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On A Bloggy Night

The blog universe is so expansive and variegated that any attempt to characterize it in a few hundred words is bound to be reductive or naïve at best, banal at worst. That said, a recent flurry of attention given our books on a number of blogs has prompted us to take a good look around at what they’re saying about us, and to think carefully about where blogging fits in the world of professional reviews and critical feedback in general.

Reviews, quips and critiques appearing on blogs vary: from the scholarly and insightful, even-handed enough to rival reviews in established periodicals by professional reviewers and critics, to the deeply-personal and highly opinionated. This first category—definitely a minority group—may even have one advantage over reviews in important newspapers and magazines, where the trend is away from frankly critical coverage of books toward an “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing” philosophy to book reviewing. Even the most careful and erudite bloggers seem bound by that unspoken law of cyberspace: at all cost, speak your mind.

Does this mean that serious reviewing (or, to avoid a loaded term, “serious and authentic opinions about books”) is moving off the page and online? From what we can tell, the answer is no, at least not yet. Online, the number of quips—one-liners and passing comments similar to the kind of evaluation you might make of the pepperoni slice you ate at lunch—far outweigh the number of lengthy and carefully considered appraisals of a book’s enduring importance and/or bona fide entertainment value. The very nature of blogs in particular and of the Internet universe in general favors the pithy over the thorough, the stick-and-move over the stay-and-think. And the exceptions to this represent such a small percentage of the total critical attention paid to books in cyberspace to be statistically insignificant. Despite some noteworthy examples of first-rate reviewing on blogs, print still holds primacy in the parallel worlds of book publishing and critical response to books being published.

However, there is one thing that all blogs offer—no matter whether the posts are short or long, smart or silly, critical or laudatory: the chance to hear what readers think about our books directly from the horse’s mouth, or bookbuyer's portal, as the case may be. In the past, this kind of direct contact with real live readers was limited to book fairs and author tours; at most, in the case of only the most intrepid editors and publishers, to occasional conversations struck up on trains and buses with fellow commuters.

This is essentially what makes the following selected blogs and others like them that we haven’t yet had a chance to visit, both interesting and important for us. All publishers, editors, translators, copyeditors, production directors, graphic designers, not to mention writers themselves, must have, at some point, wished that on the last page of each of their books there could be a mechanism by which readers instantly acquaint all interested parties with their opinion of the book just finished.

Blogs now seem to make that kind of thing possible.

NOTE: It may not be appropriate to call several of the following web sites blogs: in some cases they are fully-fledged and fabulously complex information portals. However, they possess the spontaneity and directness that characterize the blog universe. It is for this reason, and not in any way to oversimplify their goals and design, that they are included here.


Ready Steady Book

Sarah Weinman

The Elegant Variation

The Written Nerd

The Quarterly Conversation

January Magazine

Media Bistro

Shelf Awareness

The Big Bad Book Blog

The Eclectic Closet

Book Slut

The Ruminator

The Man in Black

Moby Lives

Words Without Borders

Book Dwarf

Book Critics Circle

The Book Eater

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine

Biblio Buffet

Crime and Noir

Euro Crime

I Love A Mystery

Mystery File

International Noir Fiction

Detectives Beyond Borders

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