Sunday Salon: What I Talk About When Talking About Reading
When you’ve been book blogging for over five years, you notice that certain topics seem perennial. The most recent one to re-surface is whether or not book bloggers are writing reviews; Iris wrote an excellent post last week that has had me thinking. I’m not going to talk about whether my posts are reviews or not, or even go into the pitfalls of ‘objectivity.’ Instead, I want to talk about the discrepancy between my actual experience while reading a book and how I write about that experience (w nods to Carver & Murakami for the post title!).
I don’t want to sound conceited, but my reading is so much more complex than my blogging. As I move through a book, my brain is engaging with the author on a variety of levels; if it’s a novel, it might be teasing out themes or catching references to other books or just bringing the words to life so that I can almost see the action playing out in front of me. If it’s nonfiction, I’m evaluating an author’s claims, weighing their evidence, storing away random facts for future conversations. Reading is active, on a mental level anyway, and by the time I finally sit down to write a post, I’ve sifted through so many thoughts and reactions, deciding which ones are important enough to merit mention. Inevitably, most of that process, the process of really delving into the book in front of me, gets lost. None of this is to say that I’m embarrassed by or even frustrated with my blog posts; I just want to recognise that reading and talking about reading are two very different things. They have to be: in order to truly record all of my reading experiences, I’d have to have an almost minute-by-minute log! And then I’d just run into the observer effect anyway.
All of this has been heightened by my new need to limit my typing and thus writer shorter posts than ever before. I suppose if I wanted to, I could simply devote multiple short posts to one book, perhaps going into a different title every week. While this appeals to me on one level, I just can’t accept only writing about, at most, fifty-two books a year when I read so many more than that. So I employ generalities, and shorthand, and lots of adjectives to try to capture the big picture of my reaction to a book. Because at the end of the day, describing every little moment of my reading experience, every nuance and concept and thought a book provokes in me, would be impossible anyway. And the little sketches I create are enough to keep my memory of a book alive and with any luck explain why I hope others read it; while they may be formed with quick, crude lines, they’re certainly better than nothing at all.
Let’s move on to a few of those sketches, shall we? :)
Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight
Books I Would Have Loved, Except for One or Two Little Quibbles or Books I Really, Really Liked
Read Feminism Is for Everybody by bell hooks if…you’re a feminist already looking for some preaching to the choir or you’re not sure of the connection between racism and sexism or you’d like to review the basic theories of feminist philosophy.
Read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers if…you have a thing for well-written fiction by young authors or you love southern lit or you enjoy character-centered novels with a varied cast.
Read Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery if…you’re looking for a classic comfort read or you’re trying to branch out from Anne.
Books That Aren’t For Me but I Could Still See Some Good Points