Sometimes, but fortunately not too often, I receive an e-mail from an author or publicist that says, in effect, “Why haven’t you reviewed the book that was sent to you?” In thinking about this, there are probably a lot more reasons for a book to fall off of the TBR (to be read/reviewed) stack than are readily apparent to the average person. I’ll go over some of them here.
Please Mr. Postman
Some books get lost in the mail, or mistakes are made in the mail room. On occasion, I’ve received a book that looks like it shouldn’t have been sent to me but it’s usually from a publisher I know. That leads me to think that another reviewer has been sent the book that I was interested in. I’m sure it happens.
Obviously, since the people staffing publishers’ mail rooms are human, mistakes can and do happen. There was a particular book that I had slotted to read at a specific time and it never arrived. I brought this to someone’s attention and was told that another copy was going out that evening. What I wound up receiving was a very nice package with nothing inside of it – no book and no papers. Good intentions, but no luck.
Oh, and mail is certainly delivered to the wrong place these days. I now know which of our neighbors receives ESPN Magazine or Sports Illustrated or Power Tools Today based on the mailman dropping them in my box. It’s not too hard to figure that some of the books intended for me wind up as a free gift enjoyed by a close or distant neighbor.
Time is Tight
When I request a particular book – weeks before a review will appear – I have no way of knowing what other similar books will be released at the same time. And on this site we deliberately try to review a wide variety of books, not just one of a kind. So if I request a legal thriller and it shows up when I thought it would, and at a time when I’ve just finished a family novel and a children’s book, I will go ahead and read/review it as earlier planned. But let’s say that I’ve just read two legal thrillers, and my wife has finished one, when your legal thriller arrives. It’s going to be put aside because, unfortunately, it arrived at the wrong time. We don’t want to be known as Legal Thriller Review. (The same story gets played out for many genres, unfortunately.)
There’s also the fact that books arrive either earlier than expected or later. Publication dates also change. I have instances where I’m reading a book for a review to appear shortly, only to find that the publication date has been moved back a few months. That leads me to close the book. Contra, I may plan to read a forthcoming, not yet released book by a particular author, only to go to Borders and find out – yes, this did recently happen to me – that it’s been released for sale earlier than expected. Again, the apple cart gets upset.
I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
Every now and then, for a sense of variety, I agree to take part in a book blog tour. What this usually means is that I’m sent a forthcoming book and asked to select a date, within a particular window (usually a period of 2 or 3 weeks), when my review will appear. I usually try to pick one of the final dates available. If I start reading the book and love it, and everyone whose review appears prior to mine loves it, everything is fine. But now and then I’m reading a blog tour book that I just do not like. If I see that everyone else has written a glowing review and mine is going to be the one extremely negative one, I will tell the publicist that I’m pulling out of the tour. I will still post my own review but on my own schedule. I have no need to rile things up on the blook tour party.
As I’ve said before, there are some books that I receive and read but I refrain from writing reviews about them. Why? It’s generally not that they are bad, just not unique enough to make for an interesting review. Let’s say, for example, that I’m reading one of five new Paul McCartney bios that are out this year. I finish it and find that it’s full of the same stories told in 10 prior McCartney-related books. Do I really want to write a rather boring review stating, “This book is a rehash of the same old stories…”? OK, sometimes I will write that but only if I think I can say it in an interesting way. Often, though, the same old thing is just not worth writing about.
To be continued…
Pictured: The Neighbors are Watching: A Novel by Debra Ginsberg, which will be released by Crown on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 (and which will be reviewed on this site on that date or earlier).