Sunday, February 13, 2011

Discussion: How Has Blogging Affected Your Reading?

photo by k
As I was writing up a review on a fairly good book last week, I started thinking about how picky I was being when just a few years ago I would have probably just enjoyed the same book without any real criticism. I was trying to decide if it's related to my blogging or not. Is it just because I am getting older and, having read more books in my life, have more good and bad novels to compare to? Is it because I am reading twice as many books a year and am just less patient with books that aren't perfect when there might be a perfect one sitting on my stacks? Is it that I am just thinking more critically about the books because I have to write about them, because I know others might decide to read the book based on my post?

I would hope that blogging hasn't made me less likely to enjoy a book on its own merit, especially because I am putting my thoughts out there for others to read (perhaps even the author). I don't want someone to avoid a book because I point out the flaws when, overall, I really did enjoy it. And yet, it seems unfair to not have at least a slightly critical eye while thinking about a book I have just read.

How do you feel blogging has affected your opinions of the books you read?

Working through my neuroses,


  1. Blogging has definitely changed the way I read, and I mostly think it's for the better. Having to really think about my impressions of a book has helped me better remember the books I read, but it's also made me more critical, which is neither bad nor good. In the past, I read a lot of books that I thought were fine but not particularly good. Because I wasn't writing about them, I would just toss them aside when I was done and move on. Now I feel obliged to sort out why I felt as I did, and that sorting-out process means that the not-so-good aspects of a book end up lingering in my mind. I'm not sure that that's a bad thing, but it's definitely a change.

  2. I was a reader before I began blogging, but now I am a READER. I read way more books, a much wider range of books, I've discovered genres and authors I didn't know I liked, and my job as a high school teacher librarian is much more fun since I know read YA books. So, blogging has had a HUGE impact on my reading! Great question

  3. More than anything blogging has enabled me to discover books I probably wouldn't have bothered with--I really love reading other people's blogs and learning about what they like and don't like in a book.

    It's also made me analyze my reactions and in that way understand the writing process that much better.

  4. I think its less that blogging and reviewing has made me more critical then it has made me question more things. Plot tropes that I had previously just ignored or skimmed over I now understand WHY they bored me or bothered me. But equally I know why certain set-ups please me more often then others.

    So I guess blogging has sharpened my focus (and continues to do so).

  5. Excellent question, Kristen!

    I was a member of a book club long before I started blogging, so that critical process really started then - blogging has simply widened the range of books I analyse. But equally I don't review every book I read, neither do I feel as though I have to.

    I agree with Jane that blogging has made me discover books I may not otherwise have done, through reading other peoples' blogs, in future it may persuade me to try genres I otherwise wouldn't go anywhere near (it hasn't so far, but then I read a fair range of book types and authors)

  6. Blogging has changed the way I read in a lot of ways, I think. In some ways I think I'm far less likely to return to a book I liked but didn't love, because I know I have so many other choices out there, now that I read so many other blogs and get so many good recommendations. In the past I know I returned to books that were only goodish (because I didn't have any new ideas of what to read), over and over until finally I grew to love them just because they were so familiar to me. I do that less now.

    On the other hand, I'm more likely to try again with authors I didn't have great experiences with in the past, because I see glowing reviews by bloggers I trust. So I guess it balances out.

    Another thing I've noticed is that because I've gotten to know the people who are reading my blog, and I know they'll be reading whatever review I write of whatever book I'm writing, my awareness of them as an audience colors my response to the book. Like, I just finished reading this book about a dysfunctional family on a road trip, and ordinarily (happy ending buff that I am) I would be inclined to just go with the high note the book ends on. But I can think of one or two of my bloggy friends who have expressed extreme displeasure at unwarrantedly happy endings for books of this kind; and thinking of that, I felt less okay with the optimism of the book. I was thinking, You know what, those people are right. The emotions this book is causing me to feel in response to this ending are not warranted; this is not the ending that this story would have if it were true. It didn't make me like the book less, I don't think, but it did make a difference in my overall response to it, and a difference to what I'll say when I review it.

  7. Teresa - I think that my changes are for the better too but it also makes me a bit sad that I don't blindly enjoy books the way I used to. I suppose I love fewer books over all but love them more than before. I definitely remember more about a book I read now too. That's part of the reason that I need to re-read my older books! Of course, there have been a few books that left the house after a re-read because I *am* more critical now. I agree. It's mostly just different.

    Helen - It's interesting that blogging led you to read the books in your library! What a great side effect.

    Jane - I can definitely see how blogging and reading blogs would help a writer.

    Lexie - A sharpened focus is a plus! I find that some of the plots that I thought pleased me really turned out to be the execution of the plots and not just the direction. If I hadn't started thinking critically, I probably wouldn't have thought through why two books with similar plots would sit so differently with me.

    Tracy - I've never been in a book club but I can see how a good discussion could cause you to go through the same processes.

