Oh The Glory Of It All jumped right out. That book had been high on my priority list for a long time and I'd just read an article in which Jonathan Franzen had recommended it.
"But," said the red literary devil who popped up on my right shoulder (and who bore a striking resemblance to Nic Sparks), "this is an obscure book, such that when you blog about it later, you probably won't get as many readers/visits/pageviews."
That's when the white literary angel (sporting a du-rag and long hair) popped up: "And but so, read what you want, dude. After all, fiction is what it means to be a f#$%ing human being — even though that book's a memoir. You know what I mean, though. Oh, what a f#$%ing mess." So I did (though I was still reeling a bit by the amount of cursing the angel did). And Wilsey's memoir was great!
The point here is this: Blogging has changed my reading habits in a number of ways (at least five, as you'll see below), but it hasn't changed my fundamental philosophy on choosing books: I'm gonna read what I want. I'm not going to feel pressure to read what's popular or what other people think I should or what will get the most pageviews. I know, bold statement, that. But I think it's important. (And just so we're clear, I'm literally patting myself on the back right now.)
That said, there are several ways my reading habits have changed since I started The New Dork Review of Books in October 2009 (yep, creeping up on two years). Thankfully, they're all positive. Here there are:
5. I read a lot more — I covered this earlier this spring in a post about GoodReads. My greater reading pace has borne out so far in 2011, too. I'm probably going to eclipse by a wide margin the number of pages read last year — which was by far and away the most ever.
I took down Gravity's Rainbow. Being able to tweet, periodically blog, and receive encouragement about that chore is pretty much the only thing that kept me sane enough to get through it. This year, so far, I've read Gone With The Wind, Anna Karenina, and I'm 11 percent done with War and Peace. That rules. Also, I finally read Haruki Murakami. Twice. That also rules.
3. I've read more indies and other books I'd never have heard of — One of the biggest unexpected benefits of blogging about books is getting free books. I'm still really particular about accepting books for review, but I have a few times, and as a result, read books I might never have heard of. Two examples: Kapitoil, by Teddy Wayne, and Fight For Your Long Day, by Alex Kudera. Reading the latter led to one of my favorite blogging experience so far: The conversation with the author about how he viewed book bloggers. Also, other bloggers' recommendations have expanded my reading horizons widely. But that's a topic for another post.
2. I've read with greater attention and more depth — I mean, you have to, right? Nobody wants to look like an idiotic jerk when they post a review. So I try hard not to. Secondly, and it's hard to avoid being totally unoriginal here and saying something like "I've gotten more out of my reading," but, I've gotten more out of my reading. I use little post-its to mark quotes in books ('cause writing in books is a mortal sin) and reviewing those quotes when I go to write a review or reaction really does jog memory and help solidify connections between themes, characters, etc. I never did that before I started blogging.
1. Frankly, reading has never been more fun — Of course it is. And of course, reading being more fun isn't necessarily a changed habit. But what would this list be without more fun? The reason reading's been more fun is that I know for sure I'll have someone with whom I can discuss the book. And, as solitary as reading is, it's a million times more enjoyable in a community. Cheers to this community!
(For those curious about why there's that weird logo at the top of this post, this week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week — a fairly cool five-day back-pat to all things book bloggery.)