Of late, I've been indulging my interest in books, particularly crime/Detective fiction. Now, something I've always done is check the publication date of the books I'm reading to gain some historical context (I even did this as a small child reading Hardy Boys books from the 1930's). It find that t useful to understand what the events of the time were, not to mention the effects of technology.
I've always assumed that this was something everyone does, but I realize that may not be the case. So I'm wondering if everyone does this, or if I'm the odd one out.
I usually do it. I often do it, before I buy a book.
I think my first exercises in placing books in historical context happened in roughly my junior high school years, notably with Tarzan and James Bond novels. It's Superman! by Tom Dehaven (2005) is particularly fun in that respect. Comic strips are perhaps even more accurate mirrors of the time. For me, Dick Tracy served as a window into the '40s and '50s. other strips did as well, but it was Dick Tracy in particular for me. Another more recent example (reprint-wise, 2005-2019) is Drawn & Quarterly's eight volume set reprinting Gasoline Alley from 1918-1934. (I believe the set was originally intended to reprint through 1938, but it seems to have stalled.)
I do it compulsively. I don't know when I started to. As a kid I avidly read Golden Age SF without realising how old it was.
With some books publication dates are misleading because the material appeared in magazines first, or in some other edition first. I've encountered Max Brand Westerns with modern publication dates and no explanation of the contents' backgrounds. It's my guess the novels are from magazines. Sometimes the authors themselves reworked older work or incorporated it into a fix-up novel, put together from short stories. An example is A. E. Van Vogt's The Voyage of the Space Beagle.
I always check publication dates. It seems like a necessity if you want to have some understanding of the writer's perspective.
In the last year or so I have read a few of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books most of which were written pre-1960. I always find it amusing when automobiles come into play with references to clutches, starters and running boards.
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