Over half (21 of 38) books I’ve reviewed for AAR in 2020 are not books that have been published this year. My oldest? Marion Chesney’s 1983 Regency The Miser of Mayfair, re-released in 2011 under her other name M.C. Beaton.
I give these numbers as background for explaining why I, as both a reviewer and a reader, love reviews of older releases.
As a reader, I do get a kick out of a well-written roast review. And I appreciate thoughtful Bs and Cs, which help me figure out if I might like the book more than the reviewer did, and which give me an overall “state of what’s coming out” guide to help me with purchases and new authors. At the end of the day, though, I come to review sites to find books I’ll love, and that means looking for DIKs. And my numbers should show you that relying on new releases to find DIK-worthy books isn’t going to cut it.
Another reason I like reading reviews of older books is my personal reading habits. The library is my go-to for books, and in the quarantine/pandemic era, that means ebooks. With the way publishers restrict ebooks in libraries, I’m much more likely to be able to get older books, especially within a reasonable amount of time. (And of course, when I’m looking for new reads to review, my access to older books is much stronger).
I also appreciate recent reviews of older books because I know that I am a much more thoughtful reader about issues of sexuality, race, and inclusion than I was when I started reading romance over two decades ago. Romances of the eighties and nineties, for instance, are chock full of the “evil skanky gay villain” trope. While the trope hasn’t died the death it should, a modern review of that book is much more likely to give a reader a heads-up than an older review is.
I’m a completionist (you should see my museum on Animal Crossing) and a data geek, so I also love and believe in AAR’s database. To me, it’s the most distinguishing aspect of the site. It’s not just something for readers to use. I hope someday it could be a tool for scholars or historians of the genre. I mean, can you think of anywhere else you can search nearly 15,000 thoughtful, long-form reviews of romance, for FREE? And every book added is more data!
Finally, from my reviewer perspective, sharing DIKs is why I want to be here. When I finish a book I love, I’m just itching to find somebody to evangelize about it to. I don’t see any reason not to do that just because the book isn’t brand new.
What do you think? As readers, does AAR get the right balance between solid coverage of the present and throwbacks to the past? When you think back on your most recent AAR-inspired discoveries, are they new or old? What older books aren’t in our DB at the moment that you think somebody should give a go – and would you consider submitting a guest review to us?
~ Caroline Russomanno