01 March 2019

The Downside of Book Blogging (and My Solution)

The bad part of book bloggingHave you ever thought about how your reading life changed after you started blogging? So many of us talk about the positive aspects, including becoming a more critical reader and being very much more aware of the great variety of books that are published each week.

The Dilemma

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the negative effects of being a book blogger. I’m not talking about the self-imposed pressures of producing regular blog content. Instead, I’ve noticed that my reading habits have changed over the last decade, even though my reading tastes haven’t.

Let me explain. For the last 10+ years, I’ve been committed to writing about each book I read (or listen to). I don’t have long-term stats, but I know there are very few books that I failed to review or comment about either here on Beth Fish Reads or on another venue for a freelance assignment. One of the side effects of this commitment is that I think of my blog each time I’m pitched a book for review, I visit Edelweiss or NetGalley, I scan the new purchases at my library, and I hang out in a bookstore.

So what does that mean in a practical sense?

  • It means I’ve stopped reading some genres that I used to love because I’m pretty sure the bulk of my blog readers wouldn’t be interested.
  • It means I don’t read the books I don’t really want to write about, even though I want to read them.
  • It means I don’t read the books I know I won’t read straight through in a reasonable time frame because I’m devoting my time to books I’ll write about.
Let’s look at these points in a little more depth using a real-life example.

The bad part of book bloggingI'll use Kathleen Dean Moore’s Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature (Trumpeter) to explain my thoughts. This book of nature essays is just the kind of thing I ate up in my pre-blogging days. I accepted a review copy in spring 2010 because I loved the pitch and publisher’s summary. This book called to me, but I’ve never read it. Why? Because I don’t think many of my readers are as outdoorsy as I am. Because if any of Moore’s essays had a strong emotional effect on me, I don’t know that I’d want to dilute the feeling by having to write about it. And, finally, because I might not read every essay or read them in order or read them in a timely manner. If I don’t read every essay, can I legitimately review the book?

Here’s another issue: I like to read series. Sadly, I’ve let some them go by the wayside or I purposely space out reading them because I eventually run out of new things to say. In addition, I don’t think my blog readers are interested in reading review after review about the same characters or author, especially when they’ve already decided not to read the series.

I can think of several other reading issues that have been negatively affected by blogging, such as my commitment to read a short story a week. I want to do this, but I don’t want to come up with something profound to say about each story. This is really just a personal goal, and maybe it should stay there. Yet, one of the reasons I started my blog was to have a public record of what I read (and to have a place to describe all the books I want to read).

So What Am I Going to Do About It?

I can already hear your answer: It’s your blog, you should write about the books you want to read. Yeah, that’s true, and that is indeed what I do most of the time. But my real problem is what do about the books I want to read but, for whatever reason, I don’t want to write about in a meaningful way.

The bad part of book bloggingHere’s my solution, at least for now. At the end of my weekly review post, I plan to list my short story and any other book I’ve read or am reading that I don’t want to write about. I’ll include an image of the book cover, the publishing information, the genre, and then give the book (or story) a yea or nay. I may include a few other other notes or recommendations, but that’s about it.

I may or may not have read every single page in these books. Some of the books may represent a single evening of reading; others may have taken me months because I read only one chapter a week. I’m not going to tell you these kind of details.

This is the place where I’ll also record my progress in series. Although I will write a longer review/reaction to the first couple books in a series, once I get the rhythm of the plots and have commented on the author’s style and the characters’ personalities several times, I’ll simply note that I read the book and maybe add a few sentences about whether the series is holding up or starting to fall apart.

I’m pretty excited about my new approach to blogging about my “I don’t want to review it” books. I hope this will revive my enthusiasm for these kind of books while still allowing me to share and record my reading life.

