“The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.“
My #50by50 years have come and gone, both the lead up and the bonus time when I was actually 50. I’m now 51, and there are a couple of items that I started during the period that I haven’t written up yet. One of those was a commitment to purging some books from my collection.
To be honest, I have no idea how many books I have in the basement. My educated guess is somewhere between 1500 and 2500. A huge range I know, and a large number of books. I’ve held on to them over the years, and they have followed me through multiple moves. For some of those homes, the books were basically just piled on a big book shelf four and five layers deep or left in boxes for a while. Most are mysteries, and while I occasionally go back and read some, part of the reason I have them still is that they are part of series. I am a “completist” in that sense…if I read an author, and like him or her, then I want to read EVERYTHING they’ve ever written. I read all the books by Sue Grafton, for example, including tracking down two early books by her through Interlibrary Loans. Even though the two books I had to scramble to find were not part of the series and had no relation to her mystery novels, I wanted to “complete” them. I started reading Edgar Award winners some time ago, and the first book was REALLY hard to find as it was out of print. Again, ILL found it so I could read it.
But if I’m brutally honest, the main reason I have them still is that I love books. At different points in my life, when times were tough, they were the only real friends I had. I could lose myself in them and block out the world. Mysteries will always be my favorite, and I’m sure it was no accident that my first “book crush” was the Three Investigators series, with a smarter than average lead detective, my age, and overweight. There were 42 books in the series and I still have every one. All different shapes and sizes. I’d love to get them all nicely formatted in ebook form, but alas, they are long out-of-print and what is available online are poor quality scans. But I digress.
About a year ago, I doubled down on my books…what did I really want to keep. I certainly NEVER want to move them again, and while we aren’t likely to move for another 10 years from our pseudo-forever home, I won’t let them go with a simple wave. No, I’ve held on to them this long, some for 40 years, and now I am invested. I feel like I have to make the time investment — and money — worth it somehow.
Part of my plan is making sure that I give them away, not just dump them in a landfill. That is not as easy as lots of people think. “Oh, give them to x group”. Except most of your likely target groups will hold them for a very short time, if they take them at all, and if they don’t have a sale, they cart them off to the dump. I want something better for my friends final resting place. At the least I would hope they would be loved by someone at least one more time.
Another part of my plan is that for some of the books, I will grab the e-book version if I can. Very few are in public domain, but if they are, I can likely find them. I have hopes that I will eventually be able to do at least a basic review of them.
A far more seditious part though is a desire to hold them for Jacob. He loves mysteries, and it was a large source of pride and enjoyment for me to see him plow through all 42 3I books. He loved the series too. He even read it a second time once he finished the first round. And when I look at some of the books in my series, I can see books that I would love to introduce him to…
Agatha Christie novels are obvious. So are Sherlock Holmes. Maybe a little harder edge at some point with Elmore Leonard or the Jane Whitefield series by Thomas Perry, or the Reacher novels by Lee Child. The McNally series started by Lawrence Sanders. Well, almost anything by Lawrence Sanders. Some of the sweeping sagas by Jeffrey Archer. The Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. Oh, and the Spenser for Hire series by Robert B. Parker.
House of Night for the fantasy realm, which seems a lot like Harry Potter for the teen set until the main character witnesses fellow students engaging in oral sex in a darkened hallway. Yeah, those need to wait a bit.
And on a strange psychological level that I don’t understand, I would love love love to see Jacob reading the Sackett series of western novels by Louis L’Amour. Many of the above titles, but especially L’Amour, were books that I was introduced to by my father. He would read voraciously sitting in his kitchen chair in the morning, and there were always 2 or 3 pocket books beside his chair in the kitchen or out at the lake. Garage sale purchases by my Mom, she frequently would grab 10-12 per week and stock up. Why do I think there is some psych stuff buried in there? Because just the thought of my son reading books that my Dad read is enough for me to be tearing up while writing this paragraph. Must be allergies to the dust on the books.
Now I know that is mainly rationalization. An excuse not to get rid of them. But oddly enough, trying to work on my weight, and confronting some of the psych that goes with that was enough of a small impetus to start going through my books. I used to have a huge tracking list, long out of date, for the various series. Yet if I was getting rid of the books, I wanted SOME sort of list of what I had once owned.
In the short-term, I was keeping a short list of what I was putting in each box:
- 66 books – Star Trek;
- 19 books – Star Trek;
- 39 books – 17 Louis L’Amour, 1 Sue Grafton, 8 Star Trek, 4 John D. MacDonald, 1 Jeffrey Archer, 3 Robert B. Parker, 1 James Bond, 1 Charlaine Harris, 1 Laura Lippman, 1 House of Night, 1 David Baldacci;
- 23 books – 6 Tom Clancy, 1 David Stone, 1 David Levien, 1 Alison Gordon, 1 Tanya Huff, 1 Brian Freeman, 1 Lustbader/Ludlum, 1 Lawrence Block, 1 Lee Child, 1 Robert B. Parker, 3 Star Trek, 1 Programming, 1 Janet Evanovich, 1 Ian Rankin, 1 Perri O’Shaugnessy, 1 Lawrence Sanders;
- 24 books – 5 Robert Ludlum, 2 Steve Berry, 2 David Baldacci, 2 x Shortstories, Lee Child, John Grisham, John Twelve Hawks, Terry Pratchett, John Ramsey Miller, William Lashner, James Lee Burke, Kate Mosse, Yasutaka Tsutsui, RIck Mofina, Robert B. Parker, Agatha Christie, Robertson Davies;
- 09 books – 5 Star Wars, 1 PC Cast, 1 Kazuo Isiguro, 1 Lawrence Sanders, 1 Charlaine Harris; and;
- 43 books – 32 Agatha Christie, 2 x Mitch Albom, 1x the rest –> Walter Mosley, Arthur C. Clarke, William Coughlin, Elmore Leonard, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Perry, Charles Dickens, Peter Haining, Alan Dean Foster.
