Literary Miscellanea

Challenges of Book Blogging Today

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

Anthony @ Time’s Flow Stemmed has recently retired his blog. I will miss his posts, but I also know how hard it can be to get noticed in the blogosphere. The fact of the matter is that blogging is not the primary mode of book communication anymore. BookTube, Bookstagram, and book podcasts are considerably more popular.

A bit of background about my blog.

I published my first post on December 29, 2013. In 2013, book blogging was quite popular. BookTube was in its infancy and Bookstagram didn’t exist. I started my blog to talk about books because no one in my family was a reader. For the first few years, my blog was called “Exploring Classics” because I almost exclusively read classics. It was actually the Classics Club blog that inspired me to make my own 50-book classics list. In 2017, however, I renamed my blog to Exploring Literature to better represent the wide-range of books that I read.

There were years when I posted only a handful of times and others when I posted at least once a month. Yet, apart from the first year, I’ve never been a consistent blogger. I realized early on that I didn’t want to talk about every single book that I read. Some books were simply not memorable enough to write about. Yet, I often wonder how many views I would have today if I had posted frequently during the past 6.5 years. I know that I am largely responsible for my lack of success (in terms of views and subscribers).

On the other hand, I am very proud of my blog. I am proud of the hundreds of posts that I have made about both English and French-language books. I also like how organized this space is. Books are categorized by author and genre. Over the years, I have followed and communicated with some phenomenal bloggers. Some have highly successful blogs today. They deserve all of the views.

It’s undeniable that blogging has changed a lot since 2013. While I don’t think that book blogging is dead (contrary to what you might think, I am not retiring this blog anytime soon), it’s also not doing very well. I am currently debating about whether or not I should get rid of my premium plan, though I love my custom layout and banner.

I don’t have any words of wisdom. Anthony’s farewell post reminded me of my own journey and echoed what I have observed. Although I have a BookTube channel, there are so many books I don’t want to talk about on camera. Oral delivery is hard for me. I much prefer to write out my thoughts. This blog continues to be a space where I can share complex ideas about books. It’s also a place where I can vent about my struggles as an academic writer. The written blog matters. It adds value to the book world, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to add to the conversation.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, does any of this ring true for you? How have you dealt with the changes?


2018 Reading and Blogging Resolutions

Photography of Flower Beside Coffee on Top of BookAt the end of 2016, I set myself 5 blogging-related goals:

1) Write short reflection posts
2) Read 5 books that have been published since 2000.
3) Read more books relevant to current events.
4) Read Les Misérables in French.
5) Get more involved in the book-blogging community

I definitely met my first goal in November when I blogged every day. I wrote many reflection posts that sparked some interesting discussions.

I also met my second goal of reading 5 books published since 2000. My favorite nonfiction published in the past 17 years was Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (2007) by Robert B. Reich. For fiction, I enjoyed My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (one of my favorite books of 2017).

For my third goal, I read a book on the Civil Rights movement that felt particularly relevant today: Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr. I also read a piece of war journalism: The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches From Syria by Janine Di Giovanni (very disturbing but incredibly important).

I did not meet my fourth goal of reading Les Misérables. I’m OK with that. I didn’t really have the time to tackle a thousand-page book.

It’s really the fifth goal that I feel I neglected in the past year. I didn’t really participate in the book blogging community. I am much more involved in the booktube community. I regret not participating in the Classics Club Spins or any of the group reads. The book blogging world introduced me to Moby-Dick, one of my all-time favorite books.

2018 Goals

1) Successfully complete at least one Classics Spin book.

In 2018, I would like to participate more in the Classics Club community. To be honest, I don’t really care much for my Classics book list. Reading from lists reminds me of school. Still, I have many unread classics on my shelves that I would like to get to sooner than later. So in 2018, the classics I include in the lists I create for the Classics Spins will all come from my already-owned TBR pile. But I will participate in at least one Classics Spin in 2018 because it is a good way to get back into the community.

2) Participate in the “Reading the Bible as Literature” event hosted by Adam @ Roof Beam Reader

Since reading The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter (my third favorite book of 2017) I’ve wanted to read the Bible as literature. I am accustomed to reading the Bible from a spiritual perspective, but I tend to overlook the narrative structures of the different stories. I look forward to discovering an aspect of the Bible that I have never noticed before. But the Catholic Bible is considerably longer than Protestant Bibles. It would be hard to read the entire thing in one year. Therefore, I will stick to Adam’s schedule and avoid the Deuterocanon.

