keep up with new releases. I don’t even have a TBR pile. I have a life, and when I can fit them in I let books be a part of that life, my life does not revolve around the books. I find a book that looks interesting, I read it. Done.

    • E.C. Myers Sep 25 2015 at 8:45 am #

      *high-five* I love your distinction between “books about people doing things” and “books about things being done by people.” What interesting books would you recommend?

      • Marc Vun Kannon Sep 25 2015 at 11:54 am #

        Oh, gosh, that’s a huge question! I was lucky to get my first books and short stories published by Echelon Press, a company small enough that the publisher was able to pick books according to her own taste, which happened to match my taste, so anything from there Is a book I can recommend wholeheartedly. Given that this is a YA group, I would recommend ‘Rain’ (spy adventure) and ‘Flawless Ruins’ (futuristic dystopian) by Kieryn Nicholas (she was 13 when she wrote the first and 15 when she wrote the second), ‘Fang Face’ and ‘Were-Woof’ (humorous) by Norm Cowie, ‘Killer Cows’ (sci-fi) and ‘Shaken’ (thriller) by D.M. Anderson, The Cynthia’s Attic series (time travel fantasy) by Mary Cunningham, ‘Secret of Bailey’s Chase’ and ‘Back to Bailey’s Chase’ (fantasy) by Marlis Day, ‘Fur Face’ (young boy, telepathic cat) by Jon Gibbs,and ‘Betrayed’ and ’10 Weeks Til’ by Sam Morgan. These are all titles I can name off the top of my head, because I have been promoting these books (as a part-time bookseller) on behalf of their authors for years. Some of these authors have gone their own ways recently but if you find the books definitely give them a try.
        My own books are also available through Echelon, but I don’t do YA, unless you count my short story called ‘Steampunk Santa’, which I modeled on the Rankin-Bass specials of my youth. As you can tell from the title, I look for the weird and oddball, and then I make them work.
        I’ve also recommended ‘Sidekicks’ (superhero) and the ‘Evil Genius’ trilogy here recently.

  4. Nancy Tandon Sep 25 2015 at 7:47 am #

    YES! The anxiety of leaving a bookstore or library and not bringing ALL THE BOOKS home with me can be overwhelming.
    The struggle is real.

    • E.C. Myers Sep 25 2015 at 8:46 am #

      It’s almost as bad as going to a pet store…

      I usually reserve books at the library so I can just pick them up, but I usually leave with at least a few others I didn’t plan on!

  5. Chris Bailey Sep 25 2015 at 11:24 am #

    …and then other friends give me books they loved by people I don’t know, and the guilt compounds.

  6. P.D. Pabst Sep 25 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Oh my gosh, you are NOT alone! As writers, we are supposed to keep up on newly published books, especially those making headlines. But there are so MANY. I too have books by friends I haven’t read yet. And the more friends I make by social networking, the higher the stack gets and the reading gets more behind. I want all the book babies, but it’s impossible to buy them every one:-( And then someone tells me about a book from an author I don’t know and it sounds amazing, annnnd my pile increases again. Sigh. I imagine a lot of writers feel this way. Maybe?

  7. lisa ciarfella Sep 25 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Ah how true this is!
    My to read list is overflowing, and theres never enough time for it all!
    Though I want there to be!

  8. Maureen Wanket Sep 25 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    I do feel this pressure, but I also appreciate it because it gives me not just incentive to read but also a focus to my reading. There is so much out there to read, you are absolutely correct. It can get overwhelming. Letting my connections, friendships, and personal recommendations guide my reading is helpful. This post is fabulous, thank you so much.

  9. Stephanie Garber
    Stephanie Garber Sep 25 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I loved this post! I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. I definitely feel all of the above pressure to keep up with new books and read all the books of people I know. I have found that I do tell friends if I haven’t read their book yet–because I don’t want people to think I’ve read, but I just haven’t liked it. But I just don’t think there is enough time to read all the books.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

  10. Anna Jordan Sep 25 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes. I was just having this exact conversation with myself the other day. I tend to not tell the author friend that I haven’t yet read the book unless specifically asked. Most who feel similarly never ask.

    Moreover, I have to be really careful about reading as a resistance and procrastination maneuver. My writing needs to be important too and my best writing friends know that.

  11. Althea Claire Duffy Sep 25 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    I was just despairing over this very issue. I’m years behind on even some of my favorite authors. And yet here I am, messing around on the Internet instead of reading or writing.

  12. Virginia Anderson Sep 26 2015 at 10:23 am #

    Gosh, I just wrote about this in a comment on another site. I think I put it in capital letters, which I won’t do here: I can’t read all those books! Actually, the comment was on a post about paid marketing and whether indie authors should use it. But I just seems to me that individual titles get buried in the flood of titles that appear in my feeds and inbox every day. I decided for now to focus more on groups and audiences that may be inclined to read on the topic of my books (adult horse-racing mysteries). Don’t know how that will pan out yet. And yes, there is the worry that when people don’t mention having read a book you know they’ve bought or received, they may be afraid to tell you that they just didn’t like it. Fortunately, most of my friends are incredibly honest and constructive, and tell me what they think unreservedly.

