Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Some Thoughts on the World of Book Blogging (and Making the Headlines of TIME Magazine)

I ran across this headline on the front page of TIME Magazine’s website today: “A Feat of Fiction: Blogger Reading All of TIME’s 100 Best Novels” and my reaction was something along the lines of “Okay… and? What part of this is the news story? Why am I finding this on the front page of TIME, alongside headlines like “Peru’s Presidential Vote,” “Eight Dead in Libya,” and “The 111 Greatest Songs in Jazz History?”

There are hundreds of book bloggers – probably thousands – who are currently attempting fairly ambitious reading challenges. Just check out GoodReads – there are plenty of readers who have pledged themselves to try to read fifty, seventy, even ninety or more books just within 2011. Bryan Wright has committed to one hundred novels, but is hoping to be done with those in four years. Not that I’m knocking my fellow book blogger, who has taken on a list that includes some admittedly daunting titles – and he’s already made it through Infinite Jest, something I haven’t even attempted as of yet. Bryan definitely has my admiration and my encouragement – I just didn’t understand at first why he was newsworthy, since there are others attempting similar or comparably challenging reading goals.

But as I thought about it a bit more, I realized how the book blogging world is something of a well-kept secret. I am an aspiring literary guru, I have a Master’s in Literature and had planned for many years to teach Literature courses at a Prestigious University. Yet I had no clue that the book blogging world existed prior to January. It was a Eureka! kind of discovery when I happened upon the network of book bloggers that I now frequently turn to for reading recommendations and literary discussions. I realized that for other avid readers out there that are less tech-savvy/familiar, this article in TIME could be the gateway to a whole new world.

I also realized that for those less familiar with the blogosphere that aren’t such avid readers, book bloggers like Bryan and myself would be a curiosity – news on par with the story “Four Star Sperm Bank and Other Reviews on Yelp!” (which was the TIME Techland article posted on the main page today).

I hope that a few more readers find their way into our book blogging community from this TIME article, though, and a few more people are inspired to read something at least a little bit outside of their comfort zone. I don’t necessarily think that everyone should commit to reading TIME’s 100 Greatest Book list – for one thing, not everyone cares about reading the books that other people say you’re supposed to have read. But I admire Bryan for plowing through even the books that he didn’t enjoy, since enjoyment doesn’t seem to be his only motivation for accepting this daunting task. I think reading should be pleasurable, but I think it should also help you to learn more about the world, at least on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with vampire novels and series fiction – my regular readers know that I admit to enjoying both Twilight and Nancy Drew. But I also adore Salmon Rushdie and Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Dostoevsky. And because of my involvement with book blogging, I’m learning about other great novelists that I want to pick up at some point (soon, hopefully, but I’ve already got a towering TBR pile).

My point is this: we’ve got a good thing going here with book blogging, something that might even interest the rest of the world. It’s not really Bryan Wright who is the headline – it’s all of us. The world of book bloggers. We’re the news, the well-kept secret. Once that dawned on me, I just wanted to thank everyone for letting me be a part of such a neat community.

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