Five Fabulous Years

Brut Rose Champagne CupcakesFive years ago, I took a tentative step into the book blogosphere, and wrote my first “under construction” post. Three months later, Teresa joined me as my co-blogger, and the real Shelf Love was born. Since then, we’ve enjoyed a wonderfully rewarding five years of sharing our reading lives with you. We’ve done challenges, readathons, and double-dog dares; we’ve done Sunday Salons and interviews; we’ve attended conferences and unconferences; we’ve appreciated book bloggers and libraries and favorite authors. We’ve expressed our gratitude to our readers, those who have been with us for all five years and those who are just stopping by for the first time today. But most of all, we’ve written about the ups, downs, and in-betweens of what we’ve read. This blog has enriched our lives in ways we couldn’t have anticipated five years ago, and we hope to go on writing it for many more years!

book stackFor the blogiversary, we thought we’d have a little fun and do two things to open the conversation. First is a Q&A session. Ask anything you like, and as long as it isn’t really impertinent, we’ll answer! Fire away — it doesn’t even have to be about the blog! Second is your chance to recommend a book you adore. Teresa and I will look over the recommendations and choose one of them to read together and review. We love so many of your blogs, we are really looking forward to this portion of the program.

Thanks again to everyone for a fabulous five years!

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56 Responses to Five Fabulous Years

  1. Tony says:

    Congratulations on five years’ blogging (I know that it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds…)

  2. Lisa says:

    A very happy anniversary, and thank you for such a wonderful, inspiring blog! I’ll have to think about a book to recommend.

  3. Happy blogiversary – I always enjoy your posts and you have both done irreparable damage to my TBR pile! I see that you’ve never reviewed any Margery Sharp on your blog (correct me if I’m wrong, please! And maybe you’ve read some but not reviewed it), so that is my author suggestion (I have loved both Cluny Brown and The Eye of Love).
    Oh, and re Q&A, who is your (as in, ‘both you’!) absolute all-time favourite fictional detective?

    • Jenny says:

      I must say that you have done equal damage to my TBR pile. I’ve never even heard of Margery Sharp. On the suggestion pile it goes!

      Teresa will answer this, too, of course. Hmmm. Hmmm hmmm hmmm. I am torn. I love Mary Russell so very dearly, but I think if I can only choose one, I am going to have to return to the arms of my first love, Lord Peter Wimsey, who is the model for every fictional hero I’ve adored since. What about you, Vicki?

      • Teresa says:

        It will probably come as no great surprise that I was torn between Lord Peter and Mary Russell as well. I’ll give another nod to Albert Campion, since I’m in the midst of reading Margery Allingham’s books.

      • I’m a bit of a tart here – I adore Miss Marple and Miss Silver in equal measure, am a huge Mary Russell fan, *and* still think with great and childish pleasure about Nancy Drew. That’s the ladies! Blokes? Childhood – it has to be Jupiter Jones from The Three Investigators. Then… Definitely Lord Peter! Now? I think Lord Peter might still have a grip (and his lesser reflections, Inspector Grant and Roderick Alleyn). If I’m feeling noirish – Bernie Gunther?

  4. CJ says:

    Congratulations on five years! Like vicki’s, my to-read list has grown dramatically since I began reading Shelf Love.

    My question is about the posts in which you both read the same book and then collaborate on a single review. How does that work logistically? Do you each write your separate reviews and then one of you combines them, or do you discuss the book and then use a partial transcript of that discussion for the post?

    As far as recommendations go, I really enjoyed There but for the by Ali Smith. It’s a book that’s stuck with me.

    • Jenny says:

      For our “book club” posts, one of us starts the post with a very short summary of the book, and then we trade it back and forth, adding our comments conversation-style and saving the post. We email each other when we’ve finished, so the other person knows that she’s free to add the next comment, and we tell the other person when she can wrap up because we don’t have anything more of substance to add. It works well for us, and we love reading the same book from time to time. It’s one of the most fun kind of posts we do.

