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We've had a thread or two in the past about the lulls in posting about books but I'm going to make a fresh one as part of the general reflections we've been having.


As the discussions about the nature of our community draw to a close in Stepping Back several people have posted about the need to talk about books more. As I said at the start of that thread, this is another core issue but I'd like us to think about it in a new thread rather than mix it up with very different issues.


Fundamentally we are, of course, a book site and that should be at the very heart of what we do. Anything But Books is dominant, but that's hardly surprising. If you're a regular to the site, dropping by most days, then you're hardly going to have read a new book each time you log in. ABB provides ongoing activity in which we can participate every day if we want and as such it's a very healthy part of what we do.


Nevertheless we need to make sure we keep the book elements thriving. There's a new book offer at the moment and I have a few plans that I hope will add to that, but ultimately this is down to us.


Now, there's essentially two things I want to say here. Firstly, as I've noted before, my own reading's been dreadful for a while now. That's down to a number of personal reasons but I promise that I'll improve on that score. That said, my first batch of GCSE literature scripts arrived yesterday so June isn't going to be the greatest month to make good on that, but it will happen!


Secondly, and much more importantly, I want to spell out the importance of feeling able to post anything about a book.


We are fortunate to have amongst our membership people who are able to write full, interesting, beautifully expressed reviews. These are great to read and provide plenty to talk about.


Nevertheless, I have said before that I don't consider this a 'review' site. What I mean by that isn't that full-blown reviews aren't welcome - of course they are - but rather that this is a book community. We like to talk about books. You wouldn't turn to someone at a friend's dinner party and say, "I've just finished Pride and Prejudice. It's a subtle satirical tale that centres on the fortunes of Elizabeth Bennet and through her eyes anatomises the social conventions of Georgian England..." You'd just talk about the book!


I entirely understand people feeling conscious about what they say when there are such accomplished reviews around, but there is room for both. Not least because it takes time to write a review and that's not something we all have to spare.


Rather than simply not posting, though, because you fear you can't make it a deep and involved post I would much rather you just posted something. No, we don't want a site where everyone simply posts, "Yeah, this book rocks!" or "Rubbish - this book sucks!" But there's a happy middle ground.


Don't feel you have to comment on the whole book (as a review would aim to do). In conversation you'd pick something out.


"Just finished Pride and Prejudice. I loved the story but I felt really frustrated by Mr Bennet. I know lots of people love him because he's really witty, but I thought he was pretty selfish in lots of ways. I know she's annoying but his wife isn't as smart as he is and he's really belittling of her, and if he'd been a better father maybe Lydia wouldn't have run off?"


It's quick and easy to do and it sets off something to talk about.


Of course a lot of us read books other people don't know and of course this isn't so easy in those cases, but even a short paragraph about the experience may be enough to interest someone else and indeed people who think the book sounds interesting could ask some questions about it, getting more conversation going.


I'm open to any suggestions about how to improve the site in terms of book posting. Again, tell me what you'd like to see!


Something I'm going to work on is getting some authors to pop in, even if it's for a few quick words. I was trying to sort that out with the publicists dealing with Reif Larsen's new book in the subscribers' offers, which doesn't look likely to work out now, but I'm sure we'll be able to get something sorted along those lines. The current Canongate Read will also see the author's involvement and that has to bring new interest.


Anyway, over to you!

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I'd agree with that and I'll try to post about every book I read- though it won't be a review.


Just a suggestion and one I'm not sure is a good one- but I'll throw it out there anyway... How about a subforum purely for book reviews? By which I mean if someone wants to write a proper review, and there are some people here who write excellent ones, they do it in there and anyone who want to talk about a book and characters etc can do so in the book's general thread?


The con of this is that you end up with double the threads though.

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I have some contacts with fantasy writers.


I could ask around if you like, see if any of them would be interested in popping in.

That would be just excellent, Paul! I'll PM you about it.


How about a subforum purely for book reviews?

I see where you're coming from but I fear that would over-complicate the site, which was heavily streamlined several years ago because it was considered a bit unwieldy. I think the reviews are often great jumping-off points for discussion and therefore good to have in the main book thread - we've all just got to learn not to feel intimidated by them or to feel our own thoughts aren't going to be interesting enough.

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I agree with the encouragement just to say something, even if it's not a review.

I'm guilty of not posting on every book I read - not because I'm particularly intimidated by the reviews, but hjust out of a bit of laziness. I actually prfer to read thoughts than a review.

