Discover more from Read More Books
This & That: Who's Really Picking What You Read
It's all about that cash money.
I decided to make the entirety of this week’s This & That free for all readers. (It’s usually half free and half premium content.) If you like what you see, subscribe and support my work for just $5/month:
Hi there readers,
In this edition of the newsletter, I have some thoughts on browsing for books, a list of some of my unheralded favorites, as well as some stellar links to peruse throughout the week.
Let’s get right to it!
Something I’m Thinking About: Why You Should Browse More
Being a book reviewer on the internet means I’m flooded by content about new books. I see “Upcoming Titles” lists on Amazon, Goodreads, The New York Times, and others. I get PDF catalogues from every major publisher which highlight each season’s biggest new releases. I follow dozens of bookfluencers on Instagram who not only talk about the latest books, but also stage them — in a process that I imagine takes hours — for beautiful, captivating photos that are hard to ignore.
What this all means is that book reviewers, and therefor readers, are bombarded with New Book Hype. Publishers try to predict what will be the hottest titles of the season and incessantly push that handful of books onto the press at large, as well as small bookish outlets like my own humble publication.
There are a lot of great books published every year — every month! — but publishers are increasingly putting all their marketing power into a smaller group of titles, in hopes of ensuring that coveted bestseller or celebrity book club status.
And that small grouping of books tend to be very cinematic — easy to read, plot-forward, visually stunning in their descriptions. More and more profits are coming from movie and TV deals, so the type of book that translates to the screen is of utmost importance.
Ultimately, it’s all about the cash. And this is the strategy that’s been shown to work, so they continue to roll with it.
For readers, it’s means we’re not actually being exposed to all the great books that are out there. We’re being exposed to those that have been deemed most worthy by publisher marketing departments.
On a personal level, I’ve been getting sick of seeing the same new titles everywhere I look. My reading sometimes feels like it’s being directed by corporate greed rather than my own tastes and interests. And, frankly, more often than not I end up disappointed that Hot New Book doesn’t seem to match the hype.
To combat this, I’ve taken to just browsing the library shelves and picking out books and authors I’ve never heard of. And I’d love to feature more of those unheralded titles in my newsletter. There are so many great books in the world; there’s no need to let the algorithms of profit control your reading.
So, readers: browse more! And may we meet each other in the stacks.
The List: Some Books You’ve Never Heard Of
Here’s a handful of books that I’ve never seen mentioned on the bookish web — and all of them are absolutely worth your time. There’s only one novel on the list, largely because my reading skewed heavily towards non-fiction for most of the last decade.
Body Broker by Daniel Ford — Ford mostly sticks to the fantasy genre, but this foray into detective/noir fiction is really enjoyable.
Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin — One of the books that first opened my eyes to problems of corporate and governmental digital surveillance.
The Last Lincolns by Charles Lachman — Lincoln gets plenty of attention, but not this particular book, which is about how that famous name and lineage died out in the early 20th century.
Into the Raging Sea by Rachel Slade — One of the finest pieces of narrative non-fiction writing I’ve encountered.
Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh — An incredibly memorable read — and trip down memory lane. You’ll especially love it if you were deep into Christian pop culture in the 90s and early 00s.
Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris — Travel memoirs are a dime a dozen. This one stands out from the pack by leaps and bounds.
🎲 There are thousands games out there for families to play, but our kiddos have really enjoyed playing classic Uno. There’s a bunch of new-fangled versions out there, but the original is still the way to go.
📚 Even since Barack Obama started sharing his favorite books of the year — way back in 2009 — publishers have eagerly looked forward to the sales bump he provides. While its easy to think the list is influenced by publicists and agendas, it’s actually just a man who loves to read a diverse range of books.
🔥 David Foster Wallace is one of those authors who I enjoy reading about just as much as I enjoy reading his own work. DFW has become the scorn of the literary internet in recent years — mainly for his pretentious writing and fans — and I enjoyed this piece that muses on why he’s become (perhaps unfairly) maligned.
🍔 For our last couple date nights, Jane and I have enjoyed the revival of food halls that house multiple vendors. There’s a few in the Denver area that have opened in recent years and they’re just perfect for a night out. They tend to have open common areas, which are great for meandering through your evening — rather than being rushed through a restaurant meal, which seems to have happened more and more in these pandemic and post-pandemic years. If you’re in the Denver area, Edgewater Public Market, Freedom Street Social, and The Golden Mill are fun spots.
Thanks for the time and attention. I know it’s your most valuable commodity and I deeply appreciate it.