Today’s topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week: “Reading and Blogging.” What it’s all about, right? And our clever hosts asked us to write today about a range of reading questions but the one that snagged my attention was ” Has blogging changed the way you read?”
First, a confession. I started blogging as a form of self-promotion. Back in December of 2008 I sold my historical novel Leaving Van Gogh to a publisher and it occurred to me that one way to prepare for eventual publication was to stake out an online presence. Blogging, naturally, was the logical option. And the only possible subject for a blog was books, since about all I do besides write is, yes, read. Fast. So if I wrote about each book I finished, I could count on two or three blog posts a week. More or less at random, I settled on 500 words as a length limit. Gradually I figured out about linking and adding an image to each post.
Even more gradually, I realized that self-promotion had been left far behind. I had become, in the years since college, a pretty lazy reader. I had acquired the habit of more or less filleting a book for the plot. Fine for Lee Child, less so for Herman Melville. As a blogger, I began paying closer attention as I read, dog-earing pages, following themes,comparing and contrasting. I also became more attentive to the author’s goal. I read a pretty wide range of fiction and some of it tries only to divert, while some introduces new ideas. You can only judge the merit of a book on whether it succeeds in its task, right?
But I’ve found that as a reader, even judging a book is a pretty simplistic goal. You see? A few years into the project, my intentions have shifted completely. Self-promotion is no longer the point, and I’m not really even trying to review books, per se. In fact, I’ve suffered pretty serious mission creep, because it turns out that my 500 words are an attempt to engage with each book. Maybe I highlight one aspect that strikes me. Maybe I focus on something discomfiting. Often I gush. (Those posts tend toward formlessness and run over 500 words. Sorry.)
And, yes, I do read with an awareness that I’ll be reporting to other eyes. I will be sharing my opinion, and you’ll be sharing yours back, with links and comments and suggestions. So my previously private activity has become, in the diluted but wide-ranging online world, a two-way street. I originally titled the blog “Book Group of One” because I’m too cranky to belong to an actual real-time book group. But it turns out that I now belong to a book group of multitudes.