Hot off the press: reading new books

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of proof copies and newly published books via Netgalley, as may be apparent from the reviews I’ve been posting. The experience of reading brand new books has been a novel one (pardon the pun there) for someone who has done a degree in all the historical periods of English Literature and a masters in specifically works of the 16th and 17th centuries. So far, it has been an experience that has taught me a few things.

For starters, that there’s a huge range of books coming out right now. The variation in subject matter, setting, and style means that it hasn’t even felt like an influx of similar books (I hate reading too many similar books at once), even though I’ve only been requesting copies of books I like the sound of. It wasn’t like I didn’t know this, but it has been refreshing to see the diversity and choice of books and to try out reading them.

Judging books by their cover (and blurb) is fairly necessary in order to pick what you want to review. I’ve learnt that intriguing covers do often mean intriguing books, but that some books have terrible blurbs. In one instance in particular, blurbs that misrepresent the content of the book, with it ending up far darker than expected and really needing a warning for some of its contents. I also discovered that sometimes a vague title and vague blurb may make a lot more sense once you take stock of the picture on the front (a horse picture turned out to be a long novel focused on raising race horses, rather than a more symbolic horse as I’d expected).

Reading books with smaller levels of feedback available can be freeing (who cares what those four other Goodreads reviews say), but also perhaps intimidating, as there’s less of a chance to consider what you already know about the book. Years – decades, centuries – of readers haven’t been there before you, saying things similar or dissimilar to you. Your words will probably have more of an impact if anyone looks for information on the book, but also it’s harder to look up things you didn’t quite get.

Brand new and unreleased books are exciting chances to read something with a slightly clearer canvas in your mind, though of course still influenced by author, publisher, cover, blurb, and a myriad of other things. If nothing else, it’s exciting to see what is coming next.