From the Mailbag: Book Reviews


Today's question from the mailbag:

"Tell us more: Are you ever going to review books again?"

You bet I am!

If you just found the Phantom Library recently, or you've been around since the dawn of time but you missed the announcements (which is both possible and reasonable since there was that whole bounce from different platforms in the middle), you might be looking at the site and wondering why there have been only video game reviews since... um... 2015. Which is a long time, so this is a reasonable thing to wonder about.

For a long time, I was stalled on reviews. Part of it was that I had to move everything from the old Blogger and PBWorks platforms over here to the new site, as well as adding on the 'zines project and revamping everything. Part of it was that, realizing that it had been a decade (a decade y'all) since I started the original project, some of it was in desperate need of updating and editing. And part of it was personal stuff; I have a severe chronic illness that was only diagnosed and medicated about two years ago, and I work full-time as a librarian who is expected to mind a different library than this one, so I was swamped. The book I was reading stalled, then languished, and then eventually I realized I didn't even remember what I'd already done on it.

Obviously, I needed to kickstart everything back into gear. But I was still recovering, as well as trying to fix everything else up at the same time, so I went for a compromise: I'd review things that were easier and less time-consuming to review than books until I got caught up on stuff, and then I'd be ready to dive back in.

So that's where we've been for a little while. I ran a poll back in February of this year to get a little help from all of you in deciding what to do next, and that's been super helpful in keeping me working on new reviews, even if they aren't of printed matter yet. It feels good to be working on things again!

I do plan to move back to working on a variety of media once I get the site finally (FINALLY) cleaned up and back to working again. If you're wondering what we're waiting for, here's a quick and dirty list of things that I need to fix before the Library is out of "being updated" status and on to "actively doing things" status:

  • Finish porting over the book reviews from the old site. These are reviews that have already been written, but they're very old and need editing and polishing before going live here again. I've been doing this slowly over time and making pretty great progress - if you take a look over on the Book Review page, you'll see that we're about 70% done, and only eleven of the already completed reviews still remain inaccessible!

  • Finish porting over the short story reviews from the old site. This is the last "section" to be moved, so once it's done, all the old reviews will be ready for action. The bad news is that there are 36 of them, but the good news is that they're much shorter since they cover much less material, so I'm optimistic that they won't take nearly as long to spruce up as the books and films did!

  • Re-review some materials. There are some things that need an entire overhaul and re-review. Usually this is because I didn't have the perspective at the time of the review to understand them or give them a fair shake; I don't want to put just plain inaccurate reviews back out there. This includes only one book right now, but a few of the short stories.

  • Clean those 'zines. The zine section is kind of a hot mess right now; it's a project that is near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons, but it's had to be on the back burner due to the sheer amount of work involved in scanning, text converting, and proofing them before publication. I need to organize the project - not finish it, but organize it - so I can plan how to move forward with it.

And after that... well, after that, it should be business as usual. New reviews, either chronological or based on y'all's voting input and suggestions or both. Site updates and expansions as needed. Guest posts as the universe provides.

This turned into a sort of rambling State of the Library post, but to circle back to the original question: yes. I'll review books again. The Library does more things now than it did back when it was just a reviewing project, but I have no intention of dropping that part of it.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has supported the Library (special shout-out to KM, who kicked me ten bucks this week via the Donation button; I spent it on purchasing a Phantom game!), who has been interested in it, who has sent me encouraging questions and emails and criticism over the years, or who has just stopped by and enjoyed it. You're all amazing and I can't express how much I appreciate you.

So I'm back to work, but I promise, even if you don't see things being updated with a lot of fanfare, even if the books are waiting stealthily behind the games right now, I'm on it. They're coming!

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