Armchair BEA Day #4 – Ethics and Nonfiction

IMG_0599This week is going by so quickly, and the pacing of Armchair BEA is particularly intense.  I haven’t gotten a chance to respond to everyone’s comments, but I will get to them as soon as I have a chance.  I’m incredibly touched by how many of you are visiting and sharing books and stories.  It means a lot to me.

Today’s Instagram challenge is Best of 2013. I’d have to say that “The Emperor’s Soul” wins that one, hands down.  The other books in the photograph are some of the books that I’ve read recently and greatly enjoyed.  Actually, despite my hiatus, this has been a good reading/blogging year for me, because I’ve loved almost everything I’ve picked up.

The first discussion topic for the day is ethics.  For me, the question of book blogging ethics is inexorably tied to advance review copies.  I’ve seen a lot of discussions on the subject in the past few days at Armchair BEA.  One one hand, they introduce book bloggers to new and pre-release books.  On the other hand, they can lead to blogs becoming more of a marketing tool for publishers than a creative outlet for bloggers.  It can be a challenge to find a middle ground.  My way of reconciling the two is by not hosting giveaways/interviews/promotional posts of books that I haven’t read and reviewed first.  I don’t mind sharing promotional material about books on occasion, but I want my focus to be first and foremost on reviewing.  I also don’t want to be the type of blog that only reviews ARCs–I want to discover old and forgotten gems and share them with people who would love them as much as I do.

What are your opinions on ARCs?  What challenges do they present for bloggers?

Today’s genre discussion is nonfiction.  During the past few years, I’ve rarely read nonfiction, but there was a time in my life when I read a lot of philosophy.  Nietzsche, Locke, John Stewart Mill, Rousseau, Marx, Aquinas–you name it.  I was in Lincoln-Douglass style debate in high school, which exposed me to political philosophy, and it started me on a several year reading tangent.  Pair that with my fascination with Russia, and I ended up reading a lot of primary sources from the time leading up to and following the 1917 revolution so that I could get some idea of the intellectual climate of the time period.  Eventually the pressures of school and work caught up with me.  My Russian history/philosophy research started to make my brain hurt, even though it was extremely fascinating.  Looking for something a bit more escapist, I re-entered the world of fiction.

Categories: Nonfiction | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Armchair BEA Day #4 – Ethics and Nonfiction

  1. Pingback: Arm Chair BEA Day #6 – Wrap-Up & Other Updates | Books Without Any Pictures

  2. -sighs- I haven’t pursued any publishers/others for books but I had a few who pursued me. Quite honestly though, ARCs are quite complicated. I think if I were to ever go out and ask for an ARC, it would likely be one that I actually wanted to read anyways.

    Leanne @ Escaping With Books

    • I’ve very rarely asked for ARCs outside of NetGalley, but I always get excited when publishers ask me to review a book that I’ve been looking forward to reading. It’s a complicated subject though.

  3. Ethics is such a tough but important issue and I’m glad they brought it up today. I always worry that I am doing something wrong inadvertently. I agree with you it’s nice to just pick the books you read, without worrying about pressures of ARCs. I have only recently accepted a couple and even though I don’t have a specific deadline, I feel like I should review them first. Here are my thoughts on ethics and useful links I’ve found to help decipher what I need to do. Hope you will stop by. Happy Friday and keep up the good work from your friendly ABEA cheerleader today!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Your links are very helpful–it’s nice to see what the FTC guidelines are, even though they seem a bit extreme and unrealistic at times (esp. with regards to Twitter).

  4. I’m amazed at all the sub-genre’s of non-fiction I’m learning about today! Russian history must be amazing. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. I like to review books that have been published for a while too–even the classics! You pose a good point about ARC being used for marketing and not because the blogger was just head over heels for the book.

    • And the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve been head over heels about a lot of ARCs, but it does make it harder for the people who read your blog to tell if you’re genuine or feel obligated to write a good review.

  6. I’m not sure how I feel about ARCs…on the one hand, it’s fun to get books in the mail. On the other hand, there’s a lot of pressure than comes with them.

    • Mhm. I feel bad for taking a blogging hiatus when I did last year, because there were ARCs that I had accepted, and unfortunately, I still haven’t reviewed all of them.

  7. I recently got accepted for some ARC’s I requested, so that is great 🙂 I’m not sure how I feel about unrequested ARC’s. It’s great that publishers feel good about your blog, but on the other hand: I don’t want to feel forced to read books I know I won’t like. I’m also someone who loves to read already published books. There are so many great titles out there, I don’t want to stick to the new/coming books.


    • Bloggers who review only new books puzzle me. When you go to the book store, one of the best parts is browsing the shelves and discovering something you haven’t heard about. If you stick with just the new books and bestsellers, you miss out on so many wonderful stories!

  8. I’m more drawn to non fiction now, with age (although I’m not ancient by any stretch of the imagination. honest!). Getting into philosophy, health books, photography, history, language and linguistics… John Stewart Mill is on one of my reading lists…

  9. Pingback: Armchair BEA, Day 4 – Ethics and NonFiction | Kid Lit Reviews

  10. Like you, I don’t accept ARCs unless they are books I’m really interested in. I actually didn’t realize you could get ARCs out of the blue, without requesting them, until recently when I was pre-approved for a bunch of titles on NetGalley. I was excited about it, but now it is more overwhelming and I think I’m just going to not worry about the ones I’m not terribly thrilled about. Great post, wise words!

    • Thank you! When I first started blogging, I ended up reading several ARCs that were outside my genres or not really what I normally read. While books like that are interesting on occasion, they can make blogging feel like a chore. It’s better to only read books you’re excited to pick up.

  11. I agree with not promoting a book you haven’t actually read. There could be exceptions, such as promoting an author whose other books you have enjoyed, for example. But the whole situation just gets tricky fast, once you agree to promotions, interviews, giveaways, etc. and only then read the book and discover you really don’t like it.

    Anyway, I’m not sure it makes sense to host an interview if you haven’t read the book and therefore can’t really come up with original questions to ask.

    • Exactly. I think it’s a testament to different expectations of the role of book bloggers within the publishing industry. The reason why I like reading book blogs instead of editorial reviews is because reviewers are allowed to have opinions and personalities. They’re the ones that tell you whether a book is enjoyable to read.

  12. Hi Grace,

    I haven’t availed myself of ARC’s mostly because I don’t want to blog about a book I don’t want to blog about, if that makes sense. I like the luxury of choosing all my own books (both old and new) and giving up on books that don’t work for me. Another ARC challenge would relate to book bloggers who are also authors. Author reviewers run the risk of troll-flaming by other authors or their fans for less than stellar reviews.

    I’m with you regarding nonfiction. About the only nonfiction I read these days is research related. I went through a lot of books related to Korean history and shamanism for my first novel. Now I’m reading about peanut allergies and service dogs for my YA novel-in-progress. Authors definitely want to pick subject matter that interests them enough to research.

    • It does make sense. I went through a point when I first started accepting ARCs where I was reading some books that weren’t really in my genres. While some of them were good, there were a couple times where it felt like a chore. More recently, I won’t accept ARCs unless they sound like something I’d buy anyway. Then again, I’m not an author, so it’s a lot easier, I think.

      Peanuts are one of the few things I’m not allergic to, lol. Of course, I got stuck with tree nuts, avocado, shellfish, pollen, animals, etc.

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