Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do You Ever Promote New Books Over Classics to Level the Playing Field?

I'm a big fan of classics. There's a reason for that. Those were the books I read in school, parents and relatives recommended, and I read on lists, first in library pamphlets and then on the Internet. Classics are classics for a reason is an old adage, but more and more we're calling into question what that reason is. The We Need Diverse Books movement argues that books by and about women and minorities have consistently been overlooked, and that if we make a conscious effort to include them, we will find material that is just as good or better than the traditional classics. From my own research and opinion, I know that at least some of the works of 16th century women writers, who were not read or studied for centuries, is just as thoughtful and entertaining as the work of some of their male contemporaries,whose work has been closely studied and promoted for centuries. I'm not making an argument about diverse books here, necessarily, although I include those, but I am suggesting that once a book gathers literary acclaim, that acclaim tends to perpetuate itself (i.e. literary classics follow the law of inertia).

With that in mind, what about books that have not yet had much chance to generate forward motion? There's an idea that reviewers have a moral imperative to be gentler to newer and debut authors. But does that extend to promoting a newer book over a classic, even if you honestly think the classic is better? For example, if I have to recommend the number one fantasy book I have ever read, I would have to answer Lord of the Rings every time. However, the people who are most likely to ask me this question, fellow fantasy readers, have most likely already read it and are certainly aware of it. So wouldn't it benefit fantasy readers (and authors) more to answer Bitterblue or The Girl of Fire and Thorns? I'm having a really hard time thinking of newer fantasy books that haven't also been hyped somewhat, but maybe that's part of the problem.

This whole question arose when I was writing my Top Ten list for Books Every Gamer Should Read, and while I could think of some newer books that fit the description, I thought more "classic" books worked better. I went with the classics, but perhaps I should have taken the opportunity to promote. Should I put a newer book on my Top Ten Tuesday list if it's not really in my top ten, but I did like it and don't think other people have heard of it as much? Does anyone else worry about this, or make the opposite choice?

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