01 January 2013


Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 9

It takes me forever to finish my own projects, doesn't it? Chapter 8 went up over nine months ago. Since that time, you could say a whole new direction to my blogging has been born.

When I started writing these posts, my personal reading challenge was to come up with a nice balance between "new" books and "old" books. (See Chapter 3.) That soon became a more general rule of having as eclectic a reading mix as possible. You can see how that works out if you review last year's "Two or Three" Book Club picks . . .

In a nutshell, I did a reread of a fondly remembered Jane Austen Romance, sank my teeth into my first Stephen King Horror novel in several years, and tried Laura Ingalls Wilder's historical fiction for children for the very first time. But the best part of all that reading was that I did it all with your company! (Yes, you!)

That brings me to a new kind of reading challenge. While I usually read what I please and let others take it or leave it, I've come to see that attracting the company of others means having to consider the preferences of others. And that may turn out to be my biggest challenge yet, because the next book I'd like to try is probably not something a lot of you will be too crazy about.

This is a blogging-related complication, of course. And there are at least two ways of looking at it. 

From a "branding" perspective, I see that the best thing to do would be to keep going in the direction that is working. The most successful Book Club pick by far, in terms of creating discussion, has been Wilder's Little House series. The last time I had this much reader involvement, I was blogging about Madeleine L'Engle. Obviously, classic children's literature--anything that touches a nostalgic nerve--is a comments goldmine. And I should do more of it. 

From a personal perspective, however, sticking to one theme is just not something I want to do--at least not for more than a month or two at a time. Remember that the overarching reading challenge of my life, to which this blog is subject, is to keep things as eclectic as possible. And that means that I don't want the next pick to be a hugely popular classic: in fact, I want it to be even further away from the Little House series as Pet Sematary was from Persuasion. But now here's the rub: will you also read it with me? (Yes, you!)

So far, I've been amazingly lucky to have had at least one other person willing to read each of last year's three big novels with me. But they weren't the same people, and I don't know how any of them will react when I say I want "our" next big read to be a book that wasn't originally written in English.

What do you think? Would it be a good thing for at least one feature of this blog, namely the "Two or Three" Book Club, to be more streamlined? Go ahead and let me know, as I do value your input.

As for the "branding" perspective, have you ever felt pressured to pursue what your readers seem to want, at the expense of what you want? If so, then what did you do about it?

Image Sources: a) Persuasion by Jane Austen, b) Pet Sematary by Stephen King, c) Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Sullivan McPig said...

My blog is for my enjoyment as much as for others, so I don't let myself be pressured into things I do not enjoy. It's a hobby, not work.

And I haven't read along so far, but it would totally depend on the book.

Happy New Year btw :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Happy New Year to you too, Sully! =D

I hope you don't mind my saying that I've thought for a long while that your book blog has very good "branding." =) By this, I mean that I never think, "Wait a minute! Where am I?" when I visit your blog. (And I'm willing to bet that most of your regular readers would say the same thing.) You manage to balance your "brand identity" with variety in genres and authors, which is exactly what I'd like to do with my own blog. I'm just not sure how to do it gracefully . . .

Jenny said...

Oh yes, sometimes I feel I read books because every one else is. If I read something no one has I don't get much discussion. Still, I think we need to read what makes us happy not others. I want to know what book you have in mind. I'll be keeping my eyes open.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'd be interested to see which book you think did not get "much discussion" over at your blog, Jenny, because you always seem to have lots of comments!

The author I have in mind is Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year. Any of his books seems far enough removed from what I've been reading lately, so if I do settle on him, I can pick the title later.

Angie Tusa said...

Any time I have ever attempted to guess what people want and provide it for them, it's brought me nothing but misery. You really can't please all the people all the time. It's always best to do what you enjoy.

Case in point and blunt honesty: I've been really disappointed at the lack of response to Castle Rock Companion. I know a lot of people like King, and the phrase "the book was better!" wouldn't exist if other people didn't also enjoy comparing original works to their film adaptations. But yet the comments have been minimal and the views on the videos are growing at a very slow pace.

However, picking up King again and re-reading the books and short stories has been a lot of fun, and I like revisiting the movies as well, as I'm finding I'm not as much of a snob about them as I was when I was 14. Reading, watching, scripting, recording, and editing is a lot of work for that final product, but I'm still getting enough personal enjoyment out of it right now that I'm doing my best to ignore the lackluster response and hoping it will simply grow over time.

As far as your book club goes, it's natural that people are going to appear, disappear and reappear with each one you pick. Or more accurately, they will read but not comment. At least that's how it is for me. I've never read the Little House books, so I don't feel like I can form an opinion on something I haven't read, but I'm still reading your entries because I like to hear your perspective on things.

geeklady said...

I'm entirely against "branding", I think it's an offense against real communication between people. Do your thing, I read your blog because you're an interesting person, and going off on your tangents only enhances that.

BUT... I must confess, I don't really do the 'read along' part. I don't have time. Occassionally you do books I'm familiar enough with to talk intelligibly about, and then I'll comment. But even if I don't have time to read the book, I do (usually) have time to read you on the book. :-)

miki said...

hi ^^

just a little return of favor so you get a fabulous debut of 2013^^

i think you should do your blog as it please you , like sullivan said it must stay a ^pleasure.
lats year i entered some challenge and i started to make my whole year planning depending on those but soon it's become boring or depressing, i will still enter challenge but i will read by pleasure too when i want even if it means less entries in teh challenge. So do what give you pleasure and enjoy

Enbrethiliel said...


Angie -- I guess I'm just looking for the magic that happens what what you enjoy is also what other people enjoy. Blogging about what I like is already very fun for me, but sharing the fun increases it exponentially, you know?

And I do need to be reminded that comments aren't everything. I read all your posts on Silent Hill although I couldn't say anything in reply. The only reason I'm not more vocal on your Stephen King posts is that I haven't read Misery yet, haven't seen Carrie yet, and hadn't even heard of Sometimes They Come Back until you brought it up. =P Children of the Corn was a very nice intersection, though!

In the combox for the "Comments Incentive" post we've been discussing, someone said that one reason she doesn't comment as often as she'd like is that it often feels like introducing yourself at a party: you're bound to feel a bit shy. If I didn't know you and watched the Children of the Corn vlog as my introduction to you, I'd react in the same way I do when I watch the Nostalgia Critic's vlogs. That is, with admiration, appreciation, and silence! =P Obviously, there must be better ways for those of us who love discussion to break the ice!

Geeklady -- "Branding" became a way to frame my thoughts after a new reader I met in another online community told me that she thought I was worth getting to know but that my blog's lack of direction made her really dizzy. LOL! I confess that I was feeling a bit dizzy at the time as well, so I took it as constructive criticism. =)

But I do know what you mean about "branding" being very limiting when taken too far. That's why I don't want to do too much of one thing, although I don't want to be too "all over the place" either. While I am one to be attracted to the personality of a blogger rather than the brand of his blog, I feel a bit presumptuous in hoping that my own personality has that sort of draw for the people who come here. (I'm not fishing! I'm just explaining another angle to my "dilemma.")

Miki -- Hi! Thanks for returning the comment! The last time I tried to let reading challenges guide my blogging was 2011. I signed up for four challenges, read a whopping one book per challenge, and just gave up, flowing where I wanted to flow. So yeah, long-term planning just isn't me when it comes to this blog.