It’s been about 3 years since I started regularly reviewing books on my blog. I’ve read a good many books in that time span. Along the way, I’ve had to make several course corrections and still continue to do so. When it comes down to it though, most of the course corrections can be boiled down in way or another to fighting what I like to call “book lust.”
In some ways book lust is just a byproduct of being a bibliophile, but in other ways, it is a way for lust to run around un-checked in your heart under false pretenses. I think it is fair to say lust is a human problem, not just a guy problem, and for some guys it’s not the Victoria’s Secret catalog that is the big problem, it is the Spring Release catalog from their favorite publisher. 1 And perhaps this is worse since alarms would go off if a good Christian husband signed up to receive the Victoria’s Secret catalog, but we wouldn’t bat an eye if he regularly gets multiple catalogs from book publishers.
At this point, some of you are thinking, “what kind of weirdos is he talking about?” Others are thinking, “What kind of sorcery is this that allows him to read my mind?” If you’re in the former category, you could just skip this post (unless someone you know is afflicted with book lust). If you’re in the latter category, here are 3 ways you can fight against this tendency. I am speaking specifically to people who are book reviewers, but it could apply to anyone who geeks out about books.
Don’t Say Yes To Every Free Book
For book reviewers, you are usually initially limited to blog tours and book reviewer programs. These are often narrow in their availability. In the case of blog tours, you are at the mercy of whatever the particular publisher wants to put a tour together for. For the reviewer programs, it is usually a narrow selection as well, but at least there are multiple options at a time. In both cases though, the limited availability may tempt you to just request whatever you can because, hey, free book!
Don’t do this.
First, you’re setting a up habit (indiscriminate book requesting) that will come back to bite you when you have more options on the table. It might not seem like you’ll get to that point, but if your faithful in your reviewing and your traffic goes up, you’ll probably find yourself in a position to request books from bigger publishers and they’ll actually send them to you.
Second, you’ll end up reading some less than stellar (read: boring/pointless) books. Because of the nature of book reviewer programs and blog tours, you have to read and review that particular book if you want to get another. If you don’t look before you leap (or research before requesting), you’ll end having books to read and interact with that really aren’t worth your time.
Third, if you practice indiscriminate book requesting, you are probably fostering book lust. You are putting yourself into a position to apply your desire for instant gratification to receiving free books that you wouldn’t actually pay for otherwise. If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t request it for free. You’re just after a free book, and that’s how addicts think.
Don’t Request Books Primarily To Build Your Library
When I first got into reviewing books, it was a more tight financial time. I was in my last year of seminary, and there was no book budget (which was a mistake). I could buy books I needed for school, but if there were books I wanted, my options were the library or requesting them for review. After we moved for Florida, the library got smaller (not mine, the seminary I had access to), but my requests got larger. Ali was glad I wasn’t spending money on books, and I was glad I was getting free book and building my personal library.
In doing this, I found book lust will lead you to exploit your connections to get the biggest books you can simply because they are free. The books in the picture above are the first “big” books that I got from a publisher. I requested them because a) I wanted to add them to my library, and b) because I wanted to see if I could get them for free. As you can see, I did get them, but now I had to fulfill my responsibility to review them. 2
Needless to say, requesting books to build a library isn’t actually economically in your favor. To pick just one pictured, Waltke’s OT Theology took a long time to read. The book is only $30. I spent more than $30 worth of my time reading and reviewing it (and I didn’t even read it cover to cover to do the review). Economically, I actually took a loss, but in doing so, I fed my desire for instant “free” book gratification.
Don’t Try To Stay on The Cutting Edge of New Books
A big part of reviewing books is reviewing new books. You can easily lapse into a desire to not only get more and more free books, but can also feel like you have to always have the latest and greatest. Unfortunately, this fosters a kind of latent chronologically snobbery where you are most interested in books just published or soon to be published (since that’s all you can request) and you tend read less and less books that have been around for a while and proven their credibility and value.
Every time you read a brand new book you are taking a risk that it is a waste of time. If the book is 30 years old, you can probably figure out the value before you read it. If it is 30 days old, you’re limited to the blurbs (which are always positive) and you really have no perspective on the lasting value. If your goal is to stay on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest, you’re training yourself to devalue the past and to always be looking for the latest and greatest, which let’s face it, is just textbook unchecked book lust. There is no contentment, there is just the desire for newer, better, and more.
There are probably more ways to fight book lust, but in my own experience, following these steps has proven helpful. Probably during the first year and a half I was reviewing regularly, I was doing the opposite of all 3 of these things.I gradually moved away from each, and hopefully I’ll continue to grow and be able to enjoy reading and reviewing books without unknowingly fostering book lust.
- There is certainly a connection between the two, and this is not to say a guy who lusts (in a non-sexual) way over the new book releases is doing that instead of lusting over beautiful women. It is to say that leaving lust un-checked in one area of your heart invites it to also proliferate in another. ↩
- I treat all requests made on my end as a contract to actually review the book to some extent if it is sent to me. Looking at the books in that picture, I had instantly had a lot of reading on my hands. ↩