    As for my own reading, I have two “reading” times a day: in the bath in the morning (no ebooks there, though), and at night before going to bed (yes, I do fall asleep after a few pages, but I’ve read some great stuff that way). One problem is that i don’t prefer the genres that seem to turn up so often on indie sites: romance, fantasy, YA, science fiction (though I’ve read some great books in each genre at different times). I started a Goodreads thread in one of the horse groups asking about adult books about horses and have received some great suggestions. So I’ll probably focus there.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone! Back to house cleaning now.

  13. mclicious Sep 26 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    ALL THE GUILT. And to Brooke, yes! My TBR on GoodReads is always hovering around 1000 and is entirely aspirational.

    Honestly, the more I make connections and actual friends in publishing and literature, especially kidlit and YA, the less I want to read it, because I’m used to feeling very solid in my public opinions, and now that is wavering a bit. It’s hard to juggle so many real reasons to *want* to read a book – a friend wrote it, a friend recommended it, it’s a favorite author, it’s relevant to something you’re studying or working on, etc – but even harder to tease out from all that whether you still really want to read it or to HAVE read it.

    I have no advice to give here, just commiseration.

  14. Damon Shulenberger Sep 27 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    I read very few books. Used to read avidly. I do write for hours each day and read a few pages of one book or another each day.

    Books that held my attention through the entire storyline

    I have this theory that at some point many serious writers, who used to be subsumed in others’ words, have internalized the modes of expression and must grapple with a much more complex and unwieldy beast – the depths of their own perception and views of the world. Just getting this on paper can become a life’s work.

    Interesting to think back on books that I have completed this year:

    Louis de Bernières’ The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts –

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a wry, bawdy, faintly British accent. Found this at an art gallery in love on Green Street in North Beach. Read in the Yucatan while completing a tribal flute residency at Hostal 3B in Playa de Carmen and camping on the beach in Tulum. Really a mapping of terrains, I finished it despite the fact that many interpersonal threads were left completely hanging.

    Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon –

    This I swear was a revelation. I picked it up at the Tradewinds Hostel in San Fran. Wasn’t expecting much from a book that birthed multitudes of outworn tropes. Not only a vivid depiction of an area of the city (Tenderloin) that exists architecturally intact, and with much the same chill, foggy, weather to this day, but it presents a truly unreliable narrator. The femme fatale angle came as a complete surprise and that is saying a lot. You can see why this book launched a thousand genre writers, but––having been conceived before the detective genre was static––there is a “paint fresh on the wall” feel. And yes, there is some controversy as to whether it was Hemingway who influenced Hammett or visa versa (Maltese Falcon came out slightly before Sun Also Rises).

    Books I did not finish:

    Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum

    I was interested in this on many levels at the start. The way in which the codes contained in ancient texts (and the computer mapping of such) presaged issues paramount our own algorithmically driven era. The sense of dissipated revolution and muted longing in late 1960s northern Italy. The problem is, Eco does not know when to stop. Like Pynchon, I begin tuning him out when he says a similar thing from too many angles.

    Andy Weir’s The Martian

    This is a timely one, so I’ll quote at length from a blog post I made on EnduranceWriter:

    “This is a book that started strong. An unlikely premise, made realistic. Andy Weir’s style was not obtrusive, which is a compliment in a way––I groaned through the author’s puns and dated pop culture references. The survival aspect of the story was simply so well detailed. I felt like I was there, learning what it would take to continue operating day-to-day in an extraterrestrial environment.

    Unfortunately, the author glossed too quickly over the aspects of the narrative I found most interesting. Namely, how one would grow things sustainably on Mars while maintaining habitable atmosphere and staying sane? Instead of bringing me from the macro to the micro aspects of existence (what is one day of single-minded work, utter monotony, on Mars really like?) Weir gave me series upon series of math, chemistry, and physics problems that needed solving. Yesterday. Or the hab was going to blow up.

    The book really lost me as an engaged reader when it switched to Earth. It was not only the surface-level depiction of the astronaut’s loved ones and colleagues. The “Robinson Crusoe,” “Typee,” “Without A Trace,” “Castaway” survival-in-the-middle-of-BFE aspect that I enjoyed had been lost. The Martian’s existential activities were revealed as a reality show followed eagerly by millions of earthlings through NASA satellite feeds. I felt depersonalized as a reader, as if his struggles had been commodified – I did not sense any critique of this mass-viewing life i a fishbowl phenomenon. I was no longer alone with the protagonist on a desolate planet, seeking a way home.”

    I am currently working my way slowly through Philip K. Dick’s The World Jones made, which (like The Martian) I picked up at the Las Vegas Hostel. It is an odd experience to read at a snail’s pace a novel that was created and clearly intended to be consumed at high speed. I do see the relative brilliance of Dick’s genre work. In direct contrast to Weir, he would have asked the tough questions, rather than allying the protagonist unthinkingly with the establishment. There would also have been imminent threat from mind-reading, shape morphing aliens, but that is another topic altogether. Dick really had me in his vivid description of mutants as a freak carnival show display well before the X-men and uniformed, superhero banality.

