I’ve been saying for months that I was planning to revive Alvah’s Books and I think I got my groove back. Two reviews in a week. Not bad. Although I would like to get it to three reviews a week, but I think I’m pushing my luck.
Why did I let Alvah’s Books lapse? Writing book reviews is not an easy task. It’s work. And because I aggressively outreached to so many publishers, I got on many mailing lists and received many books. Too many books. So many books that it would take a lifetime or two to read them. But truth be told, I simply burned myself out on reading tome after tome for Alvah’s Books and for publications that pay.
But I’m back to it for Alvah’s Books, for HAND/EYE Magazine, and now for Kirkus Reviews (well, it will be my first review and it’s a nice publication to have under the belt). But back to Alvah’s Books, the two most recent reviews are up, and you can read my impressions of Jonathan Rabb’s The Second Son and Rebecca Cantrell’s A Trace of Smoke.
What’s on the burner for right now? I’m currently reading Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen my posts about this tragedy. Why am I so intrigued by it? Several reasons ranging from an interest in New York City history specifically my beloved Lower East Side, but also the birth of industry reforms for safety and labor laws. So it’s all related to my obsessions of when the Left actually had some power to make important things happen.
After Triangle, I have a towering pile of books to go through, as well as a long list of ebooks to be read and then decide which one will be lucky to be scrutinized. Now what I learned about reading for review, especially if you’re doing it for the fun of it, is to not to be so strict with yourself. My first year with Alvah’s Books, I was trying to get as many books under my belt and writing what would be upcoming that it suddenly became a chore. Then I got into this habit of reading books that I considered so-so and not bothering to review them, which then moved on to not finishing them at all.
And that goes against my maxim of book reviewing. You simply don’t read and review the good books only. If you have an audience and they’re curious about a certain book, you have to provide them the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of course, the books I’m not wild about you can tell by my lackluster writing, which typically means I didn’t want to write the review in the first place.
In any event, Alvah’s Books was meant to be a fun and interesting exercise in reading and writing book reviews, and I hope to return to that original goal. In the next few weeks, I’ll be making some changes to the site (no, I am not changing the theme or the look. I learned the hard way of screwing around with the design the first time I did that). It will just be more resource stuff and some cleaning out of old posts that no longer matter (like old NYT bestselling lists).
Okay, back to David von Drehle’s Triangle