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?


Reviewing Books by Fellow Bloggers

I am currently reading a book authored by a fellow book blogger. I am not going to disclose its title here out of respect for the author, but I am not enjoying the book. The prose is uninspiring and the dialogue flat. As a book reviewer, I feel a responsibility to review the books that I read. In the past couple of years, however, I have stopped trying to review every book I read. Not only do I not have the time to review everything, some books are so mediocre that I simply don’t see the point in reviewing them. Negative reviews can be very valuable, however. I have often been inspired to try a book because of a negative review. And of course there are only so many hours in a day. I don’t want to waste my time slogging through a terrible book. Debut authors need book reviews the most. An established author will be read by her fans, but a debut author doesn’t have any loyal fans.

I purchased the book blogger’s work a few weeks ago because I was intrigued by the premise. In fact, I had pretty high expectations going into the book because I had read some of this author’s writing elsewhere. Unfortunately, the book has been disappointing. I don’t want to recommend it to anyone, although the Goodreads reviews are generally quite positive (4 and 5 star ratings), so there’s clearly an audience for this kind of fiction.

I am very conflicted over how I should review books by authors I know. This blogger is not exactly a debut author, but this book is the author’s first major work of prose fiction. I feel a responsibility to review the book since I will be one of the few people who will have read it. I am also quite suspicious of books that only receive positive reviews on Goodreads. While I don’t know this author intimately, I feel uncomfortable reviewing negatively a book someone has written in the book blogging community. Shouldn’t we be in solidarity with each other?

This blogger is traditionally published and award-winning, which is why I had pretty high expectations. It is quite common for bloggers to self-publish, but self-published books tend to be poorly edited. I own a handful of self-published books, but I don’t expect them to be any good. I bought the books to support the author financially. I am honestly in no rush to read them. But regardless of how a book is published, it’s hard to be a reviewer when you know the author. I suspect that the reason why so many indie and self-published authors get so many positive reviews for their books is because readers don’t want to post negative reviews. Or maybe those readers feel compelled to give positive reviews to otherwise mediocre books. I don’t know.

I don’t think I will be reviewing the book I’m currently reading on this blog, but I will give it a star rating on Goodreads. It’s so much easier to give a negative review to a popular book. Won’t my silence on this blog and on YouTube be just as effective as a negative review, but less painful for the author?

Let me know how you approach books by authors you know. Do you review them? Are you more positive than you would be otherwise?


Why Do We Rate Books The Way We Do?

adult, books, businessSome would say that you should never trust my star ratings on Goodreads. I give four or five stars to nearly every book I read. I am easily pleased. However, just because I give a book five stars on Goodreads doesn’t mean that it will make my Best of the Year list. The books I put on that list are the ones that have had the greatest influence on me in the past year. They have resonated with me the most.

But I love certain books for very sentimental reasons. They aren’t critically good, but I read them at the perfect time in my life. Take Beezus and Ramona, for example. It’s essentially a collection of related short stories about a young girl with an overactive imagination. It is certainly not the most thought-provoking children’s book I’ve ever read, but it helped me through many a sleepless night. I also loved The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Because these three books were childhood favorites, it feels wrong for me to leave them out of a list of my all-time favorite books.

I don’t think the average reader rates a book on Goodreads solely on its literary merit. Many give five stars to a book that they enjoyed even though it wasn’t very well-written. Or, those books are favorites for very personal reasons. Stories could be written about the role certain books have had on our lives. This may also explain why so many adults count the Harry Potter books as favorites. They grew up on the series. They read each book four or five times. Even if Harry Potter may be lacking in certain areas, adults who loved and continue to love the series will include the books on their “Favorites” list.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Not only do we all read for different reasons, we all rate our books for different reasons. I gave four stars to Dan Brown’s Origin recently even though it certainly wasn’t a literary masterpiece. I wanted a fun Robert Langdon book, and I got a fun Robert Langdon book.

I love the “amateur” reviewing industry that has emerged online in the past decade. I consider myself a part of this industry. We amateurs share our true feelings about the books we read. Professional reviewers try to be “objective” in their reviews, but I often want to know how a book has influenced the reader on a personal level. My intention is not to criticize professional reviewers. I follow professional reviews as well as amateur reviews. But we love books for a wide range of reasons, and professional reviewers tend to focus exclusively on character, plot, and sentence structure.

I personally decide whether I will read a book based on written reviews. I read the 5 star reviews and the 2 star reviews. They give me a good idea of what people liked and disliked about a work. But I often choose a book based on the themes it explores. If the book is set at sea, I will definitely give it a try.

And who knows? Maybe I will read the book at the perfect time in my life or in the perfect environment and it will become a favorite.