What are your own negatives or dilemmas of being book blogger?


rhapsodyinbooks 3/1/19, 7:08 AM  

Totally with you on those 3 "downside" points you list, which are exactly the reasons why I keep thinking I will quit! I like your (sort of Litsy-ish?) ideas for what to do about it!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 3/1/19, 7:57 AM  

I've been blogging for almost 11 years and blogging has definitely made me want to read some books I never would have been drawn to in the pre-blogging days, mostly based on the ravings of well-respected bloggers.

I look at my blog these days as a way "for me" to keep track of the books I've read and what they were about. My reviews are quite brief these days and this suits my needs. I still hope that readers find something in my blog posts that make them want to visit even if they don't always comment.

When I was putting pressure on myself to write longer reviews, it was taking the fun out the whole reading process, now that isn't happening as I review every book but, just much shorter reviews.

I hope this new system works well for you as I think your blog should be one that works best for you.

bermudaonion 3/1/19, 8:00 AM  

I find myself avoiding books that are lengthy, dense, or political so I know exactly what you mean. I haven't come up with a solution but I do like your idea.

Amanda 3/1/19, 8:00 AM  

This is definitely something I've thought about a lot in the last eleven years of blogging. My solutions have not always been good, but I've finally found a way to blog that doesn't feel like it's having a negative impact on me most of the time, so I guess that's good!

Clarissa 3/1/19, 8:04 AM  

As a non-blogger, I never would have thought of these three issues. Interesting insight into the process.

I really like your new idea. It’s an even more condensed form of your bullet reviews (which my short-attention span lives).

Harvee 3/1/19, 8:04 AM  

I feature and list my books on the blog, but review on goodreads mostly. Sometimes I put reviews on my blog too but don't feel the need to that all the time. I often read what I want to nowadays, especially books I borrow from the library. ARCs no longer drive my reading. Glad you have found a solution.

Kay 3/1/19, 8:10 AM  

I agree with all the commenters above and also with you. Sigh. I have teetered on the edge of not blogging again. I'm still not sure what I'll do. I seem to go through this phase every few months. My reading has changed as well and I'm not totally excited about that. Yes, I read more books that I might not have heard about otherwise. However, I am also a series reader and have thought exactly the same thing - who wants to read about book after book in the same series. Why do I even care? Ha! I said a few months ago that I'd decided not to write about every book I read. Now I'm at the point of deciding whether to write about 'any' book I read. I like the conversations we all have, but...

So, I'm on a break right now. And am checking in on my blogging friends, but not commenting much. I decided that people know that I'm interested because I mostly comment a lot. I don't have to comment on every post. I think your way of resolving this issue is a good one - each of us has to figure out our own way to go forward. Or not, I guess. Oh, I also mourn the idea that many bloggers don't read certain books because they are too long (the definition of long being whatever that person decides). I love long books and have also decided that I'm getting back to reading them. I'll be quiet now. LOL

Sara 3/1/19, 9:50 AM  

I love the solution you've come up with, but as a word of encouragement, let me add: I would love to hear about books like Wild Comfort! And with a collection of essays, it could be worthwhile to devote attention to only those essays that have resonated with you. Maybe the distinction is in your question: "If I don't read every essay, an I legitimately review the book?" What if you shifted your perspective - at times - to reflection or commentary rather than full-blown review? Or would that be considered a breach of unspoken contract if you receive a "review" copy of the book?

Beth F 3/1/19, 9:54 AM  

@Sara: good point. I could clearly state that I didn't read all the essays or stories or every word in a gardening book or history.

Daryl 3/1/19, 11:09 AM  

its your party and you can serve what you like ... my own blogging is now less and less wordy when i post a photo for reasons i know you understand i just am not in a 'blather post' mood .... i have been remiss in commenting on blogs i read because it seems to take energy i dont have .. but i AM reading your blog and i AM still making mental notes of books you've reviewed that i want or dont want to read so please dont stop!

Beth Hoffman 3/1/19, 11:59 AM  

Though I'm not a blogger, I can, to a certain degree, understand how you've been feeling. In a way, it's similar to some of the things that plague me when I write novels: there are passages I yearn to write, but I question if my readers will care about them etc. I vote that those of us who write, be it for blogs or books or essays, should write what pleases/interests/challenges us, and simply enjoy the process and share our thoughts. Your solution sounds perfect! And, since it your personal blog ,you can modify it any time you'd like.

