Book Blogger Angst is Not For Me

There seems to be a lot of angst in the book blogging community these days.  The Reading Ape has posted a series of discussions about book blogging, from “Whom Do We Review For,” to a criticism of the use of “I” in reviews, to the failure of most book bloggers to use literary vocabulary in their reviews.

Jillian from A Room of One’s Own disagreed with Reading Ape’s definition of what a book review ought to look like, and that generated a lengthy debate.  Some other bloggers have chimed in, criticizing blogs that post too many memes or reviews that are too personal.  It’s an interesting discussion — it’s always useful to think about why we write and what we write. Am I writing the kind of reviews I want to write?  Is this blog accomplishing what I want it to accomplish?  Are my posts driven by readers, fellow bloggers, or my own interests?

Interesting, yes.  But at the same time, it imposes a level of judgment on my blog and yours that quite frankly, I don’t need.

I started blogging a year ago because I wanted to write, and writing about my favorite thing in the world (books) made sense.  Book clubs don’t work for me because you have to read a book someone else has chosen.  I love the mix that blogging provides of reading what I want to read, writing about it, and hoping that readers find it interesting enough to respond.

The tough thing about blogging is that blogging requires readers.  And sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re writing for YOU and when you’re writing for readers.  That’s where memes are a challenge for me.  I don’t “meme” (if that’s a verb) because I need ideas — I have plenty of my own things to write about.  In fact memes usually mean I postpone something I wanted to write about.  When I meme, it’s to engage with the blogger community, to attract new readers, and sometimes just to give readers a break from lengthy reviews.

As with most things, I’m insecure about my blog.  I don’t know you, but you’re out there reading and judging what I write — and who I am.  That’s okay; it’s what blogging’s about.  But I admit I worry.  Is my blog interesting enough? Literary enough? Do I post enough?  My husband says “write what I want to write” and “be myself.”  His good advice is easier said than done, but it’s still what I’m trying to do.  I read what I want to read, I write what I want to write, and sometimes I “meme”.

And if that means occasionally I write about visiting my library instead of dissecting War and Peace, that’s who I am.  I can tell you that most of the time this blog is more a reflection of “who I am” than the rest of my life.

So please don’t tell me what I ought to post or whether my vocabulary is adequate.  The wonderful thing about blogs is THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM.  I’ve found hundreds of book blogs, some that interest me, some that don’t.  To each his own.  I don’t expect anyone to like what I like or to read what I read. I hope you like some of what I write enough to come back.  If you enjoy my blog, great.  If not, that’s okay too.

Here’s what I look for in a blog, and what I strive for with my own:

  • Thoughtful book reviews about an interesting variety of books
  • More book reviews than memes
  • Memes that are substantive as opposed to just lists or pictures of books
  • Graphics that don’t overwhelm the text
  • And a general sense that I like the person who’s blogging

So if you only review romance novels, or your blog is pink and sparkly, or you take the meme-a-day approach, it’s probably not for me.  And that’s fine, because there’s plenty out there for all of us.  I’m not going to tell you how to blog.

Because in a given day, I have enough to worry about.  I worry about work, my family, world affairs, what’s for dinner, and whether the cat will cough up a hairball on the carpet.  I worry about whether enough people are reading and enjoying my blog.  I hope readers will feel free to disagree with anything I post.  But I don’t need anyone telling me how to write.

  9 comments for “Book Blogger Angst is Not For Me

  1. May 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Interesting post.!

    I don’t think it’s fair for people to critisise people’s reviews because everyone reviews differently. Mine tend to focus on something I found interesting whether that be writing style, character development, relevance to today’s world etc and explore that, which I hope gives people an idea of what the book is really like, rather than I like it, you might too.

    I write my reviews like that because that is how I evaluate books, I don’t think I could do it any other way but I certainly wouldn’t judge people who don’t write in my format and I don’t ignore reviews that include ‘I’ or aren’t ‘literary’ etc.

    Not everyone who blogs went to university and did English or Literature, so they don’t neccessarily have that background to fall back on, yet some of my favourite bloggers are those who do it because they love reading and write their reviews based on how the book made them feel/whether they enjoyed it and I enjoy reading them.

    Basically I just wanted to say that I agree with you! Everyone is different when it comes to blogging, no one is better or worse and different formats will attract different people.

    I guess some of the angst you mentioned is probably jealousy that the bloggers who don’t live up to their review standards are more successful in terms of followers, comments and free books etc.

    Sorry about the super long comment!!

