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October 10, 2017

Where do my books come from?

The other week I posted a photo of my mailbox on a day that was, I’ll admit it, particularly remarkable, but not unprecedented. I get a lot of books in the mail, and the photo received a lot of likes and comments that made me think about a variety of things—where my books come from, what I do with the books I receive from publishers, whether or not I persist with books I’m not enjoying, and other things. These questions are going to be the foundations of this post, and a couple of others to come, but I wanted to start with this, which is a meme I’ve done before involving listing the last books you’ve read most recently and where they came from.

  1. Saints and Misfits, by S.K. Ali: Received from publisher
  2. My Conversations with Canadians, by Lee Maracle: Purchased from Publisher’s Booth at Word on the Street
  3. Dazzle Patterns, by Alison Watt: Received from publisher
  4. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton: Purchased from Publisher’s Booth at Word on the Street
  5. Snacks: A Canadian Food History, by Janis Thiessen: Received from publisher
  6. Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies, by Tabatha Southey: Received from publisher
  7. Once More With Feeling, by Meira Cook: Received from publisher
  8. Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis, by Jen Powley: Purchased from Staff Picks shelf at Audreys Books
  9. If Clara, by Martha Bailey: Received from publisher
  10. The Mother, by Yvette Edwards: Purchased from A Different Book List
  11. We All Love the Beautiful Girls, by Joanne Proulx: Purchased from Hunter Street Books
  12. What is Going to Happen, by Karen Hoffman: Received from publisher
  13. A Bird on Every Tree, by Carol Bruneau: Received from publisher
  14. Guidebook to Relative Strangers, by Camille Dungy: Purchased from Parentbooks
  15. The Misfortune of Marion Palm, by Emily Culliton: Purchased from Happenstance Books and Yarns
  16. Glass Houses, by Louise Penny: Received from publisher (ARC)
  17. Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple: Purchased from Parentbooks last year, this was a reread
  18. Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, by Norma Dunning: Received from publisher
  19. The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride: Purchased from Blue Heron Books
  20. Pond, by Claire Louise Bennett: Purchased from Parentbooks, this was a reread
  21. The Murder Stone, by Louise Penny: Found it in cottage library
  22. Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman: Purchased from Happenstance Books and Yarn
  23. Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Lianne Moriarty: Purchased (secondhand) from Beggar’s Bouquet Books
  24. Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez: Purchased from Mabel’s Fables
  25. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund: Purchased from Lighthouse Books
  26. Weaving Water, by Annamarie Beckel: Borrowed from the Toronto Public Library
  27. Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy: Purchased from Curiosity House Books
  28. Turning, by Jessica J. Lee: Purchased from Curiosity House Books
  29. The Burning Girl, by Claire Messud: Received from Publisher
  30. In the Land of the Birdfishes, by Rebecca Silver Slayter: Purchased from Lexicon Books

Results are a little bit skewed because eight of these are books I read on my summer vacation and I tend to more deliberate in those choices, but still. Of the 30 books I read, 11 of them were received from publishers. They tended to be smaller publishers too because a) these are publishers I have relationships with through my work with and b) some of these books are harder to find in Ontario bookstores so I am unlikely to come across them on my own steam, at least before review copies arrive. A few are books that I would not have previously sought out of my own. Two of them I read because their publicists were quite emphatic that I, Kerry Clare addressed personally, should do so—nice work publicists; you were right. And when I do read these books publishers send me, I tend to write about them either on my blog or on, or in both places.

I tend not to read ARCs because I don’t like them—I liked to read finished books with nice covers and I like to read them when everyone else is reading them.

I also buy a lot of books and am an avid independent bookshop customer.