SuziQoregon 3/1/19, 12:54 PM  

Oh I hear you. All of this was wrapped up in my decision to stop posting reviews on my blog. I stopped reading review copies several years ago and pretty much only read backlist books with the occasional new book I really want to read. When I reviewed my stats it was clear that my review posts were the least visited and my non review posts were the ones where I interacted with readers the most.

I'm not sorry at all that I've shifted all my reviews to Goodreads and LibraryThing. I can be as wordy or as concise as I choose depending on the book and my thoughts. I don't have to worry about how often I'm posting a review. I still post links to my 'reviews' on the blog on the 'It's Monday, What are you reading?' meme but the pressure to read something short so I have a post is GONE!!

I think your new approach sounds great and I hope it works well for you.

Katherine P 3/1/19, 3:02 PM  

I so agree with what you mention about blogging affecting your reading and I love that you've come up with a more concrete plan of dealing with it. I've having similar issues but I'm still in the flailing part of planning but I'm kicking around a few ideas.

Suko 3/1/19, 6:18 PM  

Wonderful, articulate post. You don't want your blog to feel like a second, or third job. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for encouraging this discussion.

I love to read, and I love to blog, but I don't review every book I read on my blog. It would be far too much work to do so, and would detract from my love of reading (and writing). I don't post as often as I did in the earlier years of my blog. Sometimes, often, I just want to read, for my own private pleasure or enrichment. Reading is often a private act, after all.

Carole 3/1/19, 7:20 PM  

I started a pinterest page called Carole's Book Journal - I pin reviews about books I've read but don't want to post about for a variety of reasons. I put a very short description of my reaction to the book in the title. So far it is working well. Cheers fro Carole's chatter

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 3/1/19, 9:55 PM  

you could also just comment about them super shortly on your goodreads list, or start another blog. personally, I have another blog, https://myrtleskete.com where I post reviews and excerpts of Christian Orthodox books, because I want to keep these excerpts and for some who might be interested. Obviously, for most readers, this is not the same crowd as people following my wordsandpeace blog.
Book blogging for almost 9 years as not affected what I want to read or not

Greg 3/2/19, 12:24 AM  

I think that's a pretty good solution actually. I've found myself in the last year or so deciding that some books I'm NOT going to review, if I don't feel like it. It seemed weird at first haha- we get so used to thinking we have to review everything- but now I kinda like it. :)

I think your solution makes a lot of sense though- you get to share a little bit about the read without feeling pressured to do the whole review shebang.

Brona 3/2/19, 5:28 AM  

I wax and wan over this issue too Beth. A few years ago I realised that the main reason I keep my blog is to have a record of my reading journey. Sometimes I enjoy researching and writing lengthy posts about certain books, other times I have little to say...so those books sit by laptop on the table making me feel guilty every time I log on.

So well done for doing something about this.

Mel u 3/3/19, 6:43 AM  

I have thought about this issue also. After nearly ten years of blogging I sometimes decline reading a book because I don't think many of my readers would be interested in it. I post on a lot of short stories and I try to mostly post on books that can be read online. I regularly check on Netgalley and Edelweiss for review books. Right now I have about 2500 unread review books on my E Reader.

Over all having a blog has been a super positive thing for me.

Jeane 3/3/19, 7:51 PM  

I would love to hear about the book Wild Comfort. I like outdoorsy books; I read a lot of books about nature, gardening and wildlife. But you're right- most other readers don't, so I find my blog doesn't get many comments- I think I just lack readership because my reading tastes are not popular. Oh well. I blog for me.

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/11/19, 12:19 PM  

I really got a lot out of this blog post. I tend to struggle the most when trying to review a book I am passionate about. I feel that my words cannot possibly do justice to great books I have read.

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