So my first purge would be a simple 223 books, or about 10% of the hoard (although I like the idea that it is not hoarding if it’s organized!). I reached out to a few places that people suggested, and met with rejection across the board. Most places are happy to take the latest best seller, as would most used bookstores, but nobody wants the backlists. Except the archives right next to my house shares space with the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library. And once a month, they open a store in the lobby of the library and sell books, CDs, DVDs, audio collections, etc. I think their prices are a bit high — I can picture my mother going there and saying, “Well I hope they like their stuff, because they’ll have most of it still at the end of the sale!” — but I’m more disposed to things “moving” than worrying if it gets its value back to the library. But they’re the ones who have to sort and store and lay it all out. Most importantly, my collection fit their parameters of what they’ll take. Almost all of it in fact. A chance for the books to move on to a new home. What do they do if they have it for awhile and it doesn’t sell? I don’t want to know, honestly.
For me, it is enough to know I didn’t trash them and they have a chance to find a new reader again. And in Andrea’s view, anything that gets my crap out the door is a good thing. 🙂 I also bookmarked a bunch on the ‘net so I could track them later and the full list is below.
Phase 1 is complete though — I purged some books.
|A. C. Crispin||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 014 – The Eyes of the Beholders|
|Agatha Christie||4.50 From Paddington|
|Agatha Christie||The Murder on the Links|
|Agatha Christie||Hickory Dickory Dock|
|Agatha Christie||The Regatta Mystery And Other Stories|
|Agatha Christie||At Bertram’s Hotel|
|Agatha Christie||The murder of Roger Ackroyd|
|Agatha Christie||Poirot’s Early Cases|
|Agatha Christie||Curtain Poirots Last Case|
|Agatha Christie||Mrs McGinty’s Dead|
|Agatha Christie||The A B C Murders|
|Agatha Christie||Elephants Can Remember: A Hercule Poirot Mystery|
|Agatha Christie||Labours of Hercules|
|Agatha Christie||The Golden Ball and Other Stories|
|Agatha Christie||By the pricking of my thumbs|
|Agatha Christie||Death Comes As the End|
|Agatha Christie||Parker Pyne Investigates|
|Agatha Christie||The Man in the Brown Suit|
|Agatha Christie||Cards on the Table|
|Agatha Christie||And Then There Were None|
|Agatha Christie||One, Two, Buckle My Shoe|
|Agatha Christie||The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories|
|Alan Dean Foster||The Last Starfighter|
|Arthur C. Clarke||Dolphin Island|
|Barbara Hambly||Star Wars: Children of the Jedi|
|Block, Lawrence.||Eight Million Ways to Die|
|Brad Ferguson||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 048 – The Last Stand|
|Brad Ferguson||Star Trek: The Lost Years: A Flag Full of Stars|
|Cannell, Stephen||Runaway Heart (2003)|
|Cathi Unsworth||London Noir|
|Charlaine Harris||Living dead in Dallas|
|Charlaine Harris||Club Dead|
|Charles Dickens||The Pickwick Papers|
|Christie Golden||Star Trek: Voyager – 006 – The Murdered Sun|
|Christie Golden||Star Trek: Voyager – 017 – Marooned|
|City of the Sun (html)||David Levien|
|Clancy, Tom – Net Force 02||Hidden Agendas (1999)|
|Clancy, Tom – Op Center 07||Divide and Conquer (2000)|
|Cliff McNish||The Silver Child|
|Coben, Harlan||No Second Chance (2003)|
|Dafydd Ab Hugh||Star Trek: Voyager – 009 – Invasion! 4 – The Final Fury|
|Dafydd Ab Hugh||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 027 – Vengeance|
|Dafydd Ab Hugh||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 005 – Fallen Heroes|
|Dafydd Ab Hugh||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 044 – Balance Of Power|
|Dana Kramer-Rolls||Star Trek: The Original Series – 062 – Home is the Hunter|
|Dave Galanter;Greg Brodeur||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 041 – Foreign Foes|
|Dave Stern||Star Trek: Enterprise – 008 – Daedalus’s Children|
|Dave Stern||Star Trek: Enterprise – 007 – Daedalus|
|David Bischoff||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 031 – Grounded|
|David Dvorkin;Daniel Dvorkin||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 008 – The Captain’s Honor|
|David Niall Wilson||Star Trek: Voyager – 014 – Chrysalis|
|David Stone||The Echelon Vendetta|
|Dean Wesley Smith;Kristine Kathryn Rusch||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 017 – The Long Night|
|Dean Wesley Smith;Kristine Kathryn Rusch||Star Trek: Voyager – 002 – The Escape|
|Dean Wesley Smith;Nina Kiriki Hoffman;Kristine Kathryn Rusch||Star Trek: Voyager – 018 – Echoes|
|Diane Carey||Star Trek: Day of Honor – 1 – Ancient Blood|
|Diane Carey||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Station Rage|
|Diane Carey||Star Trek: Voyager – 011 – Flashback|
|Diane Carey||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 035 – Descent|
|Diane Carey||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 001 – Ghost Ship|
|Diane Duane||Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Mirror|
|Esther Friesner||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 007 – Warchild|
