I made my first blog post exactly four years ago today. Here are a few paragraphs from that first post that explained my motivation and outlined my intentions:
I started a book journal in January of this year. I was inspired by the "Best Books of 2004" lists that several people posted on listservs to which I subscribe. I would have liked to have been able to contribute my own best reads of 2004 but I could barely remember what I'd read the week before, let alone a whole year's worth of books. I resolved not to find myself in the same position at the end of 2005. I also thought that keeping a book journal might compel me to slow down, to linger a bit over each book rather than blazing through at lightning speed. It doesn't seem fair to the authors who have sweated over each sentence not to pause now and again to appreciate the craft of their work.
Alas, my book journal didn't slow me down or render me a more contemplative reader. It's just a list of titles, authors and dates with the odd asterisk or three-word commentary to indicate which books I particularly liked and why. To begin with, this format may even have had me reading faster just to get the sense of accomplishment that came from adding another book to the list. It also had the unforeseen effect of making me feel like I had to finish every book I started, a mindset from which I thought I'd liberated myself long ago. Apparently I can still be motivated by a few more construction paper discs to add to my bookworm.
Hence this book blog. I intend for it to be both narrower and deeper than my book journal. I won't list every book I read here but I'll ruminate a bit on the ones that make me think. I'll write about good books and not-so-good books (for me, what doesn't work in an unsuccessful book can be as thought-provoking as what does work in a successful one), about books I couldn’t put down, and books I couldn't bring myself to finish. I will also occasionally post excerpts from old diaries about books that I found particularly intriguing or inspiring at other points in my life.
I have pretty much followed that template for the last four years, and the practice of blogging has had the intended effect of slowing me down and making me a more thoughtful reader. That much I anticipated.
What I didn't anticipate was the entry point that blogging would offer into a glorious community of readers. The only book blogs that I was familiar with then were a couple of personal blogs maintained by friends. I thought that those friends might read my posts, along with a handful of other friends and family members with whom I was already in the habit of exchanging book recommendations. I was thinking small and mostly doing it for myself. In short order, however, a few strangers dropped by, and I followed the links back to their blogs, then began working my way through their blog rolls. I was very excited and, frankly, awed by the wealth of book blogs that I found once I started looking. What joy to encounter legions of keen readers from all over the world and to be privy to their interesting, entertaining, and insightful commentary about an eclectic range of books without so much as leaving my office. And, of course, that wealth of book blogs has increased at an exponential rate in the intervening years.
The best books make me think, and so too do the many fine book blogs that I read. I regularly find myself prompted by blog posts to seek out books that I hadn't previously heard of, or that I hadn't thought I'd be interested in, to reconsider my assessments of books and writers, whether recent reads or old favourites, and generally to think more deeply about my reading and writing practices. I've had the good fortune to meet some of my favourite bloggers in person. And I've come to think of a number of fellow bloggers as friends.
My blogging has ebbed and flowed over the first four years, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so in accordance with what I'm reading and how I'm responding it, with the degree to which I'm immersed in my writing, and with whatever else is going on in my life. But I can't imagine giving up blogging altogether. Because the discipline of writing about what I read is rewarding in and of itself. But most of all because I relish being a participant in this vibrant world. I want to thank those who stop by to read what I write here, and those who comment on my posts. And I want to express my deep gratitude to those who generously share their reading experiences on their own blogs and in comments on other blogs, and who have thereby enriched my reading life immensely.