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Friday, June 30, 2017

Guest Post: Kelly Jensen on Celebrating Backlist July

Readers of this blog know that I love the backlist, that treasure trove of titles that are wonderful to read but have been forgotten, surpassed by their shiny new brethren. Well I am not alone. Kelly Jensen, a reformed librarian, editor over at Book Riot and editor of the critically acclaimed Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, enjoys the backlist so much that she is celebrating it for the entire month of July. Below I have reposted her post with her permission. It originally appeared here on her YA focused blog, Stacked.

And if you are looking to celebrate with her, you can join Kelly and me and a host of others who have said we would join another backlist project staring now-- a re-read of Stephen King’s IT led by Daniel Kraus over at Booklist Reader. 

So with Kelly’s ode to the backlist and her call to make “Backlist July” an annual reading tradition below and a library community re-read of a classic backlist title- you have no excuse not to join in. Also, consider making a “Backlist July” display at your library. All you have to do is pull a few books off the shelf that are not brand new, but still great reads.

Have fun. And here is Kelly’s post. Thanks again to Kelly for allowing me to repost it.  Check out Stacked regularly for their great YA resources.

BACKLIST JULY

Backlist July
Last year, I finally put into process a thing I’d been wanting to make a tradition in my reading life. I dedicated an entire month to reading nothing but backlist titles. Backlist titles seem to fall to the wayside, especially when it comes to blogging, since so many new and upcoming titles hit my doorstep everyday. I want to read them and talk about them, since that’s part of why they show up in the first place.
But there’s a special place in my heart for backlist titles. Backlist, as I define it, is anything published a year ago or further. I prefer to go deeper than a year, but a year is a good yardstick, as it allows for some “catching up” on the reading of big books from not-too-long-ago.
I dedicated last July to rereading (or as it turns out, first-time reading) the entire “Little House on the Prairie” series. The fact that I gave myself a month of no-pressure reading let me dig into the books in a way that’s often harder for me with new books. Since much of my reading life is public, I am less emotive than I am critical. That’s not to say I don’t express love or distaste, a moment that made me happy or angry. But rather, I don’t necessarily give a blow-by-blow of what I’m thinking or considering as I read. But going with backlist, especially digging into a series, allows me to have a totally unique experience in reading. I’m more emotive, as well as more willing to toss out theories and ideas, as well as share some harsh assessments of the characters which represent little more than my feelings about the characters on a reader-response level. It leads to thinking about and enjoying books in a different way. This, for example, pretty much sums up how I felt about the “Little House” series last year.
The backlist reading started a little earlier this summer for me, as one of my goals was to finally read all of Harry Potter. I’ve read the first three books before, but after that, I let the series go. This year, I wanted to go all in, start to finish, and have the experience I hadn’t yet let myself have — whatever that experience might be. Without the expectations upon reading The Series Everyone Has Read, I’m getting to enjoy what I like, hate what I hate (Ron), and have those ups and downs in a no-pressure way. As July rolls nearer, though, I’ve realized I might be mostly done, if not completely finished, with the series by then.
So it’s onto thinking about a series which would make an excellent Backlist July read, alongside the pile of other books on my list.
This year, it’s “Ramona Quimby.”
I remember reading these books as a kid and loving them. But I’ve been told again and again, for years, that they’re worth revisiting not only because they hold up, but also because they’re SO GOOD and there’s so much that, as an adult, resonates really strongly. I scored my copies off Etsy for really cheap, and am eager to take that ride.
My July list also includes a little bit of fantasy, some nonfiction, and a few YA titles I keep meaning to pick up but haven’t yet. I’ve been reorganizing and weeding my personal bookshelves, and stumbling upon some of these older ARCs has been motivating. I want to read them, then recycle them. And without the pressure to talk about them in any meaningful way, I am eager to see if what I think matches what was said about them initially, and I’m curious if there’s anything new I can add to the discussion.
From the writing perspective, it’ll be fun to find those tiny threads or sparks that encourage a whole post. Little things that might get missed during that pressure reading often make for some of the most interesting research projects which may or may not manifest into a blog post or two.
I always read backlist, but there’s something really rewarding in doing nothing but reading these older titles. It’s slower, more leisurely, and, as I discovered last year, actually encourages me to read more than I normally do. Maybe it’s the long, lazy days of July. Maybe it’s also knowing I get to be a reader first, then someone who talks about books second.
Backlist July is one of my favorite new reading traditions, and I’m excited to see where it takes me this time.
Tell me: do you dedicate specific time to backlist reading? What have been some of your favorite backlist binges lately? What should I consider for my list for this coming month and/or for future series reads? Let’s talk backlist traditions, since backlist always deserves more time and attention.

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