      I’ve had Ali Smith on my TBR forever. That’s a great suggestion!

  5. Happy Anniversary! Question- What would you suggest to someone just starting their blog? Any good advice? Second- have you read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova?

    • Teresa says:

      The best advice I could give is to blog in a way that pleases you. Although it’s helpful to post regularly as you’re getting started, to get in the habit, don’t make yourself write a post just for the sake of writing one. That’s the path to burnout. And if you’re looking to find readers, nothing works so well as to comment regularly on blogs you enjoy.

      I have read The Historian, and I liked parts of it a lot, but the ending was a disappointment. At about 2/3 the length, I think I would have loved it.

      • Jenny says:

        I would agree that writing what you enjoy is the best way to establish a good blog. Your own enthusiasm spills over and makes people want to read what you write.

        I, too, was disappointed in The Historian, and I don’t think it was so much the length as just the anticlimax. A lot of buildup for a very lame conclusion, was my opinion. The setup was pretty atmospheric, though!

  6. Happy Blogiversary! No questions, no recs, just good wishes! :–)

  7. litlove says:

    Congratulations! It’s funny how many of us began about now – I know my blogiversary happened last week sometime (can never remember when) and Simon of Stuck in a Book has posted his birthday notice too. Obviously the spring is a good time for blogs to flourish! I’ll give you a recommendation if you like – Drusilla Modjeska’s The Orchard. You may or may not like it, but it’s a very interesting book.

    • Jenny says:

      I don’t know what I’d do without your blog, Litlove. Every time I go read, I come away with stacks of new recommendations and ways of thinking about what I’m reading. (Sometime I need to have a conversation with you about pornography/ erotica.) I’m so delighted you’re still writing about what you read — you’re a model for Shelf Love, as far as I’m concerned. And thank you for the recommendation!

  8. sakura says:

    Congratulations on five years! And looking forward to many more wonderful years.

    When reading so many books, it’s inevitable to come across a few that divides opinions. Are there any memorable titles which you disagreed on? And what do you do when that happens? Do you try and convince one another to give it another go?

    I heartily recommend Under the Skin by Michel Faber which has been one of my favourite books this year. It’s astonishing.

    • Jenny says:

      Do you know, Teresa and I have been talking about books and trading book recommendations (and therefore mutually shaping each other’s taste, which was already delightfully similar) for so long — more than 20 years now! — that I honestly can’t remember any book we’ve ever really disagreed on. We read a lot of books that don’t overlap, as you can see. I can think of books that I love that are not totally in Teresa’s wheelhouse, but that she would probably like if she read them (mostly children’s books), and Teresa reads a lot of theological stuff that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me right off the bat but that I would probably enjoy and find interesting once I picked it up. But our taste is so eerily similar that I honestly can’t think of anything that has seriously divided us. Can you, Teresa?

      Thanks for the recommendation, too!

      • Teresa says:

        I think where we have differences of opinion, it’s usually in the degree of enthusiasm for a particular book. I might love something that Jenny merely likes and vice versa. The biggest division I can recall is that Jenny gave up on Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is one of my favorites. But I didn’t know about that until years later (perhaps it even happened before we met?), and she’s since become a Hardy convert.

        I think, too, that knowing Jenny loves something makes me more generous when I read books she’s recommended. I go in expecting to like it, which means I’m more alert to what’s good about it, which I might not otherwise have been.

  9. Stefanie says:

    Happy blogiversary! Thanks for all the wonderful posts through the years. I hope there are many more yet to come.

    Question: What book could you read and reread over and over again and never get tired of it?

    Recommendation: Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, what a difficult question! My immediate answer is Gaudy Night; I’ve read that book perhaps more often than any other in my adult life. Another choice would be any of the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright. I’ve read them maybe as many as fifty or sixty times. Little Women? That’s another good choice for me. What about you, Teresa? And what about you, Stefanie?

      Great recommendation, thanks!

