Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) always seems to arrive before I expect it, and disappear before I've managed to hop on board - at least since I joined in back in 2009, or thereabouts. Well, this year I'm not going to manage to join in every post, but it came at a time when I've been feeling especially appreciative about the book blogosphere, so I'm going to do my BBAW contribution all in one post. There will be a lot of links to other bloggers... but I love them all. And it's only the tip of the iceberg, so please don't think that not being mentioned means I don't adore your blog. Get ready for an appreciative ramble!
I was struck by what an amazing job bloggers do. Nobody gets paid, most have families and/or jobs and dozens of other commitments - but they all manage to write intelligent, compelling, funny, charming, touching book reviews and literary posts. It takes up a huge amount of time (I seem to spend less time than many, and it still takes up loads of mine!) and yet we all do it willingly, happily, joyously! And you know why? Because all the other book bloggers are so darn brilliant! What started for each of us, I suppose, as a love of books and reading, has grown into more than that. We still love books, and have picked up so many recommendations from each other (thank you blogosphere for introducing me to Shirley Jackson, Muriel Spark, Joyce Dennys... so many) but it's become about so much more than that.
I was going to try to list every book blogger I've met, but I realised that it's probably 40-50 people. Which is amazing! But it might be a little exhausting - for me and for you - if I type them all out, and I'd be bound to forget someone lovely. So, instead, I shall write about bloggers I've had the pleasure of meeting who live in distant lands... two from Canada, three from the U.S., and one from Australia:
Claire/Captive Reader - from her very earliest days, Claire leapt to the top of my favourite blogs. Her taste is impeccable, her style engaging, her reviews incredibly perceptive. I had the fun of book shopping through London with Claire, and buying vastly more than she did...
Darlene/Roses Over A Cottage Door - oh, what a ray of sunshine Darlene is! Both her blog and, even more so, in person - I wanted to drag her across the ocean and make her visit tea shops with me at least once a week.
Thomas/My Porch - such a funny, incisive blog, and such a charming, engaging man! Our two hours over tea and scones this year, each talking nineteen to the dozen, ranks amongst my favourite blogging-related occasions.
Teresa/Shelf Love - gosh, this meeting was an age ago, when I'd only 'known' her for a bit. Now I want to meet again, Teresa! I'm so impressed by the discipline Teresa and Jenny show in maintaining the very high standard of their wide-ranging blog (not to mention the humility involved in co-authoring a blog) - they just don't seem to have off-days.
Diana/Light, Bright, and Sparkling - another infectiously enthusiastic lady, who has forgotten more about Jane Austen than I will ever know.
Karyn/A Penguin A Week - many of us have a fairly good idea of our own blog's identity, but nobody has as ingenious and precise a premise as Karyn - picking one Penguin Book a week from her enviable collection, and writing wonderfully engaging reviews on them. A truly unique blog. And we had a lovely afternoon, bookshopping through Oxford.
And who would I must like to meet, outside of the UK? So many! But I'm going to say Eva/A Striped Armchair. One day, Eva!
I always remember the author I met who said "Oh, you're a blogger - you must be lonely." I'm sure it was kindly meant (er, I'm far from sure) but it isn't true. Even without all the face-to-face meetings, blogging is all about community - we're all typing away in our garrets, but the best bloggers and the best blogging experiences are those which value community. Nothing puts me off a blogger more than if they don't have a 'blog roll'. But that's just the start - over the years I've loved participating in various readalongs and publisher- or author-specific weeks. Just thinking about author-reads, there have been Stu/Winston's Dad and Henry Green, Thomas/My Porch and Anita Brookner, Annabel/Gaskella and Beryl Bainbridge, Florence/Miss Darcy's Library and Rosamond Lehmann, Simon/Savidge Reads and Daphne du Maurier.
I was so thrilled by the enthusiasm for Muriel Spark Reading Week, which the encouraging, perceptive and incredibly well-read Harriet co-organised with me. Not only did lots of my favourite bloggers join in, but I got to meet many more. And it couldn't have come at a better time - I didn't mention it then, but during the week I underwent an examination for cancer, the culmination of the scariest and most horrible weeks of my life. I was lucky - it ended up being a false alarm. But you'll never know how much it meant to me to have all the enthusiasm and support for Muriel Spark Reading Week distracting me. Thank you, all of you. (And thank you especially to Harriet, who did know what I was going through, and couldn't have been kinder or more understanding.)
I especially love bloggers like lovely Kim who dedicate an ongoing series to interviewing bloggers and finding out their literary preferences. Blogs should have porous boundaries, flowing into one another, as we would at a book group. So it feels like a good time to announce that I'll be hosting a third series of My Life in Books in October - it previously appeared in March 2011 and March 2012, but the feedback was so positive that I couldn't wait til next March. I shan't reveal names yet, but I asked 14 people and everyone said yes! They'll join the thirty (thirty!) bloggers and blog-readers who've already shared their lives in books.
But something I realised, while writing out my list of bloggers to ask (which was at least thirty names long - plenty of people to ask next time!) is that I'm not doing very well at keeping up with the blogosphere. Victoria (who has such intellectual sensitivity, but also - wonderfully - once shared my phase for Sweet Valley High) covered a similar topic here. Book Blogger Appreciation Week is also demonstrating to me how widely spread the blogging world now is - when I started, I felt I had a fairly good grasp on who was blogging, and we all seemed to more or less know one another. A huge number of those dearly familiar faces are still around - delightful, warmhearted Karen/Cornflower, infectiously enthusiastic Danielle/A Work in Progress, dear Elaine/Random Jottings, whom I've met so many times and has shaped my reading life so much over the years, and Margaret/Books Please who started at almost the same time as me, to name but four. I love the way we've all grown together as bloggers, and the archives we've each built, stretching back for years and years... and, ladies, you're not looking a day older.
But there must be so many young bloggers out there (young in blogging terms, I mean - lots of literate six-month-olds) to whom I must be introduced. True, it would easily take up all my time just to keep track of the long-standing book bloggers - but imagine what would have happened if I'd stopped seeking out new blogs three or four years ago? What I would have missed! So I mustn't rest on my laurels; I must keep my eyes open. When I tried to think of book blogs I love which are less than a year old, the only two I could think of immediately were Helen/A Gallimaufry - an impressively thoughtful, thorough, inviting blog - and Karen/Kaggy's Bookish Ramblings, with her great range of twentieth-century fiction reviews akin to my own bookish loves. Which makes me wonder... how many other gems I am missing? (Sorry if you're less than a year old and I already know you, it's probably just because I can't imagine the blogosphere existed without you!)
There are perils involved with having been a book blogger pretty consistently for five and a half years. There are so many joys too - I still get excited when I get a comment or a lovely email - but I mustn't get complacent or too settled. And so... I'd love you to comment with a recommendation of a new blog. And by 'new', I mean less than a year old. Spread the love! And, whilst you're at it, why not comment and tell me what you love about any blog or any blogger - just keep the appreciation overflowing this week!
Finally - I want to reiterate how much I appreciate everyone who comes to visit Stuck-in-a-Book, whether this is your first time, or you've been here every week since the beginning (hi Mum!) I wouldn't have the patience to continue if it weren't for your interest, or if there weren't so many fascinating blogs around to keep the community going strong. I never could have imagined all the joys and adventures blogging and blog-reading would bring - please, bloggers and blog-readers, feel 100% appreciated! The internet would be rubbish without you.