3) Read 5 Challenge (a.k.a. Reduce My TBR)

In general, I want to reduce my TBR in 2018. To achieve that goal, I have created the “Read 5 Challenge”. I must read 5 books I own (print or electronic) before I am allowed to buy one new book. There are a few exceptions. I am allowed to continue buying a Harry Potter book a month, since I have already begun rereading the series as an adult (I’ve never owned the books and I don’t want to buy the entire box set). I am also allowed to buy books assigned for school, but assigned books cannot be considered as one of the 5 books. I have to read 5 books that I purchased for pleasure-reading. The books have to come from my non-school TBR. There is no limit to the number of books I’m allowed to borrow from the library. But any book that I own (even a free book) counts as a purchased book. Gifted free books are acceptable if I receive them unsolicited. Finally, I will continue to request books off of NetGalley. While NetGalley books don’t count for this challenge, they do count for the next goal I am setting for myself in 2018.

4) Reach 85% status on NetGalley by December 31, 2018.  

I need to review more of the books I request from NetGalley. 85% seems like a reasonable goal. I would like to review half of those books on my blog and half of them on my BookTube channel. I might repeat reviews in both places if the book is exceptionally good, but I usually avoid repeating content.

5) Post at least twice a week.

I am not going to set a word count, but a solo picture doesn’t count. Blogging is writing, and I want to write more in 2018.

What are your plans for 2018?


My Blogging Experience

Every night around midnight a car comes by to pick up some people living in the next door apartment complex. I know they’ve arrived when I hear music booming from a car stereo. As I write, it’s 12:10 am. The car has picked up its passengers and driven away.


Today, I want to talk about my blogging experience. I believe I started this blog in 2013. Before December 2013, I had launched two blogs that failed within the first six months. I have kept other blogs in addition to this one since 2013, but none of those other blogs gave me much pleasure. I wasn’t very passionate about the topics I was writing about. I also didn’t belong to any community, so I felt very alone. I finally started Exploring Classics to review books and to discuss them with others. Because I didn’t know many people who read the kinds of books I enjoyed, I took to the internet to see what was out there. I wanted to talk about classics with other readers, but most people my age read YA. After searching for blogging communities, I came across the Classics Club Blog. If you are following this blog, you probably already know who they are. But I’ve included a link just in case.

I used to be a lot more active in the Classics Club and the blogging community in general. I participated in most of the club challenges and read dozens of blog posts a day. I still read a handful of posts every day, but I don’t comment nearly as often as I used to.

Then last summer, I renamed my blog Exploring Literature because I wanted it to reflect my current reading tastes. I no longer read only classics. I read modern literary fiction from time to time, but the bulk of my reading is nonfiction. I wonder whether it’s appropriate to have a nonfiction section on a blog called Exploring Literature. Does nonfiction constitute literature?

I have changed a lot since 2013. Not only have my reading tastes changed, but I would like to think that I’m more mature now than I was at 20. My old design reflected my teenage age, so my blog needed a facelift. I strongly disliked being a teenager, so I don’t want my blog to remind me of those years.

I would like to reintegrate into the Classics Club blogging community. I enjoy blogging and sharing my thoughts, but I miss the experience of reading the classics with others. I also miss interacting with certain bloggers.

I am very happy with the direction my blog is going. I am finally making the posts that I told myself for years I wanted to make, but I didn’t have the motivation to follow through. In the past year, I’ve developed a renewed interest in book blogging. I also enjoy reading book reviews more than ever before.

But I am a bit disappointed by my lack of involvement in the blogging community. I have barely made a dent in my Classics Club list, and I haven’t communicated with certain bloggers in months. I would like to rejoin the Classics Club community in 2018.


Where Are All the Histories?

I think I know why many book bloggers and vloggers don’t review histories: They’re just too darn long.

Like many bloggers, I am participating in Nonfiction November this month. I made a TBR of all the books I planned on reading in November. The major reason why I filmed the TBR was to gush about my favorite histories. I wanted to encourage more readers to try that genre of nonfiction.

It has occurred to me in the past week that many readers are probably put off by the length and density of most histories. Any history worth its chops is at least 500 pages, and who has the time to read 500 pages of dense nonfiction in a few sittings? I love history, but I am usually reading multiple histories at once. It takes me months to finish a single book because I am reading so many other works at the same time.

