Niches, and 5 Reasons to Blog About What You Read

PlagueQuestions come to mind as I finally get around to saying something about Plague: Black Death & Pestilence in Europe. I’ve already read and reviewed a book on the same subject, so I don’t know what another review adds. In fact, my more recent experiments in format (comic ‘how-to’s and digests) came about through a feeling that reviewing is rather formal, an industry tool that’s arguably unnecessary for a blogger (unless you’re paid by the publishing industry).

So I read Plague while wondering what I could say about it that would be of any help to other people? Personally, I’ve always had a fascination with an apocalyptic reality that, being biological, is always potentially there. Naphy & Spicer’s particular offering on it adds two social and political angles:

  • The reluctance of authorities to institute measures against the plague
  • The resistance of populations to following any measures that were instituted.

As a temporary civil-servant, I found the matter of how officials dealt with mass death something that’s both obvious to explore and hitherto overshadowed by the body count figures that are usually entailed. Naphy & Spicer are therefore to be commended for keeping their attention unswerved from practicalities and the role of emotion.

But few people will share my fascination with one of the greatest historical catastrophes. This may be why getting around to writing about this book has taken many months. The delay has been productive though. It’s made me consider what the purposes are to writing about a book in a blog. Here are 5 reasons I came up with:

  1. Writing about a book gets you to process your ragbag of otherwise idle thoughts. Putting them together into a whole gives a mental picture that is otherwise fuzzier and quickly lost.
  2. The above parks that book in your mind. You manifest what you got from the read and where this leaves you.
  3. You get a sense, over time, of the categories of things in the world that interest you. This can reveal a diversity to yourself that can surprise and might have gone unnoticed.
  4. Responding to comments is an opportunity to confirm or reconsider your views. I notice how many readers who seldom discuss their views on books can end up either viewless or rabidly immoderate.
  5. There is a sense of where to take a read next. Going over a read doesn’t conclude that read: it poses questions about where to take it or not. And comments to your blog post can help you stay open. This though, as posts about TBRs attest, is as much a curse as a liberation!

What I wonder is how these and other aspects to writing about reading might inform what is written about so that it can make a niche more accessible to anyone less interested? I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s for another post? I’m just aware that the more niche a book is, the harder it is for anyone to comment on it. It’s an inevitable consequence of the way that reading is a niche pursuit for many. Can an awareness of what writing about it is for help that writing along in its cause?

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This entry was posted in Authors, Editorial, History, Naphy, William, and Andrew Spicer, Non-Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Niches, and 5 Reasons to Blog About What You Read

  1. I think your reasons for blogging are good ones, and I find that actually writing about the books I read has meant I read more deeply too. As for the niche aspect – well, some of my posts are maybe a bit specialised but I hope that even if people aren’t commenting they’re getting something of interest out of what they read. Certainly the Plague is not my specialist subject but your posts of your reading are interesting!

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    • Jeff says:

      Reading deeper sounds a good addition to my list. I don’t have much time or energy for reading or blogging since my new work contract and commute. Reading deeper says something about time management in reading. When time and energy are short, better selection is important. Blogging can help with that, even if it also costs an investment of time and energy.

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  2. Jonathan says:

    I agree with your points above but I think you should also consider the effect of the post on your readers as well.

    In many ways I only write a post on a book when I think I’m offering something to others—as I’m useless at analysis, for me this may mean bringing an otherwise unknown book to the attention of others or possibly imparting some useful information about the book or author. The post may be useful to the blog-reader as a summary on the subject—a subject that they may have no intention of reading in any more depth. I often find posts that are interesting but may be on subjects or books that I have no intention of reading in further detail.

    I recently read the Ziegler book on the Black Death and have a couple more on my TBR pile. It’s a fascinating subject. It’s strange but as soon as the summer arrives I want to read books on gory subjects.

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    • Jeff says:

      Recommendations are a good addition to the above. What I have missed from blogging is the sense of a shared experience – another list item maybe. I rarely meet other readers who read (or at least, anything beyond crime and fantasy). This can be disorienting. How to know what to read in the little time available? It relates to Kaggsy’s comment about reading deeper. Reading things that don’t matter much is the luxury of those with the time for it. I have a 4hr+ commute that includes regular passengers who love the sound of their own voice. It’s good that people converse with each other on my route. It’s just not so good for readers like myself who already struggle to concentrate on public transport. The alternative is podcasts. They’re great, but one-way. It’s impossible to recommend back.

      Liked by 1 person

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