I will post more on books - my summer resolution!

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I made it my New Year's Resolution for 2008 to try and post at least a few lines about every book I've read, and (for once!) it's a resolution I've actually managed to keep for the most part. I've found it has been a worthwhile exercise and would urge members who are nervous about posting their thoughts to do the same.


Firstly, it is a useful in clarifying your own thoughts about a book. I asked myself what I liked about a book - the story, the writing style, the characters? - and also what was irritating - was the writing too florid, the dialogue unnatural and the ending unconvincing? I've actually found that thinking in that way has resulted in me retaining a more detailed memory of the book for longer than I used to. It has been a double edged sword; there have been books which I enjoyed reading but which on reflection I've realised do have flaws and could, in my opinion, have been even better.


As someone who has never kept a reading journal of the type I know megustaleer has done, I also find it useful to sometimes refer back to the site to jog my memory about a book.


Admittedly, it has been difficult on books with lengthy existing threads to find a fresh perspective, but if the thread has been dormant for a while even a few lines can revive discussion and remind newer members who may not have seen it before that the thread is there.


Finally, it is a gratifying feeling to start a new thread on a book you liked, persuade other members to read it who then post that they also enjoyed it. I had this experience when writing about Shalom Auslander's short story collection "Beware of God" and it was how most of us found out about the work of BGO favourite J. N. Stroyar. Enthusiasm can be infectious.

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Eeks - must try harder :o


Finally, it is a gratifying feeling to start a new thread on a book you liked, persuade other members to read it who then post that they also enjoyed it.

Yes I've really enjoyed reading a number of your threads and I must make a note to comment when I do so. Leyla also did a cracking review on a collection of short stories recently (James Lasdun - It's Beginning to Hurt) and I think Hazel was the only one to comment (I think). Obviously we don't need to get into loads of OTT back slapping on every new thread, but there's nowt like a bit of appreciation for something enjoyed.


I'm not always inspired to get the book from every review I enjoy, but I'll certainly be tucking the James Lasdun collection in my case when I go away this year.

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I am one of the members who does sometimes post reviews - though not of every book I read. Part of my motivation for this is that I enjoy reading other people's reviews of books I have read, but also, as David says, it offers something to start discussion. If a thread is already burning quite happily (e.g. We Need To Talk About Kevin) then there's no need for a review - I just pitch straight in with discussion.

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  • 1 month later...
I made it my New Year's Resolution for 2008 to try and post at least a few lines about every book I've read, and (for once!) it's a resolution I've actually managed to keep for the most part.
I'm very impressed! I tried that this year, and managed to post about all the books I'd read by the end of the first week in February... must try harder.


I would like to say that as someone who hasn't logged in for a couple of months, I'm also impressed at how many posts there have been about books (though I don't want y'all to get complacent). There are over 120 threads new comments in the 21st Century forum, over 60 in the 20th C forum, and over 20 in the (combined) CYA forum and I haven't even begun to look at the genres yet. That's about 22 updated threads a week, not too shameful I think. Keep up the good work!

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Thank you, David. When I first joined BGO and ‘pre-crash’ I was a regular poster but I have now become a lurker and I rarely contribute to discussions. This is partly due to time (I’m no longer a student and so don’t have the same freedom to while away hours on a book forum!) and partly due to being a little intimidated by the level of the reviews and discussions that are now posted.


You have made me realise that this is silly and so I hereby declare that I shall be making more effort from now on (even if it’s just a few lines!).

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Just seen this thread and wanted to add my voice to those saying how good it is to discuss books. I love it when people post comments to a review I've written. Thank you, Squirls, for your kind comment about my Lasdun review. And I hope noone ever gets intimidated by me writing formal reviews. Usually I come back to my review a day later and find glaring typos and loads of spelling mistakes - really, for someone who reads a lot, my spelling can be atrocious. And whenever I read the broadsheet reviews of the book I've written about after I've posted my own review, I feel intimidated by how excellent some of them are - but if I let these embarassments (embarrassments? See what I mean?) stop me posting, then I'd never write about any books :-)

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  • 2 weeks later...
I tried that this year [Gram's NYR to post about all books read], and managed to post about all the books I'd read by the end of the first week in February... must try harder.

After this weekend's purge, I've now managed to post on all books read to the end of February, and selected other titles...that counts for 41 of the 71 books I've read so far this year. I'm really pleased I've made over half!

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