And finally, I don’t disclose in blog posts if I’ve received a book from a publisher. A lot of bloggers do, and on some blogs that are exclusively review sites, it makes sense. But I don’t think it does for me. I trust myself after ten years that my reviews are not biased because I’ve received a review copy—though this was a learning curve for me for sure but I got over it years ago. I get so many books in the mail, most of which I don’t even read, that the idea of treating these books differently than the books I purchase myself is kind of ridiculous—if anything, these books that find their way to me rather than me seeking them out myself actually get read much more critically, as in, “You better be worth my precious time, Book-I-didn’t-even-ask-for.” I also know that professional reviewers (of which I am one) receive review copies as standard practice and this doesn’t need to be disclosed in their reviews. And finally, I see this blog as a space for me, first and foremost, and that anybody else likes to read it is just gravy, but to pepper my posts with disclosures and the like would undermine the authenticity of what I’m up to here.

8 thoughts on “Where do my books come from?”

  1. Your final paragraph: Yes. That’s how I felt even back when I was still blogging. (I don’t now because the idea tires me out, though sometimes I do miss it. But it was getting fraught, so I stopped.) Sometimes I did say thank you at the end of the post to the publisher or publicist, because I was thankful, but usually I just did that personally over email.

    I never got comfortable with receiving so many books I couldn’t read them and review them all in a timely manner, but I like your attitude about it all. You know what you like, what you want to read, what you won’t read. And you don’t apologize. Had I been able to come to that, I’d probably still be blogging. It was the act of writing that I enjoyed most, but I felt a lot of pressure to review for the release of the book.

    Anyway, I’m glad you wrote this. I like the insight. 🙂

    PS. I LOVE that you went to Lighthouse Books! In Brighton, yes? It’s one of my favourite bookshops. I have never, ever walked out of there without a book. Furby House in Port Hope is another. Tell me you’ve been!

    1. Steph, you just managed to summarize exactly how I’ve been feeling about blogging for the last 3-4 years: even the idea tires me out. I miss it though. Mainly, having a record of my thoughts that I can refer to (why did I love this book so much?).

      Kerry, I completely agree with your thoughts on disclosure, but I’m a little more on the fence. Yes, I know my own thoughts and don’t think free books changes that. And although professional reviewers (and I am one also, although not as frequent) don’t disclose receiving copies in their reviews, there is also a more clear delineation between who hired you. If I’m reviewing for a magazine, they are the one who is paying me for my writing. When it’s a personal blog, or a social media “influencer”, the waters get a bit murky… especially when they also have ad space and promotional posts. I think the disclaimer in these instances acts as transparency, like the opposite of “Sponsored Content” on advertorials in magazines.

    2. Thank you ladies for both of your insight! I enjoyed reading both!

  2. carin says:

    How do you remember them all? Notes on the inside covers? Which is what I like to do but perhaps for very different reasons or maybe some of the same reasons, that is I just like recalling visits to bookshops. And I love finding those notes years later when re-reading, or culling. Very often the very memory the note inspires is enough to make me keep the book.

  3. Laura Frey says:

    Ooh I might do a post like this!
    I so seldom do straight up reviews on my blog, it rarely comes up anymore, but I would usually just say “received from publisher” … would NEVER say “in exchange for an honest review” because that’s not how that works 🙂 I like the wording “for consideration” – like, you send me a book, I’ll consider reading it. I read it, I’ll consider reviewing it.

    I’m more likely to publish the opposite – a “FYI I did buy this with my own money” when I’m talking about a local author/someone I know! E.g. with the Short Story Advent Calendar (got yours yet??)

    1. Kerry says:

      Not yet, but I’m looking forward to it! And yes, “I bought this with my own money” is the kind of disclosure I’m pretty okay with—it’s also a huge endorsement, really, right?

  4. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for this post. I work at a library so I have access to advance review copies and browse our New Book shelves every day. Some of the things I read are pulled from my shelves and were purchased years ago at used bookstores or non-profit book fairs. But I also receive a lot of books as gifts from friends and family, and am very lucky in that I’m currently able to purchase books myself (usually from or through my local independent store, Open Sesame). Inspired by this post, I’m going to start adding that info to my Instagram book posts, mostly because I want to remind people of all the great things we have at the library and in our community.

    1. Kerry says:

      That is a terrific idea!

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