Friday , March 1 2024
Contributors reflect on what reading means to them.

‘We Love Books’ – A Blogcritics Book Fair Roundup

In the four short but dramatically growing years of Blogcritics' existence, about 50,000 articles have been posted here – about 5,000 of them in the books section. A majority of those are reviews; Blogcritics have shared their enthusiasm for their favourite writers, recounted their exciting new discoveries, and occasionally told readers just how some author has got their subject totally wrong.

The beauty of the web means that a whole world of expertise is here. We have ornithologists who write about bird books, historians who critique their professional compatriots' work,  parents who share the books their kids love, and many, many people who write about Harry Potter.

Less often, but often very powerfully, Blogcritics have reflected more broadly on the nature and practice of reading. Inspired by the first-ever online Book Fair, many of our writers have recently been reflecting on what books mean to them.

Many commenters were touched by the story of Donnie Marler, who explained how reading kept him going through the long recuperation from a broken neck, and also helped him to maintain a sometimes difficult teenage relationship with his father: "Even though it seemed we had nothing in common, we sometimes found a glimmer of our old closeness discussing a book one or the other had read."

But which book? Cameron Graham confronted the eternal question of the time-poor booklover – do you go for the serious, heavy reading, or enjoy diving into something lighter?

A nice easygoing Christopher Moore never hurt anyone. On the other hand, sure would be nice to delve into something deeper. I still haven't read that Scott F. Fitzgerald book The Beautiful And The Damned or even the first pages of Lolita yet.

Like any love affair, a relationship with books isn't all smooth sailing. Tink admits that her feelings swing between love and hate: she can't use books as a method of learning, but loves disappearing into the worlds they create. And what is she really waiting for? The final Harry Potter! But in the meantime …

I scour every bookshelf in every retail outlet/yard sale I go to. There are several sellers on eBay that I've probably helped put their kids through college because of this addiction.

But is it words that really matter, or the physical objects, the scent of old leather, the whiff of new ink, or just the aura of knowledge, of possibility, that surges from them? 

Vikk Simmons writes:

Working in a bookstore, living in a home brimming with books, and being a natural library slug, I confess I live with that humming power that emanates from bookish environments. The tactile expression of writers having written words that “crumbled in their hands” resonates as I recall scenes and paragraphs of my own that disintegrated before I barely had time to read them through. Books are the repositories of minds at work and if you listen carefully you might hear them call your name.

For many Blogcritics, the love of books started early. Roberta Rosenberg reflected on the first book she ever borrowed from her local library:

I no longer remember why I chose Miranda on the Veranda that day. But some 40 plus years later, I can remember the look of the book …  Like that first chocolate in the box, I savored the sweet and savory rhyming prose… and then I had to have another and another. I grew fat on every word.

For SJ Reidhead, it was books a little more "grown-up" that really spun their magic –  Laura Ingall Wilder's Little House series, a passion shared by Laura Bush.

The story of Mary losing her sight to typhoid and having her beautiful long blond hair cut off was brought home to me in the most poignant way. Somewhere, in one of my mother’s packing boxes that are now in storage, is a three-foot braid of blond hair (well over 100 years old) from my great-aunt Mabel. They cut her hair off when she had typhoid, in an epidemic that killed her father.

But what about reading your own writing? Richard Marcus — a Blogcritic extraordinaire — reflects on being his own toughest critic:

When I had the idea for my series of novels, I immediately saw the characters' story laid out for me like a road map. I could see almost everything I needed to know, even down to the tiniest of details like how they would be sitting around a fire in book two and I hadn't even begun to write book one yet…. Whether or not I tell the whole story is another matter, the fact I know the information is what's important.  

So does every passionate reader become a writer? Perhaps not of books – but to share their passion with the world – well that is what the web has made possible.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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