An American Editor

January 7, 2010

On Today’s Bookshelf

I like to read and so I spend a lot of time finding books to read. The result is a backlog of books waiting to be read. What brought this to mind was yesterday’s trip to Barnes & Noble.

In nonfiction, I buy only hardcover and only first editions; I want these books to be permanent parts of my library. My fiction reading interests are not nearly as catholic as for nonfiction, I tend to read primarily fantasy and science fiction. When it comes to fiction, I am not a book publisher’s dream consumer. I prefer to buy fiction (with the exception of a few specific authors such as L.E. Modesitt, Jr., David Weber, and Harry Turtledove, to name just a few) in ebook form and then only if available in the ePub format and at the lower end of the price spectrum. That’s because I consider fiction to be “read once, then delete,” again, with some exceptions. I don’t buy Dan Brown or Stephen King novels; when I did I found them trite and boring. But because of my willingness (nay, eagerness) to buy fiction ebooks, I am exposing myslef to authors who I would never have otherwise found and who I enjoy, such as Celina Summers, Richard S. Tuttle, Hilary Bell, Fiona McIntosh, and Alastair J. Archibald.

In looking back over my book purchases in 2009, I was amazed at how many books I bought. From one ebook store alone, I bought more than 100 ebooks. As for hardcovers, 95% of those purchases were from B&N (I avoid Amazon because I don’t want to encourage its attempts to monopolize the book selling and publishing industries), and in 2009, I bought more than 90 hardcover books.

I find that reading fiction goes relatively quickly and that it takes more time for me to digest nonfiction. Consequently, my fiction to-read list gets whittled away much faster than my nonfiction list. I have at least 60 nonfiction books waiting to be read, probably more, but here are the ones that are at the front (or top) of my bookshelf waiting to be read:

  • Churchill by Paul Johnson (2009)
  • Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution by Kirkpatrick Sale (1995)
  • A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland (2009)
  • The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition by Thomas P. Slaughter (2008)
  • The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithridates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor (2010)
  • Jewish Terrorism in Israel by Ami Pedhazur and Arie Perliger (2009)
  • The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of “Proper” English from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack Lynch (2009)
  • Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning (2010)

I know that in the weeks to come that list will grow and some of the above will be downgraded as new books take their place. But this is the bane, I think, of good editors — the need to read and expand knowledge and the need to own books.

What am I currently reading? In hardcover it is The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander (2009) and Arms-Commander by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (2010) and in ebook it is When the Gods Slept (Timura Trilogy Book 1) by George Allan Cole.

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