As a frequent book reviewer whose library is constantly expanding with new books to read and comment on, waiting somewhat impatiently for books to come is a very frequent (nearly daily) experience. Nonetheless, sometimes books come that I am not expecting. Such was the case for me this morning, as I took a book that had arrived yesterday for me to review (review forthcoming when I finish it) and read it downstairs while waiting for the UPS driver (whom I had worked with one day at the Clackamas Town Center while I was a seasonal helper and see somewhat often around the neighborhood). When the package arrived and I tore into it as is my fashion, I realized that this book was not one that I had actually been waiting for.
Not only do I review books for a variety of publishers and military history journals, but occasionally I will also send e-mail messages requesting books from publishers or authors directly on subjects of interest. For example, some time ago I read an excellent book on Somali piracy for the Naval Historical Institute . In that book, the author praised another author, a Brit named Martin Murphy, for his wonderful writing on the problem of Somali piracy, a subject of some issue to me as a reader and researcher. So, being the friendly sort of chap that I am, I found his information and sent him an e-mail wondering if he had any extra copies of the book to review. He didn’t, but he referred me to his publisher (Columbia University Press), and I sent them an e-mail requesting books in light of the fact that I had already reviewed another book praising their books by another author. So they sent me a free copy of one of the books, which I look forward to reading, as it examines the problem of maritime piracy as a symptom of weak states and as a cover for insurgent or other criminal activity. It looks like a serious read, but an excellent one.
This may seem odd, but I feel the same way requesting books from publishers that I do asking a girl out on a date. There is the delightful prospect of enjoyable hours spent in pleasant company, the nervous anticipation for a response, the fear of rejection, and all those attendant butterflies in the stomach. There is also the pleasure (and, for me, a slight sense of surprise) when one’s request is gracefully and happily accepted. No doubt my sense of pleasure and surprise is related to the fact that there is a subconscious expectation of rejection and the pleasure of being liked and wanted when that is not a common experience. Intellectually, it is easy to know that the worst that someone can say is no, but all the same there is often a great sense of disappointment that comes from rejection, even though it is not generally a personal attack at all. When we make a request about heartfelt matters (and for me, both books and romance are rather personal to me), we are putting ourselves out there in the open, and that is a scary place to be. Developing the right amount of confidence and security, while not an easy task, is one that opens up many opportunities that one would otherwise be too fearful to seek.