|Gene DeWeese||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 047 – Into the Nebula|
|Gene DeWeese||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 002 – The Peacekeepers|
|Gerber, Michael||Barry Trotter & The Shameless Parody|
|Howard Weinstein||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 015 – Exiles|
|Howard Weinstein||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 006 – Power Hungry|
|Howard Weinstein||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 023 – Perchance to Dream|
|Ian Fleming||You Only Live Twice|
|J. M. Dillard||Star Trek: Enterprise – 005 – Surak’s Soul|
|J. M. Dillard;Kathleen O’malley||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 052 – Possession|
|J. M. Dillard;Michael Piller;Rick Berman||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 001 – Emissary|
|J.M. Dillard||Star Trek V: The Final Frontier|
|Jeffrey Archer||A Prisoner of Birth|
|Jenny Carroll||When Lightning Strikes|
|Jenny Nimmo||Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy|
|Jenny Nimmo||Children of the Red King Book 01 Midnight for Charlie Bone|
|Jenny Nimmo||Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors|
|Jenny Nimmo||Children of the Red King Book 02 Charlie Bone and the Time Twister|
|John D MacDonald||The Executioners (aka Cape Fear)|
|John D. MacDonald||Kitten on a Trampoline|
|John D. MacDonald||The Deep Blue Good-By|
|John D. MacDonald||You Live Once|
|John D. MacDonald||Nightmare in Pink|
|John D. MacDonald||Wine of the Dreamers: A Novel|
|John D. MacDonald||Where Is Janice Gantry?|
|John D. MacDonald||Weep For Me|
|John D. MacDonald||The Neon Jungle|
|John D. MacDonald||The Price of Murder|
|John D. MacDonald||The Only Girl in the Game|
|John D. MacDonald||The Last One Left|
|John D. MacDonald||The Good Old Stuff|
|John D. MacDonald||The House Guests|
|John D. MacDonald||The end of the night|
|John D. MacDonald||The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything|
|John D. MacDonald||The Drowner|
|John D. MacDonald||The Empty Trap|
|John D. MacDonald||The Damned|
|John D. MacDonald||The Brass Cupcake|
|John D. MacDonald||The Deceivers|
|John D. MacDonald||Soft touch|
|John D. MacDonald||The Crossroads|
|John D. MacDonald||Slam the Big Door|
|John D. MacDonald||One More Sunday|
|John D. MacDonald||The Beach Girls|
|John D. MacDonald||Please Write for Details|
|John D. MacDonald||One Monday We Killed Them All|
|John D. MacDonald||On the Run|
|John D. MacDonald||Murder in the Wind|
|John D. MacDonald||Murder for the Bride|
|John D. MacDonald||Judge Me Not|
|John D. MacDonald||More Good Old Stuff|
|John D. MacDonald||End of the Tiger|
|John D. MacDonald||Death Trap|
|John D. MacDonald||I Could Go on Singing|
|John D. MacDonald||Death Quotient and Other Stories|
|John D. MacDonald||Deadly Welcome|
|John D. MacDonald||Dead Low Tide|
|John D. MacDonald||Contrary Pleasure|
|John D. MacDonald||Cry Hard, Cry Fast|
|John D. MacDonald||Barrier Island|
|John D. MacDonald||Clemmie|
|John D. MacDonald||Condominium|
|John D. MacDonald||Ballroom of the Skies|
|John D. MacDonald||All These Condemned|
|John D. MacDonald||Area of Suspicion|
|John D. MacDonald||April Evil|
|John D. MacDonald||A Man of Affairs|
|John D. MacDonald||A Key to the Suite|
|John D. MacDonald||A Flash of Green|
|John D. MacDonald||A Bullet for Cinderella|
|John D. MacDonald||Cinnamon Skin|
|John D. MacDonald||The Lonely Silver Rain|
|John D. MacDonald||The Green Ripper|
|John D. MacDonald||Free Fall in Crimson|
|John D. MacDonald||The Dreadful Lemon Sky|
|John D. MacDonald||The Empty Copper Sea|
|John D. MacDonald||The Turquoise Lament|
|John D. MacDonald||The Scarlet Ruse|
|John D. MacDonald||The Long Lavender Look|
|John D. MacDonald||Dress Her in Indigo|
|John D. MacDonald||A Tan and Sandy Silence|
|John D. MacDonald||The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper|
|John D. MacDonald||Pale Gray for Guilt|
|John D. MacDonald||One Fearful Yellow Eye|
|John D. MacDonald||Darker Than Amber|
|John D. MacDonald||Bright Orange for the Shroud|
|John D. MacDonald||A Deadly Shade of Gold|
|John D. MacDonald||The Quick Red Fox|
|John D. MacDonald||A Purple Place for Dying|
|John Peel||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 036 – Here there be Dragons|
|John Vornholt||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 009 – Antimatter|
|John Vornholt||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 051 – Rogue Saucer|
|John Vornholt||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 017 – Contamination|
|John Vornholt||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 027 – War Drums|
|John Vornholt||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 007 – Masks|
|John Vornholt;Gene Roddenberry||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 083 – The Genesis Wave 3|
|Karen Haber||Star Trek: Voyager – 012 – Bless the Beasts|
|Kazuo Ishiguro||The remains of the day|
|Keith Sharee||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 012 – Gulliver’s Fugitives|
|Kevin J. Anderson||Star Wars: The Jedi Academy Trilogy II: Dark Apprentice|
|Kij Johnson;Greg Cox||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 050 – Dragon’s Honor|
