I was interested to read this post from The Literary Saloon about the panel “Grub Street 2.0: The Future of Book Coverage,” which was part of the NBCC’s symposium: “The Age of Infinite Margins: Book Critics Face the 21st Century.” I don’t want to write about the future of book coverage, exactly, but a few of Literary Saloon blogger M.A. Orthofer’s comments caught my attention. Orthofer notes that the panel’s participants didn’t seem to recognize one value of book blogs vs. print reviews that seems crystal clear to me: that book blogs deal with older works as well as newly-released ones, and that even when it comes to newly-released books, book blogs offer more variety of coverage:
the fact that the big newspaper (and magazine) book sections tend to have an awful lot of overlap in what titles they cover was not raised — and the fact that the reach of the online sites is, if nothing else, much deeper seems to have gone unnoticed by all.
Well, duh, right? Anyone who has read even a few book blogs for a little while will notice that a broad range of books gets discussed and you never know what you’ll find, but you are almost certain to find something new. Isn’t it clear that if a reader wants to find out about books published in the past, even the recent past, print reviews are not the place to go? And might not blogs be a good place to start such a search?
The other thing I noticed is a comment made by one of panelists, paraphrased by Orthofer as the suggestion that:
unlike someone writing a novel or poetry and finding satisfaction in creating something like that, even if it was never published, no one writes book reviews just for their own pleasure and satisfaction.
Orthofer disagrees with this idea, and I do too, at least to a certain extent. Now, I’m quite certain that I would never write a book review if I knew no one would see it ever. But I’m happy to write about books without attempting to publish what I write in any traditional venue (recognizing that publishing them on a blog is a sort of publication). I write this blog purely for my own pleasure and satisfaction; I’ve never wanted to use the blog to try to find myself some other kind of writing work and I know I’ll never make any money from it – and I don’t even try.
In fact, the writing I do on the blog is, depending on how I look at things, possibly keeping me from doing other kinds of writing that would help my career, in some way. The time I spend writing for this blog I could actually spend writing scholarly articles, if I were interested in spending more time on them. Or I could spend the time writing specifically for non-academic types of publication – review articles or maybe even a book of some sort. I write about 300-800 words just about every night for this blog – if I wrote for some other, more “useful” purpose, those words would accumulate pretty quickly into publishable work (in the traditional sense). But I’m not terribly interested in doing more of those things than I do now, so I don’t.
(I’m not pretending to be a book reviewer on this blog, let me clarify; if I thought of myself as a “book reviewer” I’d work harder on writing more thorough posts. But I do write things that could be considered related to book reviews, and so do most of the bloggers I read.)
There’s something wonderful about producing writing about books for no reason other than the enjoyment of it — if I were paid to blog, I bet it wouldn’t be as much fun.
9 responses to “The Fun of Blogging about Books”
Very well said. I used to jot down notes about the books I read in a little notebook, notes that only I could understand. Documenting what I read in a blog has helped me think about what I’ve read in a different way and helped me to articulate that. The person that benefits from that the most, is of course, me.
I agree. I do write for my own pleasure and like Tara I think it has altered how I approach reading. I also like the contact with other bloggers, it would be a bit like navel-gazing otherwise.
If I were paid to blog I’d lose the freedom to write what I want to write and that would not be fun at all.
“if I were paid to blog, I bet it wouldn’t be as much fun.”
Have to agree with you here.
I have no pretense at great writing or even good writing. But it’s fun. And blogging allows you to write about so many things just for the heck of it.
I liked this post a lot! I love blogging about books, because there’s something about writing thoughts down that really crystalises them. I’m not sure I’d do it if I knew no one was going to read it, however; I remember how discouraging it was when my blog was brand-new and most of my posts didn’t receive comments.
Also, I think that reading other book blogs has really inspired the way I approach, and think about, books and book reviews.
And then there’s every once in awhile, when you finish a post and realise that you’re extra proud of it, that it really captured how you felt about the book. It’s a kind of high almost!
My writing skills are limited today but please let me say I agree with every word you wrote and the thoughts conveyed by those words in your post. I do not write a Blog but do enjoy reading blogs such as yours and others on books.
Tara — yes, for me too — I read and write about my reading in a different way now, and it’s been quite good.
BooksPlease — there’s something about writing to myself that I find a little weird, but if there’s an audience, even a small one, writing comes much easier. And I wouldn’t want to lose the freedom to write what I want, or to feel an obligation to write that would turn it into work.
Dark Orpheus — yes, there’s a freedom to it that’s wonderful, and it wouldn’t be worth doing without it I think.
Eva — thank you! And it is SO much fun to feel like you’ve gotten it right, isn’t it?
Edd — thank you, and I do appreciate that you read my blog and comment so often!
Well done and interesting. It’s nice to hear about book blogging in a positive light for a change instead of from a critic ranting about how bad we all are. I think getting paid for blogging would ruin the fun as well. It would turn it into a job instead of pleasurable “work.”
I know I wouldn’t enjoy this if I was being paid. I tend to be a lazy writer. I can only imagine what it would take to write a professional review, and I don’t think I would be able to do it (not in the way I’d like to). It’s nice being able to write as little or as much as I want to. It’s not being graded and no one is going to critique me on it. 🙂
Stefanie — thank you! And yes, I don’t want blogging to be work — I’ve spent enough time not wanting to write because someone was making me do it!
Danielle — I’m a lazy writer too, I think. I’m aware of how my posts could be so much better, but I don’t really want to put the time in to make them so.