    Jenny - There were a few years there in college and after that over half of my books read were re-reads. It surprises me when I see how few books I revisit now. I have the same thing with knowing my blog reader's probably reactions and being affected by them. I notice other people's hot button issues when they come up in a novel and I try to remember to mention them because I know it will affect whether they pick up the book or not. I just find it hard sometimes to convey that in a blog post without somewhat hiding my own personal enthusiasm for a book.

  8. I really love blogging but unfortunately I think the biggest impact it has had on my reading is that I am now rushing through books with no pause between them.

    Which sort of defeats the purpose of why I started my blog - which was to give myself the time and space to really think about what I had read - what i liked, didn't like, admired etc

    Instead I read really quickly and write a short opinion piece on what I felt and whether I liked it before moving onto the next.

    I still wouldn't give up blogging but it is food for thought

  9. I think blogging has changed the way I read in two ways:

    1) If I like a book a lot, I slow down to enjoy it. I know that really good books don't come around as often as I'd like, and I want to savor the reading before I have to move on to the next thing.

    2) I get almost all my books through blogger recommendations. I read about it on a blog or two that I trust, and then I buy it. If I haven't seen it reviewed, I probably won't buy it, even if I like it while browsing in a bookstore.

  10. I think blogging has DEFINITELY changed the way I read because I'm being exposed to more books and the quality of what I'm reading has increased and so books I used to read suffer by comparison. For example, before blogging, if I got "stuck' for something to read, I'd go with a brainless murder mystery; now I have so many more options and my reading life is richer and more diverse and better. And it does make you pickier I think ... but it should!

  11. It's definitely affected the books I blog about. I wouldn't blog about just any book. My blog isn't just a book blog, though. I usually just blog about the ones I personally like or really dislike. That's odd since I tend to find merit in every book, for something.

  12. Being introduced to the blogosphere has definitely affected my reading, as now I'm exposed to so many authors I may never have found on my own! I've been introduced to genres I probably wouldn't have tried before, and learned so much about what makes a great book. I also find I'm not as critical in my reviews as I once was, and try to back up my critiques and not be so snarky. :)

    Alexia's Books and Such...

  13. I teach high school English, and since I've started book-blogging, I find myself much more adventurous about my choices, as well as sympathizing more with my students, who have to read whatever I tell them to! If I pick a book for one of my reading challenges, I commit to finishing it, no matter how long those last two acts of "Julius Caesar" take me. It has also helped keep me invigorated as a reader, choosing new authors and genres, because even if I don't like the book, I know I'll get a blog post out of it!

  14. Becky - I know what you mean! I frequently feel guilty for taking my time with a book and skipping a few days on the blog.

    Celia - That's great that you decided to cherish the great books that come by. I need to make a change and do that because I spend a lot more time being disappointed while reading now.

    Jenners - I think the quality of what I'm reading has improved too. Sometimes I'm a bit overwhelmed though by the weight of the books that are on my TBR shelves. There are very few light reads there now!

    Paige - I have started letting some books go without blogging about them just because I don't feel I can convey anything useful about them -- even if they were okay or good.

    Alexia - I think that it's great that you are evolving the way you write your posts. It takes a conscious decision to do that and not to just keep going in a single format or style forever.

    Jackie - I love your comment! It's great that you have found a way to connect with what your students are going through. We have all been there but it's hard to remember picking up a tough book when you would rather be doing just about anything else!

  15. What a great conversation! I actually have to agree 100% with jenners. Though I also have to say that my reading overall has decreased as well. I tend to take more notes of special passages and really think about the book more instead of just flying through one book after another!

  16. Tif - That's interesting! Most people are saying that they read more but you are reading less. I'm reading more but I'm also remembering more because I write about the book when I'm done instead of just moving on and completely forgetting everything. I like the idea of reading more deliberately though. It's something I should do more often.

  17. Revisiting this excellent discussion, this statement caught my eye, Kristen:
    I don't want someone to avoid a book because I point out the flaws when, overall, I really did enjoy it.

    I have the opposite problem - I don't want someone to buy a book because I've given it a good review, only to discover they hate it! That really does make me feel bad. And it depends which flaws a book has as to whether I avoid it - some flaws are more liveable with than others!

    But yes, keeping notes on everything and safely filing them away is the key - just the act of writing helps you to clarify your thoughts, though I find that sounding ideas off others is the best way of gaining insight into some books.

    Love the photo BTW - was this the original one?

  18. BUT, I used to read a lot more before I returned to work. Going back to work full-time combined with some other outside responsibilities has really put a damper on my reading style. I'm planning on making changes to this over the next year, so I can get back to more reading!

  19. Yes, Tracy, I'm afraid of that as well. That's why I really don't like to say that I would "recommend" any book. I try to present the good and the bad and, like you say, let the reader choose which highlights and flaws are important to them. And yes, that's the original photo I put up. It was a lone daffodil that used to show up in our yard each year and then sadly it disappeared two or three years ago. We have moles so I'm sure one of them eventually found the bulb and used it for winter food.

    Tif - I guess we will all have ups and downs in our ability to find time to read. I had none until Z went to preschool, had a couple of stellar years and then it's gone down again recently with volunteering and deciding to exercise and such. I'm looking forward to my next upswing too!