|L. A. Graf||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 019 – Invasion! 3 – Time’s Enemy|
|L. A. Graf||Star Trek: Day of Honor – 2 – Armageddon Sky|
|L. A. Graf;Michael Piller;Jeri Taylor;Rick Berman||Star Trek: Voyager – 001 – The Caretaker|
|L.A. Graf||Star Trek: The Original Series – 073 – Death Count|
|L’amour, Louis – Sackett’s 09||Sackett (1961)|
|Laura Lippman||To the Power of Three|
|Laurell K. Hamilton||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 030 – Nightshade|
|Lawrence Sanders||McNally’s Puzzle|
|Lee Child||Die Trying|
|Lee Child||Bad Luck and Trouble|
|Lemony Snicket||The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events)|
|Lois Tilton||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 006 – Betrayal|
|Louis L’Amour||The Quick And The Dead|
|Louis L’Amour||Novel 1978 – The Proving Trail (v5.0)|
|Louis L’Amour||Collection 1983 – The Hills Of Homicide (v5.0)|
|Louis L’Amour||Fair Blows the Wind|
|Louis L’Amour||Novel 1971 – Tucker (v5.0)|
|Louis L’Amour||Showdown at Yellow Butte (1983)|
|Louis L’Amour||Novel 1959 – The First Fast Draw (v5.0)|
|Mark Garland;Charles G. Mcgraw||Star Trek: Voyager – 007 – Ghost of a Chance|
|Mark Haddon||The curious incident of the dog in the night-time|
|Mccay;W. A. Mccay;E. L. Flood||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 025 – Chains of Command|
|Mel Gilden||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 019 – Boogeymen|
|Melissa Scott||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 010 – Proud Helios|
|Melissa Scott||Star Trek: Voyager – 013 – The Garden|
|Michael A. Stackpole||Star Wars: X-Wing II: Wedge’s Gamble|
|Michael Jan Friedman||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 016 – Fortune’s Light|
|Michael Jan Friedman||Star Trek: Day of Honor – 3 – Her Klingon Soul|
|Michael Jan Friedman||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 021 – Saratoga|
|Michael Jan Friedman||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 049 – Crossover|
|Michael Jan Friedman||Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Call to Darkness|
|Michael Jan Friedman;Dave Stern||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 021 – Reunion|
|Michael Jan Friedman;Kevin Ryan||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 042 – Requiem|
|Michael P. Kube-McDowell||Shield of Lies|
|Mitch Albom||Five People You Meet In Heaven|
|Mitch Albom||Tuesdays With Morrie|
|Nathan Archer||Star Trek: Voyager – 003 – Ragnarok|
|Nathan Archer||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 012 – Valhalla|
|Nimmo, Jenny||Charlie Bone and the Hidden King (Children of the Red King)|
|P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast||Marked|
|P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast||Chosen|
|Perry, Thomas||Death Benefits|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 018 – Vendetta|
|Peter David||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 002 – The Siege|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 005 – Martyr|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 007 – The Quiet Place|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 001 – House of Cards|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 002 – Into The Void|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 003 – The Two-Front War|
|Peter David||Star Trek: New Frontier – 004 – Endgame|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 020 – Q-In-Law|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 005 – Strike Zone|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Original Series – 067 – The Rift|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 010 – A Rock and a Hard Place|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 028 – Imzadi 1|
|Peter David||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 040 – Q-Squared|
|Peter David;Michael Jan Friedman;Robert Greenberger;Carmen Carter||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 013 – Doomsday World|
|Rebecca Neason||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 034 – Guises of the Mind|
|Robert B Parker||Double Deuce|
|Robert B Parker||Gunman’s Rhapsody|
|Robert B Parker||Playmates|
|Robert B Parker||School Days|
|Robert B Parker||God Save the Child|
|Robert Greenberger||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 046 – The Romulan Stratagem|
|Robert Ludlum||The Matarese Countdown|
|Robert Ludlum||The Altman Code|
|Robert Ludlum||The Bourne Betrayal|
|Robert Ludlum||The Aquitaine Progression|
|Robert Ludlum||The Ambler Warning|
|Robert Ludlum & Eric Van Lustbader||Bourne 4 – The Bourne Legacy|
|Robert Scheckley||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 014 – The Laertian Gamble|
|Robertson Davies||Fifth Business|
|Sandy Schofield||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 004 – The Big Game|
|Simon Hawke||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 045 – Blaze of Glory|
|Simon Hawke||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 033 – The Romulan Prize|
|Smoke & Shadows (Ver 1.1)||Tanya Huff – [Darkest Night 01]|
|Stephen Frey||The Fourth Order|
