BBAW 2011 (Thursday) – Blogging and Reading

Once upon a time, there was a little boy called Tony who enjoyed reading very much.  He used to go to the library, situated just a hundred metres from his house, on a regular basis and occasionally went back the same day after devouring all of his books in just a few hours (not literally, of course – that would be most unfortunate…)When Tony grew up, he continued to read a lot, and he eventually moved into the world of book blogging…

So far, so good 🙂  Obviously, I started writing a book blog because I wanted to think about the books I was reading in more detail, and putting my thoughts down on paper (or pixels) forces me to consider the books I read in a lot greater depth.  However, as I started to hone my writing style (a process, as you will notice, which is far from complete), I began to experience something unusual and, to be perfectly honest, quite disturbing.  You see, the more I blogged, the more I realised that my blogging was eating me alive subtly influencing what I read (less interesting but slightly more factual than the crossed-out answer).
How (you may, or may not, ask)?  Well, back in 2009, the first year of Tony’s Reading List, I actually reviewed each book I read individually, usually within twelve hours of completing it, and sometimes at great (some might say excruciating) length.  As a result, I found myself choosing hefty tomes such as Ulysses and A Suitable Boy, which would give me a little breathing space between reviews, over slim novellas and quickly-skimmed lad-lit fare.  Even if I wanted to read something shorter, I had to carefully consider the likelihood of finishing the book early and have something meatier in store for after the slighter repast.
In 2010, I decided that this was all a bit too difficult, so I opted to make my reviews a little shorter and try to write more multiple reviews, with most posts presenting two or three books.  Although this did initially give me a little more freedom, what seemed a good idea in theory turned out to have a few snags in practice.  What actually happened was that instead of writing three long posts, I usually ended up publishing one super-long post instead…
This year, after the return of my extremely unpleasant RSI issues, I finally came to the hard, heart-breaking, but inescapable conclusion that I simply wasn’t able to review everything to the extent I wanted to.  Some books, especially those from my favourite areas, would be reviewed; others, lamentably, would not.  This worked alright until about the middle of the year – then I noticed that I had started reviewing everything again because I was only reading books from my favourite eras and genres 😦
So much for my own internal problems.  When to these you add the wealth of information and advice I receive on a daily basis from those bloggers I interact with, either in the blogosphere or on Twitter (@tony_malone, nice to meet you), it’s plain to see that I have absolutely no free will when it comes to reading – or blogging -, and that I am driven by random, constantly-changing rules of engagement.  Challenges, recommendations, the odd, rare advance copy, library acquisitions which can’t be renewed… it’s all getting a bit much for me in my old age.
My name’s Tony, and I am a bookaholic.  Please pity me.
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19 thoughts on “BBAW 2011 (Thursday) – Blogging and Reading

  1. I am a new follower, so I'm not sure if you've tried this before or if the style just isn't to your liking, but I've recently decided to not just review books, but to respond to them while reading as well. This has allowed me a greater freedom to talk about the books I'm reading without making my actual “reviews” super long. Just a thought.

    Whatever way you go, I am really enjoying your blog. You have an excellent writing style!

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  2. I think the evolution of our blog and how we use it is an important part of blogging. When I first started a reviewed everything I read. I was constantly worried about “being behind” and it felt like a bit of a chore all round. These days I review what I review, and as Trisha mentioned react to other books! This has given me a lot more freedom and often nothing gives me more pleasure than to read back through my posts. Often I surprise myself at what I have written about.

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  3. That WAS a long review of Ulysses, but appropriate, given the book. :)Yeah, the compulsion to write about every book read can kind of spoil the *fun* of blogging. I tried joining in with read-alongs and challenges, but it didn't really work for me. These days, I just read what I read and write about if I feel like it. But, yeah, there is a bit of self-induced pressure if you want to keep up with the cool kids who I think must read and blog in their sleep too. Heh.

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  4. I love the literally comment. It cracks me up when people misuse that (you obviously did not).

    It is tough to balance. I started from the beginning just knowing that I wouldn't review everything. There are some books that I enjoy, but I don't really feel passionate enough about to write something on it.

    I do think blogging has affected how I read. I think I notice more while reading because I know that I need to formulate thoughts for a post. I'm not very good at taking notes so some of those thoughts go right out of my noggin before I actually start writing about the book though. 🙂

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  5. I, too, went through such a phase and got bogged down and developed a guilty conscience about it all so I decided to adopt a different strategy as, hey, blogging was meant to be fun, right?