    • Virginia Anderson Sep 27 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      I haven’t read all these books yet (like all the others I haven’t read–read The Maltese Falcom ages ago), but I really enjoyed your reviews. They were precise, making it clear what worked for you and what didn’t. I won’t see The Martian until it comes out on DVD, but I’ll have your thoughts in mind when and if I decided to see it.

      • Damon Shulenberger Sep 27 2015 at 1:33 pm #

        Really wish there was an edit button. Have a little work to do on that post. But thank you.

        Hm.. I know, I’ll revise it and put it up at my site, where my serial novel also Cowachunga resides.

  15. Damon Shulenberger Sep 27 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    If the mods could kindly remove the previous two posts, I would be obliged. Here is the reply I envisioned, now up at my site:

    An interesting article on Pub Crawl by E.C. Myers, I Have Not Read Your Book (Yet), sparked some soul searching and this response:

    ​”I read very few books––used to devour all kinds of prose. I do write for hours each day and read a few pages of one book or another on a semi-regular basis.

    I have this theory that at some point many serious writers, who used to be subsumed in others’ words, have internalized the modes of expression and must grapple with a much more complex and unwieldy beast – the depths of their own perception. Just getting one’s own experiences on paper can become a life’s work.

    Interesting to think back on books that I have completed this year:

    Louis de Bernières’ The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts –

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a wry, bawdy, faintly British accent. Found this at Focus Gallery on Green Street in North Beach (plug: the well-read proprietor has an extensive selection of art by Ferlinghetti, Miller, Hirschman). Read in the Yucatan while completing a tribal flute residency at Hostal 3B in Playa del Carmen and camping on the beach in Tulum. An eye-opening mapping of Latin American banana republic terrains of the past century, with magic thrown in for good measure. I finished the book for its bravado and wealth of societal description more than anything. Many interpersonal threads between characters were left completely hanging in this saga of attrition, cruelty, black humor.

    ​Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon –

    This I swear was a revelation. I picked it up at the Tradewinds Hostel in San Fran. Wasn’t expecting much from a book that birthed multitudes of outworn tropes. Not only a vivid depiction of an area of the city (Tenderloin) that exists architecturally intact, with much the same spare, fog-flecked flavor to this day. Maltese Falcon presents a truly unreliable narrator, whom you at first believe is as dumb as he acts. The femme fatale angle came as a complete surprise and that is saying a lot. You can see why this book launched a thousand genre writers, but––having been conceived before the detective genre was static––there is a “paint fresh on the wall” feel. And yes, there is some controversy as to whether it was Hemingway who influenced Hammett or visa versa (Maltese Falcon came out slightly before Sun Also Rises).

    Books I did not finish:

    Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum

    I was interested in this on many levels at the start. The way in which the codes contained in ancient texts (and the computer mapping of such) presaged issues paramount our own algorithmically driven era. The sense of dissipated revolution and muted longing in the bars of late 1960s northern Italy. The problem is, Eco does not know when to stop. Like Pynchon, I begin tuning him out when he says a similar thing from too many angles (see: Inherent Vice).

    Andy Weir’s The Martian

    This is a timely one, so I’ll quote at length from a post I made on EnduranceWriter:

    “This is a book that started strong. An unlikely premise, made realistic. Andy Weir’s style was not obtrusive, which is a compliment in a way––I groaned through the author’s puns and dated pop culture references. The survival aspect of the story was simply so well detailed. I felt like I was there, learning what it would take to continue operating day-to-day in an extraterrestrial environment.

    Unfortunately, the author glossed too quickly over the aspects of the narrative I found most interesting. Namely, how one would grow things sustainably on Mars while maintaining habitable atmosphere and staying sane. Instead of bringing me from the macro to the micro aspects of existence (what is one day of single-minded work, utter monotony, on Mars really like?) Weir gave me series upon series of math, chemistry, and physics problems that needed solving. Yesterday. Or the hab was going to blow up.

    The book really lost me as an engaged reader when it switched to Earth. It was not only the surface-level depiction of the astronaut’s loved ones and colleagues. The “Robinson Crusoe,” “Typee,” “Without A Trace,” “Castaway” survival-in-the-middle-of-BFE aspect that I enjoyed had been lost. The Martian’s existential activities were revealed as a reality show followed eagerly by millions of earthlings through NASA satellite feeds. I felt depersonalized as a reader, as if his struggles had been commodified – and I did not come away with any critique of this mass viewing/life in a fishbowl phenomenon. I was no longer alone with the protagonist on a desolate planet, seeking a way home.

    ​Currently:

    I am working my way slowly through Philip K. Dick’s The World Jones made, which (like The Martian) I picked up at the Las Vegas Hostel. It is an odd experience to read at a snail’s pace a novel that was created and clearly intended to be consumed at high speed. I do see the relative brilliance of Dick’s genre work. In direct contrast to Weir, he would have asked the tough questions, rather than allying the protagonist unthinkingly with the establishment. (There would also have been imminent threat from mind-reading, shape morphing aliens, but that is discussion for another day). Dick really had me with his vivid description of mutants as a freak carnival show display well before the advent of X-men in their uniformed, superhero banality.

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