|Susan Wright||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 023 – Tempest|
|Susan Wright||Star Trek: Voyager – 004 – Violations|
|Susan Wright||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 037 – Sins of Commission|
|T. L. Mancour||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 024 – Spartacus|
|Terry Pratchett||The Colour of Magic|
|Tom Clancy||Red Storm Rising|
|Tom Clancy||The Sum of All Fears|
|Tom Clancy||T. Clancy – 02 The Hunt for Red October|
|V. E. Mitchell||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 026 – Imbalance|
|Vonda McIntyre||The Crystal Star|
|Vonda N. McIntyre||Star Trek III: The Search for Spock|
|W. R. Thompson||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 038 – Debtor’s Planet|
|W. R. Thompson||Star Trek: The Next Generation – 055 – Infiltrator|
|Walter Mosley||A Little Yellow Dog|
|William J Coughlin||The Twelve Apostles|
|William J. Coughlin||The Judgment|
Back when I started doing reviews, I shared them by email with some friends and other people who asked to be put on the list after seeing other things I emailed out for PolyWogg Trivia and PW-Humour. I was an one-man GoogleGroups of sorts.
I had dreams of becoming semi-famous as an online blogger for movies. I tried posting a few reviews to various sites, and a site called Ottawa FilmCan loved my reviews — free content for them! So when studios offered them “press passes” for some premiere, they gave one to me. I went to the theatre, got in for free, and sat in a decent row where five of the seats said “reserved for press”. Me, with a press pass for a movie? Cool. I didn’t get a lot of free passes, but just enough that it remained a rush each time.
At the time, I was going to the movies fairly regularly, mostly by myself, and I tried to go to some premieres several times a year. So my reviews would show up within a day or two of a premiere. Sometimes I could even post them on the Friday night after seeing the 7:00 p.m. show. It was fun, and started posting my review links to IMDB.com as well, at a time when there weren’t a lot of people doing that. You couldn’t post directly, just your link, and online review sites tended to ONLY accept professional reviewers like Siskel and Ebert. There was no Rotten Tomatoes site and nobody had thought yet about collating reviews or ratings from the unwashed masses.
I moved into doing some book reviews too, or more accurately, moved into actually sharing them by something other than email, and when Amazon went live, I thought, “Hey, I could do book reviews for THEM!”. At the time, anyone with more than 100 or so reviews up was almost guaranteed to be in the top 20 reviewers on the site, and they were only soliciting and accepting book reviews at the time (not product reviews). I posted 50 or so and made it in the top 100 list for reviewers.
I had dreams of eventually getting books for free from publishers, as well as movies as screeners on DVD. But it’s a young person’s game, so to speak, before life intervenes and sucks your free time. You need to not only produce extensively to attract interest, you also have to do a lot of self-promotion and marketing. I couldn’t sustain that level, nor did I have much interest in the life of what people now do as celebrity Youtubers and social media stars even if it was on a much smaller scale. I had no entrepreneurial drive to turn it anything more than a hobby to guarantee those ongoing perks.
Over the last ten years, I’ve focused on my blog, and did occasional reviews when I got around to it. I managed to go through all my old book reviews, format them for the new site, and even write another 50 or so. I expanded to Amazon.CA when the Canadian site opened, and then expanded outward to lots of sites. I really don’t have a strong reason why at this point, but I post to Amazon (Canada, US), Indigo, Kobo, Ottawa Public Library (added recently), Barnes and Noble, Library Thing, Good Reads and Google. I did Shelfari for awhile too, but alas, it died. And as always, my own website. I’m not after free books or screeners (although I wouldn’t say no to the latter), but I love when people comment on my reviews to agree or disagree. People around the world that I don’t even KNOW. Still a bit of the rush of when I used to get press passes. Maybe some sort of external validation thing, I guess.
As I said, I ranked high on Amazon.com early on and even stayed there for a time when I had less than 50 in total, but that was solely based on number of reviews. Over time, people started posting reviews of limited length (i.e. “Good book, you should read”) which are worthless in my view. There are RABID onliners who have views about those types of reviews, and from both ends of the spectrum — many who think (as I do) that it hardly qualifies as a review as it doesn’t tell you anything other than “Yum” for a restaurant or recipe vs. others who think it qualifies as censorship or snobbery to put any limits on what constitutes a review. Regardless, Amazon changed up the algorithms eventually based on whether people rated a review as “helpful” or not.
Recently, I got curious though, as I passed the 125 review mark for my book reviews. Where do I rank now?
