Today’s topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is “What does book blogging mean to you?” Jenny and I have been blogging together for more than four years now, and it has enriched our lives in more ways than we ever could have imagined. Today, we’d like to share just a few of those ways with you.
Teresa: I’ve always been something of an odd duck. I’m awkward in social situations, and I loathe small talk. I’m interested in odd things, and I like to talk about those things, but I have trouble finding people who want to listen, much less to engage in actual conversation. If I get started about how funny Anthony Trollope is or what Dorothy Dunnett taught me about Belgian trading in the 15th century, people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Even talking about popular books doesn’t always go so well, because I want to get beyond whether I liked it to discuss what precisely did and didn’t work and how the book made me feel and what it made me think about.
Jenny is one of the rare people I know who loves to talk about books (and our other mutual interests) as much as I do and in the same way that I want to. So when she invited me to join her here at Shelf Love, I figured it would be a good way to carry on our conversation from opposite ends of the U.S. I had no idea that we’d end up with so many others joining in.
For me, book blogging means finding my tribe, being one with my people. My sometimes eccentric tastes and need to keep chewing over what I read are commonplace in the book blogging world. In this community, I feel normal, I feel welcomed, and I feel embraced.
Another thing I love about book blogging is that it’s open to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. To be a book blogger, you don’t need a literature degree, you don’t need to provide a list of qualifications, and you don’t have to be part of the New York literary scene. All you need is an opinion and a willingness to write it down. Maybe not everyone will like what you write, but with time, perseverance, and a little good luck, you’ll probably find at least a few people who are interested. I love that in the book blogging world you can find academics taking reading suggestions from high school students and accountants sharing literary insights with attorneys. That kind of level playing field is all too rare.
Many people say that online relationships are less “real” than face-to-face ones, but blogging has convinced me that it just isn’t so. (Indeed, those of us who love to read letter collections have known all along that close relationships can be forged from a distance.) I’ve been so fortunate in the last few years to meet many bloggers in person, and they were exactly as I imagined they’d be from their blogs. They may not have looked the way I expected, but the personalities that shine through in their writing shone through face-to-face. And maybe I’m naive, but I believe that if I were in trouble anywhere in the world and in reach of a blogging friend that friend would do whatever he or she could to help. And I know I would do the same for them.
Jenny: Like Teresa, I’ve found book blogging to be immensely enriching. I majored in French and went on to graduate school in French, so I am sorely deficient in other literary traditions. For years I soldiered on by myself (or with Teresa!), wishing I had a class, or at least someone to discuss my books with. When I started Shelf Love, I meant it essentially as a place I could keep track of my TBR list, and then as a place I could chat with Teresa about books. Finding that there are dozens of others who can join the conversation, encourage me, and help me understand what I read in new ways has been one of the great joys of the past four years.
Blogging has opened my eyes. I’ve learned more about writing and about reading than I ever expected to. I’ve seen blogs I want to aspire to: beautifully-written, or full of thoughtful critiques, or balanced with personal introspection that relates to the literature at hand, or funny, or great about poetry, or all of the above. I’ve worked hard on my own writing, and my own reading, trying to be a better blogger within the parameters of what that means to me, always aware that there are so many models for good blogging.
And there are so many. Just as we suggest that we form relationships with the books and authors we love, we also form relationships with the bloggers we love and admire. I get to know your tastes, your ideas, your pride and prejudice, your sense and sensibility. (Your persuasion? Your Emma? Wait.) And you get to know mine. Through our shared love and analysis of books, at its best, we reveal something about our real selves. It is writing and reading as real communication. And I don’t think we can ask more of blogging, can we?