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Current Books vs. Older Works

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Do you prefer reading current books? Or older ones? Or outright old ones? (As in, yes, there’s a difference between a book from 10 years ago and, say, Charles Dickens or Plato.)

Current and recent releases are always featured at the most conspicuous location at the bookstores. These new books are screaming at me, begging for attention, hoping I would take them home with me. But the paradox is that I rarely buy the hottest new books or books that top the bestseller lists. New books receive so much exposure on the paper, in literary magazines, and on the radio. Bookstores host author’s reading and signing sessions. I cannot help feeling overwhelmed by the huge volume of new books flooding the new book table every week. How can I ever keep up? I take a quick browse of the bookstore(s) every other day and often find new tempting books. Unless there is a burning desire to read either an intriguing subject or a favorite author, I rarely buy new books. The last new release bought is The Secret Lives of W. Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings (hardback, $35), who, I just discovered, had also penned a biography of Evelyn Waugh. A good way for me to at least stay afloat the inundation of new books would be:

  1. keep watch on book bloggers’ reviews and recommendation of new books
  2. keep an eye on long- (and short-) lists of literay awards pertaining to my reading interest, i.e. Orange Prize and Booker Prize
  3. keep up-to-date on favorite authors’ releases
  4. check the new book section at the library to see what interests me

Delay factor of a book tends to carry a heavier weight to me. That is, I look for overall average rating of a book that has been released for at least two years. A 5-star rating based on three reviews is so much less convincing than 4.5-star rating based on 180 reviews. More trusted would be a classics that has been perused over the years, endorsed from generation to generation, books that have intrigues readers over time. In general, I am inclined toward older (not antique old) books. The ideal is to maintain a balance between classic literature, literary fiction, and new noteworthy books. After all, all new books will become old, right?

18 Responses

  1. You are so right…they will eventually become old. I love looking at them in the bookstore but I rarely buy new books. I do however, request them quite frequently from the library.

  2. I’ve never been one for mainstream trends and much prefer reading something that’s been out for a few years or a couple centuries. I’ve bought 4 books hot off the press in the last 10 years. Yep, they were by favourite authors I couldn’t wait to read.

    The only book I read from the 21st century section of 1001 Must Reads is Fingersmith. I know it’s a narrow selection because we’re only 2010, but I’m slightly amused.

    • I’m very much like you. I go straight to the fiction/literature section bypassing all the bestseller and new book tables. I rarely buy new releases unless it’s something that is totally up my alley.

  3. I love reading current, best sellers, not because they are best sellers but because they tend to grab my attention and interest.

    • Our interests are polarized. I tend to go browse through the older stuffs first, but every once in a while a new release would interest me that it gets to the top of the pile.

  4. I tend to buy mostly book that were bestsellers around 5 years ago but this could be because I buy alot from 2nd hand bookstores. I buy new books if I find one recommended on a blog and its appeals.

    • I do the same! My definition of new books are within the past 3-5 years. I tend to look for them also in used stores or overstock tables.

  5. I really detest all the hype and hoopla over the new books, but I can’t resist. I love to know what all the buzz is about. I can’t read fast enough though, so inevitably, yes, many of these new titles are old before I get to them! You know I did notice that all of the books sitting on my Kindle unread are the classics. Bad Sandy.

    • You always dig out the best of the new releases. It’s okay if you haven’t read all the classics, neither have I! But my latest acquisition is yet again your recommendation: Stone’s Fall.

  6. I have only recently started reading more recent works, I usually stick to older books. I quite enjoy exploring the more recent books at the moment though.

    • My primary source of “recent books” are usually from the longlists of literary prizes. Sometimes I feel frustrated not knowing where to begin.

  7. You have to read a mixture; there’s definitely a balance. It’s easy to get swamped by new books at the expense of the oldies, but reading the classics helps you to appreciate the new releases. It’s fascinating to see how the novel has changed, and how storytelling, narrative perspective, character development, and language has evolved.

    • I agree that classics have that power to never finish saying what it’s meant to do. Classics also factor into the direction to which modern authors nudge their works. I do notice the recent inclination on epistolary novels, a form that was once very popular in the ancient times.

  8. I enjoy reading a hodgepodge of books written at various times. I’m currently reading books ranging from the very recent (Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter by A.E. Moorat) to something from 19th Century France (Mademoiselle de Maupin by Théophile Gautier). If the subject matters interests me, I’ll read it, regardless of when it was written.

    • I’m the same way with you. As long as I’m interested in a book, it doesn’t matter when and in what language it was written. That depends also if a translation is available.

  9. I feel as though new books rule my reading time because they are more often library loans (unless a new book is from a favourite author, I usually read it before deciding whether to purchase a copy) with endlessly demanding duedates. But when I actually calculated, 59% of my books read in 2010 were published more than 10 years ago. And the bulk of the “new” reading is books published about 5 years ago. Looks like my reading choices are as fashion-(un)conscious as my wardrobe!

  10. I think we share very similar stats. Majority of my reading is books that were published within the last decade, and a good amount of them are classics.

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