It took me a bit to find the reviewer ranking in my Amazon profiles, but I am at the 400K (!) position on Amazon.com and 19K on Amazon.ca. A far cry from any “top” positions. However, that is not surprising since I tend to rate older books, not new releases, which means very few people are going to see them shortly after a book’s release and click “helpful” (you get the most clicks for that when there are less than 10 reviews, particularly when I do a decent review of some length compared to the “read it last week” reviews, which don’t tend to get many “helpful” votes).
I can’t seem to find a list of how I’m doing in terms of raw numbers anymore though. When I review the list of “top reviewers” now though I see that the list varies considerably in how many reviews they have. Some have as few as a couple of hundred, some as many as 10K. However, when I look at the 10K ones, their reviews are almost always REALLY short, four stars and above, and some of the first to ever appear. Yeah, cuz that seems legit. Particularly for accounts active less than at least five years.
It’s one of the complaints about Amazon reviews, how the integrity has been compromised over the years by scammers and if I go to the Top Reviewers Hall of Fame area, there are a number who are listed who now have ZERO votes and ZERO reviews. Why? Almost all of them have deleted their reviews in disgust, or to monetize them elsewhere themselves, or in rare occasions, because Amazon killed their accounts! But I digress. I only have 120+ reviews on Amazon US and about 150+ on Amazon Canada, with the difference being that Amazon Canada also includes some product reviews (electronics, etc.), all verified purchases. For my books, while most of my ebook purchases come from Amazon, not all of them do. Some are just library loans, but I still post the review everywhere.
Over at Good Reads, they also go by “votes” on your reviews, but those numbers are driven by two things. First, it helps to give your reviews as early as possible for new releases so that people considering a book will see your review in the first five or six — get your review in early, and they’ll upvote you, same as on Amazon.
However, second, Good Reads encourages you to link to other people on the site — i.e. creating friend links like on FB — and a lot of them find those friends through Twitter-like reciprocity…they “like” anybody they can find and are liked back. Or they interact through discussions. Either way, they “link” to each other and thus any review one of them does, it instantly generates eyeballs and clicks. Think of it as a way of using the site to create your own following. Amazon doesn’t really do that in the same way, but Good Reads does.
Many of the top 20 reviewers on Good Reads have maxed out their account with 5000 friends. The lead, a woman named Emily, has 10K followers on her page on FB too. That requires not only effort to sustain but also a lot of effort at self-promotion, as I mentioned earlier. More power to her, but not my cup of tea. As a measure of her power, she has 500K votes on Good Reads, with the person in number 2 position being less than 300K. Wow. And she has that following from ~1500 reviews. I don’t know if all of her reviews are as long as the few I sampled, but she has a breezy style and doesn’t seem to post short ones…she talks about the book in some length, putting up > 200 books a year. The Top Canadian, Lola, read about 250 books in 2018, with 160K votes over the years. My ranking is so low, I don’t even register, but I don’t self-promote either. Hmm, I should probably think about that a little. Even if I just put my links on my blog too (I’ve recently started using their API to gather the book image and then link to the individual review overall).
Over at Chapters, I can’t seem to find a list of Top Reviewers. Heck, it’s even difficult to FIND my profile to see that I have 89 reviews with a whopping — wait for it — six votes. Yeah, pretty sure that’s not going to lead to any recognition. 🙂 On their sister site, Kobo, I can’t even find a list of my reviews nor any rankings. I pulled up one of my old reviews, and it doesn’t even let me click on my name to show me ANY info if I wanted to see other reviews by the same person. That is a huge missed opportunity for them.
For Barnes and Noble, they’ve linked their paperback and NOOK reviews, same as Amazon has with Kindle, and like Chapters, it’s almost impossible to track reviews of any one reviewer. I suppose I could get to it through a complicated Google Search of the site. I can’t even find out how many reviews I have posted there, and I wrote them!
Over at Google Books, it’s the same thing. I can see my individual reviews (i.e. if I go to a book I already reviewed), but there is no easy way to see all my reviews nor for others to see my profile. There are opportunities for upvoting, but it doesn’t seem to track it in any way.
Library Thing is a lot like Good Reads, but not as well developed for interactivity and rankings. I am not thrilled with the interface at all, including how to add books to my list in order to review them quickly, but that may just be a simple workflow tweak I haven’t seen yet. The site does however give a lot of stats about the books in your “library” and different ways to sort and see the data.
Finally, last but not least, I started sharing my reviews with the Ottawa Public Library. I have 145 “community credits”, which you get for doing various things like rating a book or submitting a comment (i.e. a review). Can you DO anything with credits? No, but it’s a bit of gamification I guess. I don’t see anyway to share my lists though as anything other than an RSS feed. And no way to search across other feeds.
For movies and TV, the world is simpler. I only post at 6 sites:
- Internet Movie Database (IMDB): TV series reviews and rating, TV episode reviews and ratings, movie reviews and ratings;
- The Movie Database (TMDB): TV series reviews and ratings, TV episode ratings, movie reviews and atings;
- Rotten Tomatoes: TV season rating and review, movie review and rating;
- MetaCritic: TV season rating and review, movie review and rating;
- TV.COM: TV series reviews and ratings, TV episode ratings;
- TVFanatic: TV episode ratings;
And I have absolutely NO idea about rankings within those sites.
