Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My First Six Months as a Book Blogger

I will always recall the question my wife asked me when I did my first blog post six months ago.  It was "who will read these posts you are writing?"     The only answer I had was "I do not know".    I wanted to have a record of the books I read so I could look back on it in the years to come and writing  on a book helps to clarify my thoughts on it so I started my blog anyway and now it is of great importance to me.

I want to say to all those who have read my posts Thank You

When I began my blog I stated my blog would be about the literary treatment of the reading life.   I had a list of about fifty books centering on this topic and I fully intended to read and blog  on them all.    The first book I posted was The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.   The second was  The Elegance of  the Hedgehog 
Muriel Barberry.   Then I got sidetracked.   As I got more into blogging I began to find out what a wonderful international community of book bloggers existed.    I started to hear about "Reading Challenges".   About the same time I got some comments from very experienced book bloggers saying in time my blog would begin to take on sort of a life of its own.    I came across the Japanese Literature 3 Challenge.

I had never read a Japanese novel before so I said why not and I signed up.   You only had to read one to complete the challenge.    So far in five months I have posted on 40 Japanese Literary works, everything from 10th century Dons to 21th century crime novels.   At first I admit I was worried that I would lose readers from this.   About that time I began to follow my blog with Google webmaster tools.     I began to see people from all over the world doing Google searches on Japanese writers and coming to my blog to read my posts on Japanese literature.   As I read Japanese novels each one I read helped me understand the next one a bit more.     Japanese Literature will be an important part of my blog and my reading life from now on.    

I have been pretty much a compulsive reader for well over fifty years.   I did not begin, with a few exceptions, to read much modern (meaning to me post WWII) fiction until three or four years ago.   When I would go into a book store and look at the new books all of them would have blubs quoting some newspaper saying it was the greatest work ever written.    I stuck to the classics, history, biography, philosophy.   My special interest was (and remains) 18th century history and culture, world wide now where I once focused on England.     Through book bloggers  whose judgments I have come to greatly respect I learned about a number of great new to me authors:   Marcus Zusak, Penelope Fitzgerald, A S Byatt, Anita Brookner, Kristy Gunn, Margaret Atwood and others.   The best of these writers is as beautiful a prose as I have ever read.   I also am sure there are many more as yet to be discovered by me writers whose works I will love.   Just a few days ago I read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and was stunned by the great beauty found in it. (If anyone knows of any more beautiful prose than can be found in this book please let me know)

One of the things I now want to do on my blog is to promote in a small way quality books by Filipino authors. I have posted reviews on three  Filipino Young Adult books set in WWII so far.   (None of these books are for sale outside The Philippines unless you can find a used one on    One day as I was checking my account in Google Webmaster I noticed something very odd to me was starting to happen.   There as a sudden very big jump up in readers from the Philippines and all of them were reading my post on Barefoot in the Fire:   A WWII Manila Childhood. 

Of course I was happy but I was confused as to why all the hits on this one page.  I found out that the book was required reading in Freshman English at the University of The Philippines and when the students did a Google search on the book they found only my review.   Some how I laughed to myself to imagine a number of students turning in my post as their report on the book!   

My blog will always be, in theory, focused on the literary treatment of the reading life.   I will continue to read more books by the modern writers I have discovered and the new to me ones I will find with the help of my fellow book bloggers.   I will probably never review the very newest works to come out (publishers will not send ARC books to Asia in most cases and I have a self imposed rule of not buying new hardbound fiction).   

Many book bloggers and reviewers like to focus on the background of  the writers they read.   I have even seen posts (maybe meant half facetiously) saying that in 2010 they will read no books by white American men.    It is true that every time we read one book we are rejecting 1000s of others.    The reading life is about freedom, the freedom to read what we want.   There are readers of my blog who do live in places where there is not full freedom to read whatever you want.   

I noticed in their year end reports a lot of bloggers do a break down of the background of the authors they have read.   Here is mine!

Males 34  
Females 26

American 7
Australian 4
Canada 3 (all Margaret Atwood
England 4
French 3
Chinese 5
Japanese 40
Philippines 3

I would have a higher percent of female authors if it were not for the fact that in Japanese literature prior to the 21th century  there are few know  female novelists.   Most of the new to me authors that I have found and now plan to read  more of are female.   

The book blogging community is great.   So far I have had visitors from 95 countries.   I think there are thousands of book blogs, not hundreds.   The vast majority of book bloggers are females.   I have wondered a bit why this is so but I do not have any theories I feel secure on about this.   A lot of book bloggers are educators.   This has its effect on the community, mostly good but it can be limiting.   