As a result of my reading habits, I don’t often mark “Read” on Goodreads for nonfiction. Biographies and 800-page studies are just too long to read in even a couple weeks. Goodreads, book blogs, and booktube are perfect for shorter books (fiction or nonfiction) and maybe long, fast-paced thrillers, but readers using those platforms may be deterred from tackling longer nonfiction because they take so long to read.

There is nothing wrong with reading multiple pieces of nonfiction at the same time, but viewers and followers may get the impression that the content creator isn’t serious about reading nonfiction. Goodreads, blogs, and the like reveal a lot about a person’s reading tastes, but these platforms also have their limitations. A reader’s desire to show how many books she has read in a month may deter her from reading a biography or a large history. On the flip side, a reader could read nothing but nonfiction the entire year and fail to reach her reading goal.

I have more than surpassed my Goodreads reading goal of 50 books this year, and I generally am indifferent to the number of books I read in a month. However, I am currently dipping in and out of quite a few massive histories. I want people to know that I enjoy histories, but I don’t finish many in a year.

Lovers of essays and short stories face a similar issue on book reviewing platforms. Essay and short story collections are the most common books readers dip in and out of. Even if a reader has read nine out of the ten essays in a collection, he can’t mark the collection as “Read” until he has read the tenth essay. I enjoy reading short stories, but I often lack the motivation to read a short story collection in a few sittings.

Maybe, we need to rethink the way we discuss certain kinds of fiction and nonfiction. Instead of waiting until we have completed a study of the Middle Ages, for example, we could write blog posts or make videos about the topics that we have already encountered in the book. This could be a great way to introduce followers to a work, because, unlike fiction, nonfiction is hard to spoil. Besides, it is nearly impossible to review an 800-page history in a 500-word blog post.


Tips For New Book Bloggers

I recently “celebrated” my one year blogging anniversary. I can’t say that I know all the ins and outs of blogging (html etc.) but I think my limited experience could be of help to start-up recreational book bloggers. So here are my tips:

1) Read what you want to read.

Yes, YA bloggers have the most followers, but if you don’t like YA or don’t generally read books categorized as YA, don’t feel pressured to do what’s popular. I read mostly Classics. At first I thought I was alone in my interests, but boy was I wrong! There is a community for every book lover.

2) Set a book buying limit.

I guarantee you that if you start blogging you will also start buying more books. It’s inevitable. Your TBR (To Be Read) pile will grow out of control unless you set a book buying limit.

3) Book blogging is a hobby, not a career. 

Unless you are a professional book blogger, you should never feel stressed out about blogging. It is a hobby. You earn no money from doing it. Bloggers are constantly afraid that people will stop following their blogs if they don’t blog consistently, do book hauls, or participate in memes/reading challenges, etc. They won’t. Hardly anyone follows one or two blogs. Most bloggers follow at least 50 blogs, so don’t feel stressed out that you let the ball drop on one reading challenge or didn’t post for three weeks. I am a case in point. I am a very eclectic reader. Although I mostly read Classics, I don’t review all the books I read on my blog because I often read books that I feel are not appropriate to review on this blog (ie. theology books, Christian devotionals, etc.). Because of this, I sometimes take a few weeks off from blogging. I don’t think I have ever lost a follower. If I did, oh well. Maintain your freedom as a blogger and take time off if you need or want to.

4) Request ARCs sparingly or not at all.

Only request ARCs (Advance Review Copies) if you have many followers and (most importantly) if reading and reviewing ARCs fits with the overall theme of your blog. I hardly ever read contemporary works, so requesting ARCs has never been a temptation, but I have followed quite a few bloggers who regretted requesting ARCs because they constantly felt pressured to review them or were disappointed by the kind of books they were reading. If you request ARCs you have to review them, so don’t request them unless you have the time and the desire to read and review the books you receive from publishers. Always ask yourself “Why am I blogging? What do I hope to get from blogging?”

5) Interact with other bloggers

If you want others to follow your blog, you should interact with other bloggers. Like I said earlier, there is a blogging community for everyone. Post constructive comments on others’ blogs, and you will inevitably get followers.

Most importantly, have fun! We in the book blogging community are generally a nice bunch of people. Most of us started blogging because we didn’t know anyone with whom we could discuss books. When it comes to blogging, only do what you love. 🙂