I won’t get famous, that’s for sure. But I like doing it.
I have been wanting to do a reading challenge for some time now, and each year I think I’m going to do the Good Reads one (with a 50 book pledge, for instance). But I feel the approach of just counting books is “off” somehow as a raw number isn’t really what I’m talking about. Would I feel twice as good if I read 50 books instead of 25? What about classics, should I only be counting classics? Is there a way to somehow add gamification to the mix?
Or when it comes right down to it, is all I’m hoping to do is keep track of the books I do read and actually get around to reviewing them? My “to be reviewed” pile is more virtual than real, but is still quite large.
What am I trying to do by participating in a Reading Challenge? I thought I would look at a bunch, see which ones appealed to me, and work backwards to figure out why. Somebody over at GirlXoXo (yes, that’s actually the name, and they ranked high in the Google search results so might as well start with them!) has compiled a list of 2019 reading challenges, so I thought I would wander through the list.
What’s out there?
The big list as of the time of review has some 88 different types of challenges in it, and dozens more in the comments, so let’s see what I find…
- Pre-curated lists — Some of the lists pull from various Book of the Week/Month/Year lists, bestsellers or award winners that were generated by someone else (i.e. someone else made all the lists, the Reading Challenge is to pull some books off those various lists and read them);
- Location — Either written in or taking place in a specific city, country, continent, planet, or in space;
- Genre lists — Young adult, mystery, romance, fantasy, adventure, treasure, time travel, science fiction, coming of age, mythology, banned books, biography, historical fiction, alt-fiction, cozy,music, nonfiction, classics, “harder books”, art and creativity, dystopian, humour, multiple themes over the year, etc;
- Origin — Books that were given to you, already in your library, borrowed from someone, borrowed from a library, found on Project Gutenberg, self-published, etc;
- Series-based — All of a series, first in a series, next in a series, complete a trilogy, only backlists, etc.;
- Time-based — By seasons, decades, birthdays, centuries;
- The Title — First letter, or includes a word from a list (like a colour or a season), alliterative, three words long, etc;
- Adaptation — Something that was turned into a TV show or movie, or vice versa;
- Occupations — Police, detective, librarian, etc., etc., etc.;
- Length — Really short or really long, or everywhere in between;
- Formats — Paper, audio, or digital? Finals or ARCs?;
- The Author — Alphabetical, gender, diversity, everything by one author, only dead authors, only new authors, etc.;
- Named lists — Specific set of authors and/or books.
Some of the Challenges aimed for a specific schedule i.e. Month 1 was Book X, while others were more “a bunch of categories/check-boxes to complete over the course of the year”. Some of them add in gamification elements for sub-challenges (mini, weekly, monthly, quarterly). And others created little “bingo” cards to help encourage progress.
What appeals to me?
It sounds strange, but I really like the idea of gamification. Something like the bingo card approach that lets you have built-in mini-successes like a full-line, four corners, two lines, a row or a column, etc. And in the end, you get your full card. And, not for nothing, the Card approach works out to about 25 books for the year, i.e. one every two weeks with two weeks “off”. I’ll hit 25 books by the end of the first quarter, probably, but will they fit the card? That’s the REAL question. So I’m going to go with a bingo-style card.
From the broader list, I do like the idea of pulling from some pre-curated lists. I tried to create a master list for myself a few years ago using a number of “award” lists that were done — The Guardian, NYTimes, a bunch of others of the “Top 100” books of all time sort of thing. Plus I used some mystery award winners (Shamus, Anthony, Macavity, etc.). I almost caved when I found a fantastic website called The Greatest Books, which basically is a compilation of 119 OTHER lists of great books, and was just going to use their combined list, but since their combined list has 2073 titles in it, I thought I might stick to subsets.
I wasn’t that thrilled at first with the idea of an “origin” list (i.e. where did you get the book?) but as I thought about it, it grew on me. I do have a couple of books given to me that I haven’t gotten to yet, so an extra nudge would be good. Plus ones that are in my library in the “to be read” pile, some from the library, and I love the idea of something from Project Gutenberg.
In terms of genres, I’ll pretty much read anything but I do want to boost a couple of non-fiction titles, and I’ll cover mystery out the wazoo without even trying, but I might as well have a couple “better” ones on there. Series are too easy, I eat those for breakfast, lunch, dinner and several snacks in between.
I also like the ones that are alphabet-based…pretty easy to address, I think, so title and author are easy to add. Not sure the diversity ones work, as the “classifications” are a bit nebulous at times and I worry about the real metrics behind the approach. Almost like a social conscience quota — oh, good, you’re not a racist, you read an “author of colour”…I mean, wtf? This is 2019, not 1919, right?