Before I became a blogger I always read in isolation (I almost said "In Splendid Isolation").    My love of  reading did not connect me with other people but kept me apart from them also.   I am tending to read more and more books by Females and also by Asians.   I should note that most Asian Authors (for sure your post 1920 Japanese writers) are very Euro-centric.   I am  tending more and more to read more for the beauty of a book than the social themes one could find in them though I understand and accept that the dominant theme among book bloggers is to see book posts as occasions for social commentary and have done some myself and will do more.   

I feel I am very lucky in the quality of readers on my blog.   I still  am gratified when someone leaves a comment.    Many book blogs are themselves works of art.    Some book blogs are like a free education at Oxford.   Some are like talking about a book with an old friend who knows all the bad things about you and does not care.     Some book blogs are better written than the books they blog about.    Ok and some are  about teenage vampire romances-I try to relate but it is a real reach for me LOL.   Some book bloggers tell their readers lots of details about themselves and their lives.  Some do not even give their first name.   

As always, I welcome all comments, suggestions as to books to read and will even try to deal in a mature fashion with a few brickbats.

Thanks again to all who visit my blog

Mel u



Michelle (su[shu]) said...

Looks like you've had a very good first six months of book blogging. I joined the community at pretty much the same time as you did, so I'm really glad I found you.

As you've said, your interests lie mostly in 18th century history and culture, which I have to say, I have absolutely no idea of. So our reading tastes are different. But no matter, because I still find your posts interesting. =)

Here's to more quality reading!

yorkke said...

Hi there. I just found your blog but intend to follow it.

I've just entered the world of book blogging but I too have found most to be female. I think it's fair to say this is an accurate reflection of who actually reads.

mee said...

My most searched posts are probably Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I imagine a bunch of students looking for materials to put in their reports lol. Hope you have a blast for the next 6 months, and more!

fantaghiro23 said...

The story about students using your review for their class is hilarious. Then again, it's probably a common thing for a lot of students. I wonder if they cited you as a source?

Anyway, I always had this impression that you were female. My apologies. But I am actually glad to find another male blogger. Happy six month anniversary! Here's to another great six months.:)

JoAnn said...

You've accomplished so much in just 6 months - I am in awe!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

You've accomplished a lot in 6 months. Congratulations and hoping you enjoy much more blogging fun in the months to come.

Aarti said...

Great post, Mel! I don't really set goals for types of authors I'd like to read. It's not that I don't think it's important to read diversely, but I like to do diversity in reading genres and the like, more than in author background. But who knows- maybe I'm approaching it in a limited way.

M. C. M said...

your very welcome, your posts are always informative and helpful------ and interesting!

Suko said...

Mel, your blog is outstanding and I always enjoy your reviews and reading suggestions. Like you, I get a lot of student traffic, which I find gratifying. In fact, I appreciate ALL of my traffic--and comments!

Eva said...

I get lots of hits on certain posts that I'm sure are from students too! :) I read 50% non-white authors for fiction now and 25% nonfiction...I love how this has changed my reading. But I wouldn't want to eliminate any group entirely, and I also adore classics. I thin kit's all about balance!

That's fun that you've turned the Japanese Lit III Challenge into such a project. :)

Mel u said...

Michelle=thanks-I follow your blog and have found we have liked a number of the same books-Winterson for example

Yorklee-I tried to do a google search on the reading habits of men versus women but no clear results


Fantaghiro23-thanks also

Joann-your blog is one of my sources of inspiration

Diane-thanks-hope your challenge is going well

Aarti-I am seeking to read more Asian Classics this year

M C-thank you

Suko-I am also grateful for any and all visitors-and comments-

Eva-I also love the classics-thanks for visting as always

joemmama said...

Great job!! Love reading you.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your first six months! Book blogging does open up a whole new and very cool world.

Mark David said...

Congratulations Mel!

What I admire about you is that you're a doer. You accomplish what you set out to do. You join a lot of challenges and pick up more books in six months than what I can read in a year, but you finish all of them. It's nice that you're much disciplined blogger and have your priorities set straight. Keep up the great work! :)

Booksnyc said...

Congratulations! I like that you set goals for your blog and met them. I am a new blogger and I like to read about how people developed their followings for their blog.

Congrats again!

Anonymous said...

"My love of reading did not connect me with other people but kept me apart from them also."

I can relate to this. Thank goodness for social networking site for the bookish and book blogs that I now share my passion with so many other readers.

There was a time, four years ago, that I almost gave up reading because I was so busy with work. Then I met this great book club people, who pushed new titles on my and my reading life was reignited.

Anyway, Coffeespoons has mentioned your blog several times. I only now found my way to Rereading Lives. My sense of direction is not very sharp even online, lol.

I look forward to going back to this site and reading your posts. Most of the books you read, I think, are not books I normally read but I think it would pay to be enlightened about them.