      • Teresa says:

        I think These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the book I’ve read most often. During a particularly difficult period in my life, I just kept it by my bed and dipped into the parts I wanted to relive. Very much a comfort read.

        Other than that, I’d say The Lord of the Rings or Jane Eyre, both of which I’ve read many times and love a little more every time.

  10. Wow, congratulations! Enjoy that cupcake.

    • Jenny says:

      I will. And there are more on the table, over by the champagne; help yourself.

      And thank you for your blog, which is a model for me.

  11. jenn aka the picky girl says:

    Congratulations! Such an amazing feat.

    I would love for you guys to read the Passing Bells trilogy by Philip Rock. I’m a bit obsessed with it right now, having read all three books in one weekend, and for some reason, they call to mind your reviews of Parade’s End, which I still need to read…

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks, Jenn! I’ve never heard of that trilogy, so that’s a great recommendation. We’ll take a look! (And yes, you do need to read Parade’s End. Everyone does.)

  12. Lizzy Siddal says:


    I thought I’d pose an easy question. :) What’s the best book that you’ve reviewed on the site?

    I have a Scottish recommendation for you: Clara – Janice Galloway

    • Jenny says:

      An EASY question? I have reviewed so many wonderful books here in so many categories, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I could give you a top ten… Pale Fire, Little, Big, Bleak House, If on a winter’s night a traveler, The Story of the Stone, Gilgamesh, Don Quixote, The Animal Family, Metamorphoses, Parade’s End. And that just scratches the surface. What about you, Teresa?

      Great recommendation! Thank you!

      • Teresa says:

        Not an easy question at all! I already mentioned Lord of the Rings in my answer to Stefanie, so I can let that sentimental favorite go. With that out of the way, I think I’d have to say Jude the Obscure.

  13. boardinginmyforties says:

    Congratulations to both of you! If you have not already done so, I would love to have you read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

  14. Scott W. says:

    Congratulations – I’m late to your blog but have enjoyed it immensely. Guess I should go back to see what I missed in the early years!

    Q: Are you going to eat that?

    Recommendation: So many, but I’ll pick a fun one that I’d like to see get more attention: I am Thinking of My Darling, by Vincent McHugh.

    • Teresa says:

      As long as it doesn’t have mushrooms, green peppers, or olives in it, then yes. ;)

      And thanks for the suggestion!

    • Jenny says:

      If you mean the cupcake, then yes, but there are more over on the table by the champagne. Help yourself!

      It’s been wonderful to see you stopping by, Scott. Your blogging has been a model for mine. And thanks for the recommendation.

  15. Jeanne says:

    As LitLove says, there are a number of us who have been blogging for about five years!
    Have you told the story of how the two of you met, and what impelled you to take up blogging together? If you have, can you point us to the post(s) about it?
    I would love to see you read Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World.

    • Teresa says:

      I’m not sure that we have shared the story here, so I’ll share it now. We met in college. I was good friends with Jenny’s freshman roommate but didn’t know Jenny quite so well, and the three of us and another friend decided to get an apartment together sophomore year. Jenny and I quickly became close friends after that, largely because we discovered one another’s bookishness!

      Jenny could weigh in on precisely why she started the blog, since I don’t know all that. Once she alerted me to its existence, I thought it looked like a fun way to keep a record of my reading and was thinking of doing something similar when she invited me to join her. And five years later, we’re still at it!

    • Jenny says:

      I started keeping written records of what I was reading (longhand, in a notebook) in 1999. Almost a decade later, it occurred to me that these blog things might be a good way to keep these sorts of records, and also find a way to talk about books with people who were interested — despite the fact that I’m in academia, there are so few people who want to talk about books as much as I do. (By which I mean constantly and obsessively.)

      Just a couple of months later, I thought of the one person who has always wanted to talk about books as much as I do, whether she’s read the same book I’m reading or not. So I asked her if she’d like to come on board. Thankfully, she agreed! It’s been such a great way to stay in close touch, along with all the book-related benefits.

