Some years back I did a stint reviewing books for a local magazine, it was one of those county lifestyle things and my job was to choose four or five definitely middle class books a month and say how marvellous they were in two hundred words or less. I say ‘job’ in the loosest possible sense of the word – payment was basically that I got to keep the books and I mention it at all because the whole experience reinforced some very bad reading habits.
Deadline was two months in advance, so when not engaged in more gainful employment I was glued to the bookseller and a phone trying to find a suitable selection of books that would still seem new by the time the damn magazine hit the shelves. On the plus side this was how I found Persephone and acquired a fair few gardening and cook books. On the negative reviewing fiction was really tough. Persephone aside many of the books I wanted to read where out of print (Virago), about lesbians (Virago), poetry (big literary crush on Ted Hughes), Harry Potter (enough said), or classics that really didn’t need any introduction. What ended up happening was me getting a book, reading about twenty pages and then losing interest before making something up at the last minute. I should probably add that the books about lesbians were very good but one way or another failed to fill the aga saga criteria the paper demanded.
When I started blogging I had a lot of time on my hands which gave me the chance to read more, and to find more books that interested me to the point I wanted to shout about them. I assumed it would make me think more about what I was reading – which it has, I hoped it would make me read more which it also has, but what I hadn’t really reckoned on was that it would make me a much more disciplined reader. I used to have several books on the go at once, which explains the (very) large number of half-read-but-never-finished books I now own. Since I started writing about the books I read I’ve pretty much stuck to one at a time which has turned out to be something of a personal revelation.
This time around I also feel more personal responsibility on the occasions when a publisher is kind enough to provide a book I’ve asked for, anything other than a prompt and thorough reading would be dishonest. This too is making me think a lot harder about what I’m reading and what the next book will be – in fact all day when I’m moving boxes the part of my mind not actively engaged in remembering not to drop bottles on my foot is generally considering what book will come next and why. Blogging might not have turned me into a better or a more organised person, but it has made me a better more organised reader and I do wonder what it’s done for other bloggers.