An Unintended Consequence of Blogging

Image of MA book with a cup of tea and cupcake

Discovering the world of book blogging has had some wonderful, positive effects on my reading life. For instance, before book blogging, I never tracked my reading. I didn’t know how many books I read. And because I read so many, I forgot many of the titles I’d read. I would have hazy memories of a particular book or even a cover, but the title would elude me. This was frustrating because some of these books I wanted to revisit or talk about, but without a title it was quite useless. And yet, it never occurred to me to make lists of all my reading.

Once I realized other readers were keeping dedicated lists of their books read each year, I eagerly followed suit. The first year, I was blown away by how many books I read without any effort. It wasn’t quite a hundred books, yet it was plentiful. I had no idea that was how much I read. For the next couple of years, my reading increased quite a bit. At my high point I was reading an average of ten books a month. Then my reading decreased to pre-blogging levels.

At first this bummed me out. It’s not so much that I see myself in competition with others. I don’t. Everyone’s time limits and rates of reading vary so much. I am still amazed by those that can read hundreds of books in a year. But I do feel like I am in competition with myself. I want my reading to be constant. I want to read the same number of books every year. There are so many books to get to, I don’t want to read less.

One result of this internal competition is that I have seemed to shy away from the Big Books. You know, the chunksters. I’m not saying I used to read chunksters all the time, but I never thought much of the size of the book. Big books titillated rather than intimidated. I used to get quite excited by them because that meant I got more time with it. The story wouldn’t be over too soon. I have the fondest memories of the week or two I spent with The Mists of Avalon during the summer of 2001. I spent my late afternoons sitting on the patio, absorbed in the book until the sun was so low I couldn’t see the page any longer. I remember getting trashy V.C. Andrews books for finals week during high school to make good use of the remaining ninety minutes of each exam period. (I finished my exams way ahead of schedule and we weren’t allowed to leave.) Yeah, these books weren’t necessarily chunksters (or actually any good, although yes, deliciously salacious) but they weren’t the skinny YA books of today. The point: big books didn’t scare me.

However, they do the opposite nowadays. I have a ton of big books that I have purchased over the years with big excitement. But they have been gathering dust for some time now, since I suddenly became too intimidated to pick them up. I believe this intimidation is an unintended consequence of blogging and this subconscious competitiveness I have going with myself.

I have always been a fast reader. I think it is a combination of my pages read per minute and also the amount of time I dedicate to reading. I will stay up all night to read a book. I will spend an entire evening reading. I devote certain chunks of my day every day to this beloved activity. In days past, it could take as little as a few hours to one day to read a book if it was relatively short. On the flip side though, I didn’t mind spending a few weeks with a book if it was considerably long. I even derived a sort of pleasure out of this extended visit since my time with any given book was usually much shorter.

At this point in my life, my limited time and the need to have some fresh material on a regular basis combined with this internal drive to keep my reading pace consistent has cast the big books to the wayside. I became very aware of this when confronted with Marie Antoinette: The Journey coupled with my newly arrived The Girl Who Kicked Who Played with Fire (which did not come in the trade paperback size so it is even fatter and longer due to its smaller size.) Both books were on my January list. I really wanted to read this book since I loved Becoming Marie Antoinette so much. I dearly wanted to learn more about her from a nonfiction point of view. However, the heft had me doubtful and reluctant. A happy circumstance of finishing three books in the first nine days of January boosted my reading confidence so I dived right in, picking up MA: The Journey.

I must say, I have been thoroughly enjoying it. I can’t quite put it into words the feeling of having the same book by my side for several weeks—to read at lunch, to read on the train, to spend an hour with in the evenings whilst enjoying a cup of tea. I have forgotten how delicious this can be. Now that I have rediscovered this delight, I aim to include more of these ‘scary’ books in my reading lists as I journey through this next year.

How about you, my lovelies? What are your ‘scary’ books? Do you read a lot of chunksters? Has blogging had any unintended adverse effects on your reading habits?

Photo: personal for QGR

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24 Responses to An Unintended Consequence of Blogging

  1. Jillian ♣ says:

    I ADORE chunksters! I read them all of the time, inspired very much by blogging. I never would have taken the time for a chunkster two years ago. Now I’m juggling two Tolstoys, a George Eliot, three Dickens, etc. In a couple months I plan to read Clarissa (1500+ pages.)

    PS – That Marie Antoinette book looks delicious!

    • jehara says:

      I’m in serious awe of your reading prowess. That’s some serious reading you have going there! I penned this post a week ago, and I have since finished the book. It is really good . I am currently working on my review. I hope to get it up soon.

  2. One reason why I quit tallying the number of books I read (as of this year) is so I wouldn’t be afraid to include more “big books.” And now I’m looking forward to reading the big books on my list. BUT this is counter-balanced with the extremely short illustrated non-fiction books which I also read, and audiobooks which I recently started getting into – they seem to go by quickly.

    • jehara says:

      I still like to track my books because I forget titles easily. However, this year I’ve decided to start tracking my page count. That way I can compare my page count from year to year, thereby focusing less on the number of books.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I do find that I avoid chunksters at times, not so much because I want high numbers but because I always seem to be scrambling for material to post about,. It seems to be a vicious cycle.

    • jehara says:

      That is a big part of my avoidance too. It takes longer to read big books, which can interfere with not having posting material. I started this one after I had a few books under my belt that could provide material, and I did take a small break in between to read a short YA. This seemed to work as I wasn’t lacking for review material nor did I feel like my reading numbers were down. Actually, they are quite up so far and I just finished my second chunkster this past weekend. I look forward to seeing if I can maintain this strategy. 🙂

  4. Heather says:

    I know what you are talking about. Book blogging has really allowed me to open up my reading but it has also forced me into a bit of competition and all that with myself. I read around 100 books last year and I didn’t enjoy it as much. I’m keeping track but not counting this year. Also I used to love the chunksters! Now, they are more intimidating because I can’t get them done in less than a week. But I’ve been pining to get to Mists of Avalon! It’s just sitting there calling out my name! Good luck with your goals!

