Guest Post: Andrea Johnson – Why I Read Old Books

It’s my absolute pleasure to hand over today to fellow blogger and SF reviewer Andrea Johnson – aka the Little Red Reviewer. Andrea has been a prolific blogger since 2010, reviewing on her own blog as well as founding the annual Vintage SciFi Not-A-Challenge and contributing to Apex Magazine. She’s here to talk about her latest exciting project…

Blog banner: Little Red Reviewer

I’m always surprised when someone looks at my blog as says “It’s so neat that you read new books and older titles!”

When I started Little Red Reviewer in 2010, it never occurred on me to only read new books. My goal was to read books on were my bookshelf, reread some old favorites, and see what looked interesting at the library. Did I buy books at bookstores? Sure I did, but they weren’t always new releases. I know that if I write things down, I’m more likely to remember them, so the goal of the blog was to force me to write down my thoughts about books I’d read so that I’d have an easier time remembering them. The original intent of the blog was something akin to a book diary.

When I started networking with other bloggers, I was surprised to see so many bloggers who were only excited about new books. But wait, new books are exciting! It’s fun to be part of the hype machine when something new and shiny comes out! ARCs are cool! But if I’m only reading brand new books, I’ll miss out on decades of good stuff, I’ll miss out on author’s earlier works. I’m not knocking the bloggers who feature only new titles, more power to ’em! That just isn’t for me.

Not only do I hang out with too many history lovers, I’ve also always been obsessed with “but what caused that?” Any time I discover a new-to-me author, I want to find out other books they’ve written, see how their style evolved over time. Maybe they’ve read a really long series that I want to dive into? (oh hi Kage Baker, Steven Brust, and Lois McMaster Bujold!) Maybe this author has been writing for decades and I’m just “discovering” them now. Maybe the title is a classic and I want to see what all the fuss is about, or it’s a classic that is finally being reprinted. Maybe I need a comfort read so I’m going to read some old Kurt Vonnegut title for the 10th time.

Every author you love reading today, that person was influenced by an author that came before. And that person was influenced by someone, and so on. If you’re reading about your favorite author, and you read that they were influenced by an author, go get some books by that author! You’ll get a kick out of seeing what your favorite writer expanded on, what they were directly influenced by, maybe even some things they avoided. It’s a fun exercise.

Books also reflect society, social norms, what people are thinking about, and the technology of the day. You can see a history of society by reading the speculative fiction of that time period. If you’ve been on my blog in January, you know I do Vintage Science Fiction Month, where I feature books that are older than I am, and encourage other bloggers to try that too.

Head shot: Andrea Johnson of Little Red Reviewer
Little Red Reviewer

This January, I’m kickstarting The Best of Little Red Reviewer, a print book that features my best book reviews. My reviews have value as pixels on a screen. But what about as ink on paper? Is a book of my reviews worth $15 to backers? By the end of January I’ll know the answers to those questions.

The Best of Little Red Reviewer might feature reviews I wrote in the last eight years, but the fiction I’m talking about goes back to the 60s. It’s fascinating to see how much writing styles have changed over the years, but you’ll see that good story telling never goes out of style.

Got questions or want to back the project? Pop across to Little Red Reviewer to find out more about the project and chip in. You can also follow Andrea on Twitter.