It’s summertime, which honestly means nothing for me other than warmer temperatures, mosquitoes, and a nagging feeling that I should be taking a vacation. I am lucky to work for an organization with an ample vacation policy, but in my absence, work just piles up, and I return to the office more stressed out than I was when I left it.*
So, it’s business as usual in my office, in my household, and even on my blog. It’s the same routine just about 365 days of the year, give or take a federal holiday or two. Even though I won’t take much vacation time, I probably should take a break long enough to clean my office and tidy up my blog. The last time I did any “housekeeping” on here was back in May (my actual house is in better shape, thanks to my husband!).
My little piece of the Internet turned one-year-old back in June, which I commemorated with nothing more than a footnote at the time. It’s a relatively big milestone in a virtual world where blogs are abandoned every day, and it’s a good opportunity to re-evaluate why I blog and to assess what my book blog has become over the last year.
Part of this introspection stems from Richard Levesque’s thoughtful post on reviews after his books have been available on Amazon for more than a year-and-a-half. I read one of his novels, Take Back Tomorrow, and liked it, and I own Strictly Analog, but I haven’t read it yet. In his post, he talks about the lessons writers may learn from negative reviews, advises authors to view positive reviews with a grain of salt, and finally, he asks a question:
So…I wonder about other writers: do you take it personally when your work gets a thumbs-down? And as a reader, what sorts of things prompt you to write and post a review?
It’s good to stop and think about what prompts me to write about a book. I review only a small fraction of the books I read, and even then, my posts are usually broader than a typical review. Not only do I try to say something about the writing and structure of the book, and whether I liked it, but I also try to discuss a legal or social issue that arose either in the book or in how that book made it to the marketplace. I’m inclined to write about books that make me think about a larger issue, whether I enjoyed the book or not. If what I write publicizes a book, then that’s great. If it also informs people about legal or social issues and results in an exchange of ideas with visitors to my blog in the comments, then that’s even better.
I do write negative reviews, though I tend to post fewer wholly negative reviews now than I did in the past. When it turns out that I’m just not the appropriate audience for a book, I usually skip writing about it unless I have another reason to discuss it. I have found that my ire is directly proportional to the cost of the book, both “cost” in terms of my money and “cost” in terms of my time. So, I’m more likely to post a negative review about an expensive, long book than an inexpensive, shorter book that was just as bad. I’m a consumer, and I don’t like to feel cheated.
Despite my consumer perspective, I’ve largely stopped posting condensed versions of my reviews on Amazon, at least for now. I just don’t have the time to fit it in with everything else I want or have to do. Plus, even though I buy most of my books through Amazon, I find the majority of books I read through book blogs, and I rarely factor Amazon reviews into my purchasing decisions. Everyone from the author’s mother to the author herself is posting reviews there, and sometimes it feels like I’m just adding my two cents to a ponzi scheme. It doesn’t help that the star rating is meaningless. I can’t boil down my feelings about a book into a certain number of stars. I might give three stars to two books without them being at all comparable, just because four seemed like too much, and who knows how someone else’s three star rating compares to mine. Finally, I appreciate that Amazon is one of the places where a review helps authors the most, but, as I said above, my primary purpose in talking about books isn’t to market them.
I do, however, always link to the Amazon page for a book (or some other way to purchase it) in my posts, and I’m pleased to see the number of times visitors to my blog have clicked on them (which, for the record, are unaffiliated links). I don’t know if anyone has ever purchased a book because I blogged about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happened more than once.
So, over the past fourteen months, I think I’ve managed to stay true to my original blueprint of looking at legal and societal issues through literature. What prompts me to write about a book is the same now as it was when I first started doing this: the book raised an interesting point, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and got me thinking, whether I enjoyed the book or not.
Blogging about books is fun, and as I said in September of last year, it “does more than satisfy my narcissism”:
Blogging hones my research and writing skills and keeps my brain limber. This blog is a place for me to chronicle my thoughts, sort of like a public diary, and I’m looking forward to revisiting what I’ve written on literary themes, the law, and parenting to see how my thoughts have evolved with time and exposure to new ideas. If any of these thoughts are worthy of comment from someone passing through the blogosphere, then that’s a nice bonus, but it isn’t necessary for me to think this blog is worth it: I could blather into the WordPress void forever!
Thankfully, I’ve learned that it isn’t actually a void. I am grateful to the people who stop by from time to time to share their experiences, build upon my arguments, or push back on them. Sometimes, I suspect, they even buy a book.
Overall, it’s worth it to blog about books, which may include some of the ones I’ll read when I finally do go down the shore. It’s only for a weekend, barely a vacation, but it’s something.
*My parents took the kids on vacation this summer, and they are the ones who took this picture of my twins.