June 18, 2009

Pondering: Book Blogger Angst

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I don't know if I was always this much of a critical reader. I've been thinking about this lately. I find myself getting more annoyed with certain things in the books I read: plot devices I've seen before, stereotypical characters, cliches. I don't like stilted dialogue or run on sentences either. I'm unsure if this is the result of blogging about my reading or if it is just a result of the volume of reading I do.

I'm sure I was easier to please at one point, but now I wish to find something truly unique. Has it all been done before? Am I reading the wrong books?

I'm also annoyed with myself because it's hard to find a new way to say, "The writing was great" or "I really enjoyed it." It's taking me longer to write reviews and I'm never 100% happy with them.

So what is this? Book blogger angst? If you are a book blogger, do you ever feel the same? What can I do to break out of my reading and writing funk?

28 comments :

  1. I know that sometimes when I get a bit overwhelmed by what I am reading or feel like I am getting in a bit of a rutt, I try to read something completely mindless that I can't possibly analyse to sort of "reset" my brain.

    My mindless reading matter of choice is Thrills & Swoon style romances. Another friend chooses celebrity gossip magazines. I find as long as it is something a little bit different to whatever I have been reading recently, that helps.

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  2. Susan- yes, it seems like I've been reading a lot of 'girl with a problem' books lately. I got to read a Thrills & Swoon book soon.

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  3. I got like that a few years ago, but it was solely related to epic fantasy... but it felt exactly how you describe it. I found taking a break from the genre (and reading something totally and completely different for a couple of years) helped get over that feeling.

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  4. It does sound like you're in a reading funk. Maybe you can try a genre you don't usually read. I agree with you about writing a review - there are only so many ways to express how you felt about a book.

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  5. I personally like the fact that reading more (whether through blogging or not) is making me more critical of what I read. I only have a limited number of years in my life, which means I can only read a limited number of things. I should choose well.

    I hope you do find a book you like that is original: I'm sure they are out there! I don't feel I can suggest because we all have different tastes -- I tend to enjoy lots of the classics and I find them well written and original.

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  6. I definitely do read more critically now than I did before I was blogging. Also, I get frustrated because I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over again in my reviews!

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  7. I've run into this before, and I think it's a combination of volume of reading and increased ability to analyze the material. The more you read, the more you're going to notice repeating themes and devices---after all, there's no such thing as an original idea :)

    I find that writing about the books I read makes me analyze them more deeply, and I usually like that, but it does come with the cost of being pickier and more easily annoyed. Maybe you should take a few days off and read some fluffy magazines or watch some trashy TV.

    I also find it helps to remember what I'm reading and what I can reasonably expect from it, so I don't become overly critical of something that clearly wasn't written for that purpose.

    Hope your slump ends soon!

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  8. I'm like that now. Books have to work really hard to keep my attention. If I'm not interested, I won't bother. I'm a monogamist when it comes to books on top of that. So if I feel like I've just been burned, it takes me a while to get over it before I want to start dating other books.

    I think that comes through in my reviews, too. I've decided I'm tired of being nice. If I don't like a book, I'm going to let you know and let you know why.

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  9. I know exactly what you mean. Years ago I joined a writers' critique group...at the time I was reading some pretty light weight stuff (a lot of genre fiction) and enjoying it. But once I started to critique, and look critically at writing, I began to really dislike what I was reading! In many ways, it made me a more astute reader, and introduced me to some literary fiction which I had not read in the past.

    Since becoming a book blogger in 2007, I think I am even more critical when reading...but, I am also okay with reading stuff which is not "great literature" but what I would describe as "escapism" fiction...I must admit, however, it is hard for me to suffer through a book with head-hopping points of view, or passive writing or sloppy plot or wooden characters....things in the past I might not have noticed or cared about so much.

    My suggestion - try reading something outside your comfort zone or an author who is a little tougher to understand but who can really write...something that will challenge your critical skills even more *laughs*

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  10. I've gone exactly the opposite. I'm less picky now. My interests have greatly expanded. I pick up books on a whim that I previously would have passed by. I'm more forgiving and am usually able to find something I like even in a book I didn't much care for overall. My TBR pile is sure not getting any smaller with this new attitude! :-)

    Lezlie

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  11. I was just having this conversation a couple of weeks ago about being tired of saying the same things about books. I hate jargon, but I think we have developed our own jargon- I really enjoyed, I was immediately pulled in, if you like, etc- I can't really think of a way around it. I wan to say different things, but there are only so many ways I can describe my feelings and be accessible and practical to read. I just try and think of each review as a stand alone thing. I'm probably the only one who has read them all and know how similar the language can be. lol

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  12. Court- I read a variety of things but there is something that isn't clicking.

    Onion- I really feel like reading a bunch of mysteries for awhile.

    Rebecca- I do love the classics and I haven't read a lot of them lately. I think it's time to get back.

    Krishna- And you read a lot!

    Rebecca- That's exactly it! Even when something seems original there is something familiar about it. I'm having a date night over the weekend so maybe getting out will help. I do try to keep in mind what I'm reading but sometimes there are things that are annoying no matter what.

    Nik- I do try to do that (nicely). Sometimes I worry that I'll turn off a reader from something I didn't like just because it was something about the mood I was in.

    Wendy- I once was part of an online group like that. When I come across writing "sins" I find it hard to get past it. Maybe there is such a thing as too much information.

    Lezlie- My interests have definitely expanded but maybe I expect too much from every book.

    Nicole- I'm with you on the jargon. It is hard to say something in a unique way while trying to make sure you are understood. I sometimes think "I said this same thing last week." So many bloggers have a style I envy. They make it seem effortless.

