I hate it when this happens: I recently sent off the O-Lord-I-hope-it’s-finished manuscript of my book on reading to Cynthia Read, my editor at Oxford UP, and just today, in reading this excellent article by Patrick Kingsley, I found several links to books and articles that I did not know about but wish I had. My book has a whole section about the value of reading more slowly, which I’m sure could have been better if I had known about this book (note the sample chapter available on the site). I will probably have a chance to incorporate a reference to Miedema’s book, but not much more.
This kind of thing happens all the time, of course; most writers have nightmares about books coming out just before their own volumes do that ruin everything. Nobody wants to review your new book on X because everyone just reviewed that other new book on X. Or your new book on X looks shabbily outdated because that other author discovered something or claims to have discovered something that you didn’t know about — or worse, that you knew about but had scholarly or ethical scruples that kept you from exploiting that knowledge. Maybe that other book on X makes yours seem like a frivolous popularization, or, conversely, like the work of a lifeless pedant. And many of these nightmares come true!
Can’t be helped. If you are deeply interested in something, it’s likely that someone else in the world will be also. You just have to hope that your book doesn’t get lost in the shuffle — a particular danger if you’re writing on a trendy topic, and my own topic, reading, is getting a great deal of attention these days. I have this sneaking suspicion that by the time my book comes out, sometime in 2011, several other books on the subject will have hit the shelves. Will reviewers say, “Ho-hum, yet another book on reading”? Or might they say — oh please let it be so — “Finally, among all these mediocre books on reading, one that we can whole-heartedly recommend”?
July 16, 2010