      And thanks for the reminder about Nick Harkaway. I have seen you recommend his book before, but somehow I haven’t put it on my TBR. Great recommendation.

  16. Jenny says:

    Congratulations on five years of blogging! Can I make a recommendation of a book I haven’t read yet? Is that a thing that can happen? I would love to hear what y’all think of William Boyd’s Any Human Heart. I constantly hear raves about it, and it’s not the kind of book I would immediately gravitate towards based on the synopsis, so I’m curiousish.

    • Teresa says:

      You can absolutely recommend a book you haven’t read, although there’s no guarantee we’ll read it :) I am curious about that one, too, though, so maybe!

      BTW, I’m almost done with Hawkeye: MLAAW, and I had to download the new issues because it’s too fun.

  17. michelle says:

    Congrats on the first five years! Wishing the both of you many more happy years of blogging (& reading) to come. :) Btw, love the picture in your blog header. My recommendation would be Fannie Flagg’s ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe’, that is if you have yet to encounter this little gem.

  18. Bryan G. says:

    Congratulations to you both. I don’t comment here as much as I like, although I do follow both of your posts and enjoy many of them. Just wanted to say hello.

    No questions, but a recommendation: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

  19. Congratulations on five years! Here’s to (more than) five years more!

    My question for you is neither bookish nor impertinent: favorite kinds of cake?

  20. Dianne says:

    Congratulations! Five years is a real accomplishment. I’ve been enjoying reading through your TBR’s finding dozens of titles of which I’ve never heard. A very happy discovery for me…and maybe a little bit dangerous, but I’m focusing on the “happy”. My question for you is this: at any time in your five years did the blog ever start to feel like a chore rather than a blessing and if so, what got you past that point and encouraged you to keep going? My recommendation is “84, Charring Cross Road” by Helene Hanff. It’s a treasure.

    • Teresa says:

      The only time blogging has felt like a chore for me is when I start committing to too many things beyond the core activity of reading books and writing about them, so I’ve just cut back on those sorts of commitments entirely. A couple of times, I’ve let review copies pile up, but I’m so choosy now about what I accept and make no promises about reviewing, that it isn’t much of an issue.

      And Hanff’s book is a terrific recommendation. So many bloggers whose taste I respect love that book, but I’ve not managed to get around to it. One of these days!

  21. Simon T says:

    Happiest of birthdays! Frankly, I can’t believe it’s only been five years – what was the blogosphere like before you gals came along??

    Hmm, the question… describe the best cup of tea you’ve ever had!

    And the book – I don’t think (?) you’ve read my favourite, Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker, so I pick that.

    • Teresa says:

      Ooh, that’s a difficult one. I don’t think I ever had a really good cup of hot tea until I was into my adult years, perhaps in college, but to single out one… that’s a challenge. An especially memorable one was the really nice keemun tea I had for afternoon tea at a DC hotel on my birthday last year. And I remember popping into a London hotel just to get out of the rain a few years ago. They offered afternoon tea at their bar but weren’t known for it (at least I hadn’t seen them recommended in my research). I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, given the price and the emptiness of the place.

      I’ve not read Miss Hargreaves, and I don’t think Jenny has either, so that’s a good option!

  22. Rebecca H. says:

    Congrats to both of you! I’m so happy you both are blogging.

  23. Dee Martinez says:

    Happy 5th year in the blogging community!

    Question: If you knew that there was only 7 days before the world ends, what book would you choose to read and be holding last and why.

    I am not sure if you have reviewed Twain’s The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg. I would like to read your thoughts on this book that I have recently stumbled upon. :)

    • Teresa says:

      That’s a tough one. The pious side of me wants to say the Bible, but I guess I’d be learning all I need to know about that in 7 days anyway, so … I think I’d go for Gilead by Marilynne Robinson because it celebrates all that’s beautiful and sad in the world that would be passing away.

      I’ve hardly read any Mark Twain, and I’ve been thinking I should, so that’s a good option. Thank you!

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