My bingo card
As you’ll see, BINGO doesn’t quite work for me, even though I know it’s traditional, so I changed it to READS. And while I was originally thinking some books could show up in more than one place, I think they should be unique cells that get us to 25 in total for the year. Here are the explanations of the 25 cells:
- Under the R:
- A book whose title starts with A, E, I, M, Q, U or Y (“a” or “an” doesn’t count!);
- A novel with an amateur detective (where “detection” isn’t their official job…even Stephanie Plum would qualify as she is a bounty hunter first, not a detective);
- A past or present book that has won a Governor General’s award, a National Book Award, a Pulitzer prize (at time of writing, the site isn’t loading properly, you might have to use the Wikipedia lists), or a Man Booker prize/award;
- A book from Abe Books’ list of Top 100 Fiction Books to Read in a Lifetime OR Radcliffe Publishing’s 100 Greatest Novels; and,
- A book whose title starts with C, G, K, O, S, or W;
- Under the E:
- A book that was given to you;
- A book whose author’s name (first or last) starts with A, B, C, D, E, F, or G;
- A mystery novel that won one of the many mystery awards, such as an Agatha, a Shamus, a Macavity, an Edgar, or an Hammett;
- A book whose author’s name (first or last) starts with O, P, Q, R, S, or T; and,
- A book that was bought in a real bricks-and-mortar bookstore;
- Under the A:
- A non-fiction book, something more general in nature (not a business or self-help book), perhaps biographical, learning, or simply factual;
- A book recommended by a friend;
- Any book of your choosing — this is a reader’s choice / free square;
- A book from either the Modern Library’s Fiction or Non-fiction lists; and,
- A non-fiction self-help (or business) book.
- Under the D:
- A book borrowed from the library;
- A book whose author’s name (first or last) starts with H, I, J, K, L, M, or N;
- A book that is humourous, perhaps satirical, comedy, or biographical;
- A book whose author’s name (first or last) starts with U, V, W, X, Y or Z; and,
- A book from somewhere online, like Project Gutenberg (United States, Canada, or elsewhere), the library, or even Amazon / Google / etc;
- Under the S:
- A book whose title starts with B, F, J, N, R, V, Z;
- A novel with a formal detective (either professional detective or a police detective);
- A book from the BBC’s 100 Greatest British Novels, Guardian’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All-time or 100 Best Novels Written in English, or Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Novels;
- A book currently on the NY Times Best-Seller list (or, if desperate, from at least one week in 2018); and,
- A book whose title starts with D, H, L, P, T, or X;
If you don’t particularly like mysteries, feel free to replace the AMATEUR DETECTIVE (under the R), MYSTERY AWARD WINNER (under the E), and FORMAL DETECTIVE (under the S) with suitable protagonists and awards for the genre of your choosing.
Let me know in the comments if you’re participating, and how you’re doing! I’ll post updates back to this page for my own reading through-out the year.
Back when I was a wee lad, in the home country don’t you know (well, Peterborough, Ontario, population at the time around 55K), I ordered books from the Scholastic Book Club. I loved the SBC order forms, and frequently started out with 20 or 30 books I wanted, and had to whittle down my order to only one or two. One time, something I had ordered wasn’t available, and they gave me a credit plus a grab bag of three free books.
One of those free books was part of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. Eventually growing to 42 books, the series was in its late teens volumes, maybe early 20s, but I think teens.
I fell in love for the first time, partly as the lead investigator was about my age, my size, and smarter than most of his friends. I had read some Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and I would go on to read Sherlock Holmes, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, Louis L’Amour out the wazoo, Travis McGee, dozens of other series. Including my favorite “adult” series, all by Warren Murphy.
But the Three Investigators were my first true love of a series. I tracked the others down. Some through the library, most through the Trent University Book Store and a Coles store in the Peterborough Square. Then I found a bookstore on George Street in Peterborough, a rather small shop with a mix of used and new. And they carried the new 3I series books. Every couple of months, I would find a new one. I didn’t know the business model, but the authors were all on contract. Four or five in total, I think, most of whom got paid relative peanuts to write-for-hire i.e. no royalties, just paid to write in the series.
I have no idea how they licensed Alfred Hitchcock’s name, and eventually they had to deal with his death (the premise was just as Dr. Watson would “introduce” and tell the Holmes’ stories, Alfred Hitchcock would “present” the 3Is’ stories and the intros to the book were supposedly by AH).
Eventually the stories petered out, and it took awhile even to find the last couple. One or two of them I actually had to order, an unheard of idea back in 1980 or so for my pre-teen life.
Later, they tried to release an “update” to the series, with the kids no longer 10-12 but mid-teens. The stories were fine, but the characters were nothing like the earlier versions, more like kids with the same names. Pretenders, not the real McCoy.
It has been said that you can never fall in love again for the first time, but actually I can. I’ve started reading The Secret of Terror Castle, Three Investigators Book 1 to Jacob. I feared it would be too mature for him, but he’s following the story just fine. In retrospect, a ghost story premise is probably not the best of ideas since he thinks there are ghosts in our house and monsters in our basement, but I know the ending and think he’ll be okay with it. Think any episode of Scooby Doo and you can guess the outcome.
Last week and again this week, I’ve been reading to him here and there. We’re about halfway through book one. What I really want to know? If he’ll want to read Book 2 on his own when I’m done, or will want Daddy to keep reading to him. Either way, it’s nice to feel the love in the air.
Of course, I also have Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson on deck at some point too. Not quite ready for Harry Potter, but he’s got time. There are 41 other books to go.