Death Spiral, Reviewer Edition

If you didn’t know already, I’m sort of a nature nerd. I watch endless hours of documentaries on animals, have seen everything David Attenborough has been in, and Jane Goodall is one of my personal heroes. Some animals, like dolphins and members of the cat family particularly capture my interest, but another group of critters I find fascinating are insects, specifically ants.

They’re super strong, work together for the common good, and even use their own bodies to help each other, like creating bridges so that other ants can cross gaps, or clinging together to form a raft so they don’t all drown. But there’s a downside to being an ant – the Death Spiral. Technically it’s called an Ant Mill, but I think Death Spiral is more fitting (plus it sounds cooler).

Let’s say you’re an army ant, just doing your job and following the ant in front of you as you pick up their pheromone track. What you don’t know is that an ant several spots in front of you has lost the scent of who they were following. That dude is circling around, desperately trying to get back on track, which causes everyone else to follow the same circle. Now, there you all are, marching around and around, not getting anywhere, until all of you collapse and die from exhaustion. That’s the Death Spiral.

So, what the hell does that have to do with being a reviewer? Well, I ended up in my own sort of Death Spiral last year.

From the outside looking in, reviewers seem like a bunch of dedicated readers who want nothing more than to ingest as many books as they can and shout praises for the works that truly capture their imaginations. And that’s definitely true. But there’s a darker side to these strange worker ants of the book community. We don’t get caught trying to keep up with everyone else (though that sometimes happens too), but from my perspective, it’s like we’re following a scent trail of books which swirls around in a never-ending whirlpool.

Throughout 2020, I was constantly picking up new reads, falling behind on writing reviews, and just kept marching forward, never giving myself a chance to restore an orderly pattern of read, review, start new book. This week I finally took stock and saw I have 15 finished books waiting for reviews! And that’s the other part of the Reviewer Death Spiral – I knew I was falling behind, but the drive to continually move forward was relentless.

Thankfully, I’m not an ant, so I did eventually stop myself before collapsing in death. Now it’s time to break the cycle. Through February I’ll be catching up on those 15 reviews and cutting back on my reading time until I can restore order.

But have I cracked the code to avoid a future Death Spiral? Probably not. I think it comes with the territory of being a reviewer ant of the book colony. My antennae are programmed to follow the trail of new books. What I can do though is be more aware, slow my pace, only pick-up books that I immediately want to read, not be afraid to stop walking in circles, and set out a manageable path forward.

If you’re a reviewer and have found yourself in a similar situation, I hope this helps you see a way out. The book colony needs you, so get out of that spiral, forge ahead, and rock on with your badass ant self.

For any of you looking for a new trail of books to follow, you can check out my top ten reads of 2020 on Kendall Reviews

And, since you made it all the way through this weird post, here’s a humorous video treat about ants by Zefrank on YouTube: https://youtu.be/p16g5IVCdeE

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