    Any books that I particularly request from a publishers and which they send me, I always read and try and review them all. Don't always succeed but I try. Books that are sent to me unsolicited, and I get loads, I don't feel any such obligation to review. I do of course, but if I get behind on them I don't let it upset me. Quite a lot of them are filtered by me and I can tell within a page or two if they are for me and some are so badly written I wonder how they got published in the first place. And, yes I know I could probably do no better but even so…

    In between all this reading, when I find my brain buckles under the strain, I say Hang it All and read a well loved and well read book or two for sheer relaxation. Then when the little grey cells have had a rest, back to the fray.

    I am just so grateful and astonished that publishers send me books and are actually interested in what I have to say. Been blogging now for five years and this is still the case. I just love the postman arriving with lovely padded envelopes and waiting to see what is inside!

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  6. I've got to that bad place where I feel I must review everything, because it will make my list at the end of the year look better. Silly reasoning really, but then I suppose I didn't review as many books last year. I find myself doing the opposite to you on the reading front though – I read shorter books so that I have more reviews ready for a rainy day. And it's not the good option.

    Still struggling against it, and my old reading habits only win occasionally.

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  7. Trisha – Thanks 🙂 I think my problem now is more that I have trouble finding the time to post – and being pain-free enough to do it regularly. I also get through books pretty quickly, so I think the in-between posting would just stop me reading… and that's a *bad* thing 😉

    Marg – I wish I could do that, but I have a feeling that I'm a teensy bit OCDish and I just can't leave a gap where there should be a review 😦

    Violet – After that post, I took a good hard look at my blogging and decided that there had to be limits! I try to stick to an eight-paragraph format now, but it doesn't always work. I think the challenges have pushed me into a lot of posts, that's true…

    Kristi – Unfortunately, I started off believing that you *had* to review everything (and that if you didn't, the blogging monster would eat you up while you were sleeping). Blogging affects reading positively (reading in greater depth) and negatively (shaping the list of books you read) – it's all (as always in life) about finding a balance…

    Elaine – Much as I love hearing about how bloggers in other countries get literally(!) showered with books…

    …wait, no I don't. Where are all my freebies??? Australia doesn't work that way 😦

    Charlie – If I had the time and the energy, I would probably review more. it's a vicious circle 😦

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  8. It took me a long time to make peace w not being able to write in depth about every book I read, and just when I'd gotten there I had to cut back even more drastically on typing! It's frustrating, but I remind myself that even short posts enrich my reading. 🙂

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  9. I've sort of settled with myself that reviews will be of a certain length. No word count or anything like that, but when I sense they're getting “too long,” I make myself stop and pick out my most favorite things to say and go with that. Otherwise, with certain books, I could go on for hours!

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  10. I struggle because it often takes me longer to write a review than it does to read the damn book in the first place as I self edit and look for just the right words *sigh* I'm hoping eventually I will relax a bit more

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    PS – left you a reply at my blog…

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  11. Haha, I love what you said about there being no free will in blogging. 🙂

    I normally try to review every book I read (minus rereads), but sometimes I just don't have anything good to say about a book– even a book I loved– and so I skip it. I try not to let it bug me, but it does.

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  12. Tony, it took me the best part of 5 blogging years to get to that point. I have spent the last year luxuriating in the freedom that allowing myself to make that decision has given me.

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  13. Eva – I know, I know, short posts (no, my brain's just not getting the message!).

    Erin – I do try to do that, but I just spend too long honing the draft – sigh 😦

    Stu – As long as you feel up to it, it's not a problem Stu. I think Winston is a bit more understanding than my girls though 😉

    Shellyrae – I feel your pain; sometimes I wish I was a slow reader too. That would help a lot 😉 And thanks for the tips 🙂

    Anastasia – It's silly, isn't it? I still see the gaps in my 2011 reviews and think “Could I go back and review that one? Just a mini-review?”. Ludicrous.

    Marg – Well, then I only have two-and-a-bit years to go 🙂

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  14. Hi Tony!
    Right now, I learning to the best that I can. I'm trying not to pressure myself and enjoy blogging. I'm a very lazy person so that means days when I plan to blog but then fall short of the goal. I read somewhere that the key is to create the blog that you would want to read. I gave that up coz well that's too much pressure 🙂

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  15. Hi Kinna 🙂 I know what you mean.

    I go through cycles (I'm currently in a very bloggy and organised one!), but it's extremely difficult to keep that up – especially when you write something you're proud of, and virtually nobody reads it 😉

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