    • jehara says:

      Mists of Avalon was a delicious book!! I have actually been wanting to re-read it. I have a few of the other books in the series, but I can’t remember which ones I’ve read and haven’t read. I would love to just start again and revist Mists in the process.

  5. Emma says:

    Since I started blogging I seem to have shied away from big books too. Since I post reviews of books I feel under pressure to read a certain number a books a month and as a result the books I’ve been reading of late are not chunky. One scarily big book that I need to pull out and re-read is Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s been years since I’ve read it fully so that’s on my list this year.

    • jehara says:

      I totally understand the pressure. I felt better about picking up MA once I had read a few books for that month. It eased the pressure and I was able to fully enjoy the reading experience. 🙂

  6. Julie says:

    My reluctance to pick up a “chunkster” has been impacted by a few things. First, parenting got in the way of my reading time in a BIG way and I lost the time to really “get into” a large book because there were too many interruptions and I felt as though I couldn’t find the flow of a large book and it was frustrating. The other reason is my own guilt about not working on my thesis. If I can read a quick book in one night I dont feel as though I am giving my time to reading as I would if I were reading a chunkster. I guess to get over that guilt I just need to finish my thesis!

    • jehara says:

      I can imagine it would be incredibly difficult to get into a longer book if you are always having to put it down. All my friends that have kids definitely lament the lack of reading time. Hopefully, once they get older, more time for books is freed up.

  7. Sarah says:

    I like semi-frightening people when I walk into a doctor’s appointment and have a chunkster with me. Size does not frighten me. I have caught myself thinking, ‘That book is small, its not even 500 pages’….Last year, I started blogging, started getting review books, got a nook, plus reading more YA, and they weren’t as big as those classic chunksters I mainly read before. And I checked out a few more. But those that are chunksters in print either fly on a reader, or are edited differently so their reader page count is significantly off from the print page count. But I think it is the review books and library books with deadlines that made me not read as many of my chunksters last year.

  8. Margot says:

    I completely agree with you on the chunksters. I avoid them because it can take me two to three weeks to read one if that’s all I’m reading. As a book blogger I want to post about books more than once every other week or so. It’s one of only one or two downsides to book blogging.

    However — I’ve determined to read some of the chunkster classics in spite off blogging. What I did was to start reading the big ones a little bit at a tune while reading the smaller ones at the same time. It’s working. I’m now reading Clarissa (a year long read-a-long), Bleak House (a three month read-a-long) and The Odyssey (personal and then book club). Some days it feels like I’m, back in college with multiple courses. Overall, it’s working.

  9. Bumbles says:

    I have read chunksters in less time than it took to read a shorty. Sometimes the longer books just fly by because they have more interesting characters or themes and the shorter books can take more time to get through because they make me think more and cause a re-read of chapters. You just never know until you dive in. Never let a page-count turn you off!

  10. kaye says:

    I’ve never been scared by a big book and feel like you–the length gives you time to love the story. I’ll confess to being a list keeper. I did fairly well at it until–I think it was when the third baby entered my life–then it became a thing of the past until Mary G another blogger introduced me to library thing! I made a list of 200 books I could remember reading and found out that was all they would allow without paying a fee. And then through book blogging I discovered goodreads! I do love goodreads. A perfect website for book lovers! I’ve played around recently with Shelf-ari because they said they would import my books from the kindle automatically as I purchased them, but I haven’t figured it out yet. It seems a lot more complicated than goodreads. One of the main reasons I started blogging was so I could keep track of the books I read. For some silly reason I just love looking at the list, and I love browsing back through my reviews. I only wish I’d kept a book diary through all those busy years. I also love book blogging because of the exposure to books of all genre’s. In the 3 years I’ve been blogging I’ve read a lot of books I’m sure I would never even known about. I recommended a few of them to my brother-in-law who is an English teacher in High School and he wanted to know how I found all these wonderful titles, I told him “blogging”. He was pretty surprised. (Oh, I loved Mists of Avalon too) The only really negative experience I’ve had with book blogging was when I joined the 52 books in 52 weeks reading challenge last year. In order to read a book a week I found myself picking shorter books . . . and felt deprived somewhat. I decided not to do that again. Oh my, I’ve rattled on here . . . so sorry but I did enjoy your thoughts very much.

    • jehara says:

      Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful comment, Kaye!! I discovered librarything in 2007 and LOVED it. I didn’t really know about goodreads or shelfari until after I ponied up the $25 for a lifetime membership fee, which I didn’t mind paying. I still use librarything and enjoy it. I haven’t moseyed over to goodreads yet, although I probably should. More people I know seem to be on that.

  11. stacybuckeye says:

    Pre-blogging days chunksters were my books of choice, but when Iwant to post about what I’ve read it’s hard to let myself take the time for a huge book. Of course, that is a moot point now that I have a baby. Chunksters will have to wait awhile longer.

  12. Kimberly says:

    Aaaaah, the chunksters. I don’t avoid them, per se, since I started blogging. If I want to read something, then it goes onto my to-read list and I’ll pretty much get around to it when I get to it. I do find, however, that since I started book blogging I have to slow down or else I won’t remember the book. I have to either make notes and/or start the review immediately after I finish the book, which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen much.

    I think the reading challenges stress me out, though. I’m not sure I participate, but I look at the number of books that I “need” to read, and I’m always like, I’m ahead of schedule!! Must keep ahead of schedule!!! Which . . . I know . . . is a tad silly.

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