Some Bookish Thoughts
So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a long, rambling post on my blog, and I’m sure you’ve missed it. I’ve been seeing a lot of disillusionment about book blogging on my Twitter feed, and I am far from immune to it myself. A few months ago, I was wondering what the point of my blog was, when my tweets and Instagram posts seem to get a lot more engagement. I mean, my blog views are LOW, and yet a silly tweet I posted about my kids went viral. Social media is certainly a funny one. And the effort that goes into writing blog posts is fairly considerable – it’s a time-consuming (not a) business, and I fully understand why people might start to feel jaded. It’s always worth reflecting and considering whether we’re spending our time on the right things, and I think we’ll all come to different conclusions.
For me, I needed to think back to why I started blogging about my reading in the first place. I wanted a reading record, somewhere to note down what I had read and a few thoughts about the books. For YEARS, it was an inconsistent, highly personal mish-mash of posts, mostly what I now know as ‘monthly wrap-ups’, and the only person who read it with any regularity was my lovely bookish auntie. But it was somewhere to keep track of what I’d read, and I was happy enough with that.
Then I stopped reading. Unsurprisingly, this coincided with having two babies in two years, and a full time career, and a general creative lull. The blog went on pause while life went on. I lost parts of myself, and found new parts, and occasionally I’d have a reading binge on my Kindle, but I was lucky to read five books a year. Then, in 2019, after the total sleep deprivation had eased, and my creative spark returned, I found books again. I read quite a lot (by previous years’ standards) and I started keeping a list again. I thought, why not revive the blog, and go back to keeping my monthly log? I think that’s when I moved it to WordPress – but at this stage it was still a private thing, a personal record.
In February 2020 I remembered a Twitter account I’d set up five years previously and never used, and figured why not post my January Reading on there? This, of course, led me to discover that my personal, private hobby of ‘book blogging’ was in fact A THING.
Fast forward to now: I actually get sent proofs of books that aren’t out yet; I have authors messaging me to ask if I want to review their books; I sign up for the occasional blog tour; I have fully returned to physical books and learned the weird, paradoxical joy/terror of the teetering TBR pile. It’s simultaneously amazing and overwhelming, and I’ve had to learn to occasionally say ‘no’ to books – which is HARD. My record of my hobby has become something more public, something with expectations and commitments, and that is quite a strange thing in and of itself.
I’ve also dipped my toe into Instagram, which I fall in and out of love with on a regular basis. I go through phases of really enjoying ‘stack challenges’ and setting up arty shots, and then I have weeks when I just don’t feel like posting at all. I’ll be honest, I find Instagram quite hard work, and I can’t pretend to understand the dreaded ‘algorithm’ at all. For me, it feels less personal, and I don’t post full reviews there. Although I do read them, and enjoy them, so I’m not quite sure what it is that stops me. I think I don’t like having a word limit, and also I find it harder to keep track of my reviews as neatly as I can on here.
After much ruminating, what it boils down to is this: if the ARCs stopped tomorrow, and my blog went 100% offline, would I still keep writing it? For me, the answer is yes. I like writing down my personal response to books, and I love having a record of what I have read (I am a list geek – lists are the best). If I was only reading books I’d bought, as indeed I was doing for many, many years, I’d still be noting down my thoughts on them and making lists and so forth. It’s useful to me as both a reader and a writer. I like to see where I’m falling into the trap of sticking to a couple of genres; where I’m neglecting forms I love, like short stories and literature in translation. It allows me to take stock of my reading and see where I need to diversify. Ultimately, I guess, I’m keeping my blog for the selfish reason that it is still of immense value to me personally.
I will add that, with the new dimension of ARCs and author requests, I know that Twitter shout-outs and Instagram are also important – if I am sent a proof, and I enjoy it, I want to shout about it in the most effective way possible (let’s be honest, that is WHY I’ve been sent it) – but I can do that, too – I can post a nice pic on Instagram, tweet about it, support the author as much as I can. I can do all that as well as writing my reviews and my monthly wrap ups for me. I do want to be a part of creating buzz around books I love – it’s a great feeling – and I know that my blog reviews aren’t actually a huge part of that – but I still want to do them, because I still enjoy it.
Finally (yep, nearly done!) I want to say that there are masses of absolutely fantastic bookish folk who don’t have a blog, and who shout about books in loads of different ways, and I think it is essential that we have all these different mediums for doing so. I’m excited by the enthusiasm of the Book Tok crowd, and the hugely positive effect they have on persuading potential readers to make purchases – but I also know that I really don’t want to join in that particular strand, as even Instagram feels almost too much for me! Find what makes you happy, what’s fun and makes you feel like you’re getting your message and your love of books across, and do that. Change it up when you need to, take a break from the bits that start to feel like work, and remember there are a million different ways to share the book love. I like having my own space to write down my thoughts, and to be honest, the low stats make it fairly unintimidating, so for me, for the foreseeable, I’m keeping my book blog. I’ll do me – you do you, and let’s all keep enjoying all the fab books that come our way.