Ever wonder what life was like before you discovered the world of book blogs? I do. What did I used to do with my morning time? Now my daily routine (although more leisurely on the weekends) is to let out the dogs, get a nice cup of hot coffee, and sit down to read the blog updates. I can honestly say that I am now a "morning person" since I began this daily discipline.
In reading all the TSS posts this morning I was struck by the variety of comments. Sometimes I enjoy reading the comments as much as I enjoy the original blog entry - the insights can be very profound and often thought-provoking. I find it fascinating that what others find as significant in a review, I totally miss OR what I find to be interesting no one else mentions. It is this dynamic exchange of ideas that I love about this community - and what I feel I miss by not being a part of a book club.
This observation caused me to think about book reviews in general. Sometimes I hesitate to post my reviews - either because the book is a "classic" and I feel everyone has already read it OR the book is an up and coming bestseller and it seems everyone is reviewing the same book at the same time. I allow myself to think that I have nothing more significant to add to the ongoing discussions. BUT...I never tire of reading book reviews. I might skim over the plot synopsis after the 3rd or 4th time, but I always enjoy reading and savoring the individual insights and opinions that bloggers share. Some focus on plot development - others on character relationships. Some provide insight into writing style, while others are passionate about the themes and insights into our human condition. Some bloggers have read several books by the same author and can provide a chronological comparison, while other bloggers read a wide variety of literary genres and can offer similar books as appropriate follow-up materials. Some bloggers research an author and include links to websites and other reviews, while others offer an author interview or guest post. The uniqueness of each posting helps me to better understand the book and whether it would be a good fit for my personal reading pleasure. Book review bloggers have a definite impact on the book buying habits of their readers!
My thoughts then carried over to the classroom (even in the summer teachers are always thinking in terms of the next school year!). I sometimes think that teachers are so concerned with having students analyze literature the "right" way, that we forget to allow students to relate to the literature in their own way. I try very hard not to fall into this trap (but I know I stumble several times throughout the year) - and I encourage students to provide their insights into the story, provided they can back up those insights with textual references. Now in this day and age, it is sometimes difficult to have the average American high student take the time to actually think about what they read (they would much prefer the teachers just give them the answers to the questions so that they can pass the class), but for those who wish to engage in active learning, this can provide a valuable educational experience for the class as a whole - and the teacher in particular. Just as different bloggers bring their own unique perspective to the writing of their book reviews (age - educational background - family make-up etc.), so can students bring their individual insights into the classroom. This is a great example of synergistic learning --- where 1+1 does not always equal 2 and where 2 heads are better than 1 -- and 10 heads even better still.