    • May 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Kayleigh, thank you for your comment! I especially appreciate long comments. I like your description of what you consider in your reviews. Everyone has a different style of writing and reviewing, and we all get to pick and choose what we read. My reviews might be too analytical for some, and too light for others. I’ve tried not to write reviews the way I might have in college. For me blogging is a personal activity and this blog is about how I relate to the books I read. It’s also a chance to really think critically about what I read, since I’ve been out of school a long time. I enjoyed visiting your blog!

  2. May 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    great post, and I do agree with you.

    I post a meme once a week (most of the time) just to take a break from the reviews I post.

    To me, there is no right or wrong way to write a review. It is your opinion and you write it the way you see fit. Some people may like it, some won’t. If they’re so picky about writing a proper literary review then perhaps they should be reading ‘professional reviews’ on professional book sites or literary magazines. Why they decide to nitpick on book bloggers who blog because they love to do so is beyond me. Perhaps they’re bored or are stuck in a reading rut…..

    • May 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I also think there is more sometimes to reading than just reviews. Things like favorite characters, best book covers, or where we like to read are an interesting part of reading, and it’s what makes blogging interesting. I think we all have our opinions about what kinds of posts we like; but we don’t have to agree on what that is.

  3. May 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I think I’m in the same camp as you with this one. I might find certain aspects of blogs that I come across annoying or undesirable, but then I simply don’t read them. I don’t really feel the need to comment on it or call them out for what they’re doing. I don’t blog to debate blogging, what makes a good blog, what folks should/shouldn’t blog about, whether a blog is too personal, etc.

    Mostly, I write about what I most want to remember about a book. I’m often heedless of spoilers, don’t give thorough summaries, and have a tendency to ramble. My blogging manifesto is that I will post what I want to post in the hopes that there are people out there who will also find it interesting or enjoyable to read.

    I am certainly not going to concern myself with condemning other people’s blogging styles. To each his own . . .

    • May 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I always enjoy your blog, especially your love of Thomas Hardy! In my reviews I try to be careful about spoilers, which often means writing a less detailed review than I want to — but I think my reviews are on the long side anyway. It’s funny — I found as I wrote this post that it’s hard to blog about blogging without sounding judgmental. It also begs the question you raise – maybe we should be writing more about books and less about blogging? Still, I think there’s some room for reflection about how we blog — I just don’t want to judge anyone else’s style or motivation except my own.

  4. May 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    It’s unfortunate that you took this as some kind of judgment of you or your blog; no disparagement or insult was intended, rather a question about whether or not the I-centered review is what people want, or just what they know.

    This is what I wrote in the initial post:
    “Opinion, not assessment, rules. That’s not to say that it should be otherwise but simply to note that it is.

    My question, though, is this what we want?”

    I think book blogging has tremendous potential for shaping the way people read and think about literature, and I think the way we write about it contributes to that shaping.

    My opinion is that giving reasons and evidence in a review raises the level of discourse about books can can do so even in the context of personal passion for reading. If that goal is not important to a particular blogger, that is there business and I am happy to see them in the book blogging community.

    Whatever any blogger decides will be up to them and their goals for blogging, but I think each blogger should consider what they want out of their blog and whether they are on the path to meeting those goals.

    • May 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      I really appreciate your comment. I didn’t take your discussion as a personal judgment on my blog. Your posts have clearly raised interesting points about how and why we blog. I do think, however, that criticizing use of vocabulary and literary style is a judgment of other people’s blogs. You talk about bloggers writing what is “easy” or “just what they know”. But people write the way they want to write. We choose our preferred style by choosing which blogs we read. In fact I like to use a lot of analysis and explanation in my reviews; but I’ve also tried to incorporate more of the personal in my reviews. I think blogging for most people IS personal. We all have very different goals and motivations for reading, writing and blogging. I’m not willing to say that your goal (e.g., elevating literary discourse) is any more valid than mine or someone else’s.

  5. May 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I agree that there are some things that can be a big turn-off in a blog. Sparkles are one of them, largely because if I wanted to go back to Myspace, I’d do that.

    Mostly, I write about the books that I chose in such a way as to provide a brief summary and my own commentary. I feel like a lot of the reviews that I read on Amazon are too commercial and don’t really give a good idea of whether I’ll like a book, so I try to provide a general idea when I describe a book of whether or not it’s enjoyable and why. Reviews are personal, because if I wanted a professional review, I’d read the ones in the cover of a book.

    I think that memes and challenges can have their place in a book blog, because they reach out on a community level. That being said, I don’t think that they should be overdone. I’ve looked at a lot of book blogs where too many memes overwhelm the actually content of the blog.

    Oh, and my pet peeve is that I like to see some sort of an index or list of books on book review blogs. It gives me a sense of what the blogger likes to read, and is a good way of determining whether or not I’ll be interested in reading more reviews that they wrote.

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