Wait five years
Once I ceased to be a graduate student in English, I was relieved of the burden of Keeping Up. Not merely of Keeping Up with publications in my field, but also of Keeping Up with What Everyone Is Reading.*
Following one’s own tastes is liberating, and I have benefited from the advice of one of my undergraduate professors, who advised me to follow Paris’s Law. Bernard Paris, a professor of English at Michigan State, refused to read any book until it had been in print for at least five years. “Now,” he said, smiling, “I no longer have to read The Greening of America.”** Thus Paris’s Law.
I make exceptions, of course. If I agree to review a book, I read it. And when an author I know produces another book, I usually read it. (How long, Jane Haddam, before another Gregor Demarkian murder mystery?) But generally I trust the reliability of Paris’s Law. In another couple of years, for example, I’ll be able to see whether there is an expiration date on Malcolm Gladwell.
There are additional advantages. After five years, you’ll either be able to get the book from the library without having to wait, or find it cheaply remaindered. And when a group starts going on about The Latest Thing, you can simply put on that mildly baffled and bemused expression that I wear when people start talking about athletic competitions and reality shows.
See if it works for you.
*That counts for Everyone in the pretentious classes and Everyone who reads the middlebrow stuff. I once—I think it was 1965—read every work of fiction on the New York Times best-seller list, and I would not do that again even for ready money.
**I did not actually take any of Professor Paris’s courses, after being informed that he was infatuated with the work of Karen Horney and that every work he taught was run through a Horneyan filter.*** It was then that it occurred to me that in academia, once you own a grinder, you can turn everything into sausage.
***If any of you are Horneyans, please don’t write. I’m sure there must be much of value in her work and much meaning derived from it in your lives. Pace.