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  13. When writing my reviews I too feel as though I tend to focus on the same elements: characterization, plot, etc. But when I write comments I try to keep in mind that although what I'm saying seems repetitive to me it is likely new to the reader. Whether they know it or not these comments and insights are what they are looking from from the review.

    I also find that I tend to spend more time and space on summarizing the book as compared to critiquing. When I look for new books I give more credence to the summary to determine whether I'll like it or not. I'll still weigh the review comments but know that opinions are so subjective that I may feel/think differently about the book. Ultimately unless the review says "this is the worst schlock I've ever read" if I like the subject of the book I'll be inclined to give it a try.

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  14. I really do understand your funk. Although I never write very complicated or lengthy reviews, since I started blogging and sharing my thoughts about what I've been reading I have started to look at some of the books I read in a more critical way. Lately I have been trying to always keep in mind what the author was trying to do and know that what I thought about a book is just my opinion. A change of genres may help. :)
    Remember, it's the summer of Chris!

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  15. I'm a relatively new blogger; so I can't really make a comment on if blogging makes you more critical of a reader, but I did study literature in college and I can say that definitely changed my perception of books. I think whenever you read a lot and then have to analyze that writing, it changes the way you think about the writing.

    I read a lot of "bad" books before I went to college and I was okay with it and enjoyed them. However, after school, it became really hard to go back because I couldn't look at the books the same way.

    When writing a review, I try to find one aspect of the novel that I enjoyed or an overall theme of the novel, then concentrate on that for my review.

    As for breaking out of the funk, try something that you would never dream of reading because it seemed really uninteresting at the time. You'll either go back to the genre you love or find a new genre that you really enjoy.

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  16. It's happened to me, yes. I think it's a mix of both. Reading more probably makes us harder to please. And blogging means that we think carefully about each of the books we read, which means we're more likely to detect their flaws.

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  17. Sometimes I feel I'm reading the same (annoying) character traits/plots everywhere. I try to read a different decade or genre, or really, just completely ignore what I think I should read and just read whatever appeals to me, then and there.

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  18. I've been having the same thoughts lately. I think I'm more in a reviewing funk than a reading funk - I'm still enjoying my reading, but it's been harder to write reviews. And I'll write my review, and then read someone else's review of the same book and think - I noticed those same things but they were able to write a much better review than I did.

    Sometimes it's hard to think of new ways to describe a book - especially if I'm reading a lot of books in the same genre. I'll just keep plugging away, but I know, too, that I'm more likely to skip a review lately if it's not a book I read for review purposes.

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  19. I'm not a book blogger, but I read a lot. I know I'm a lot more critical than I used to be, and I also will stop reading a book if it just doesn't float my boat or if there are too many cliches or if it's one of those "been there done that" plots.

    When I get tired of the same old, same old, I pick up a biography of Henry VIII and his wives (NOT the fiction) and try to learn something new I haven't seen before.

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  20. It seems like all of us are going through the same thing. The last review that I wrote and loved was in letter format, something different from what I usually do. I think a lot of us are in a blogger funk. This is the best time to try something new that takes us out of our comfort zone. Good luck and remember to tell us what you decide to do.

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  21. I am still reading a fair amount (less than I have in previous years but still pretty decent) but writing reviews has been really, really hard for about the last 18 months. I am thinking it is because I got behind and now it is completely overwhelming but it could also be other factors like I have been blogging for long enough that just doing reviews is getting a bit monotonous or something.

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  22. Interesting post, Chris. I find I have an easier time writing reviews now than I did two years ago, but I don't know that they've improved. :P I agree that I'm more difficult to please than I used to be--perhaps because I'm too critical now or am reading more than I used to. Unfortunately it seems the great books are fewer and far between.

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  23. Well, yes, I do get book blogger angst over the wording of reviews. Sometimes, they take me hours to write because I don't want to sound repetitive or trite, but it is definitely difficult to find different ways to say you enjoyed a book and why.

    I don't know if I'm any more critical than I was pre-blogging. I don't think so, but I was a published writer and already critical of things like cardboard characters and uninspired dialogue. Since I'm kind of into variety, I usually just ditch anything that reeks of "ditto plot" and move on, but I don't see that very often.

    Have you read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane? It's definitely unique.

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  24. Oh, funny, I'm catching up and there's Physick! So . . . how about In the Sanctuary of Outcasts -- a memoir? It's also unique. I just finished that one, this week. Peek at my review, if you have a minute.

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  25. I can only recall a handful of reviews where I have been truly happy with them, so you're not alone in your dislike of your own reviews.

    I have noticed that I've gotten a little meaner in my second year of book blogging than I was in my first. I given more books lower ratings, and I'm also becoming more nit-picky. I didn't used to get backed up reviews before, but now I am because I don't know what to say. I'm hoping it's just a funk that all of us go through.

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  26. I could've written this post. I feel the same way. Reading good books ruins you for the mediocre ones!

    I'm having a hard time writing reviews lately too. It's usually the 'just ok' and 'pretty good' book reviews that I struggle with the most.

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  27. I definitely go through periods when I feel like that. Reading funks suck. That's when I'm really able to get through my TBR pile, though. :) I think it has to do with my personal patience level than anything else.

    As for reviews, there are a lot that I think I could have done better with. I try to mix it up--irreverent, serious, comparing two books, etc. I think if you're really thinking about the book it shows in your review.

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  28. I know what you mean. I'm sort of in a review slump as well. I'm glad it's not a reading one, though.

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