Sunday, June 7, 2009

TSS - Comments about Comments

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.


  1. Blogging has definitely deepened my engagement in my books. Writting reviews forces you to solidify your thoughts.

  2. I love this post Molly! I think you must be such a wonderful teacher. The great thing about literature and books is that we do each bring our own unique experiences to the table when is never static or dead.

  3. i absolutely agree with you about engaging students in active learning. literary appreciation also depends on class dynamic. each year i do one or two of the same pieces and the responses from students are always different. my 10th graders this year didn't like a novel we did, but last year's 10th grade LOVED it.

    i also enjoy reading reviews here on the book blogs. i sometimes wish that people would open up a bit more about how the book impacted them instead of just retelling the story...that would be my only critique. i guess we each have to find our comfort zones when it comes to reviews!

  4. Blogging does open us up to more and different worlds. It's fun!

  5. I like your morning routine! And the topic of your post is so very timely for me - I was just thinking about comments on blogs the other day, and how much I love reading not only what a blogger has to say, but what other readers have to say, too.

    I like book review posts because invariably I always find a new-to-me author with a lovely backlist of titles. There's nothing that's more enjoyable! But recently I've been finding myself even more drawn to those book bloggers who also blog about things other than book reviews, book-related subjects that really make me think and want to enter into the discussion (like this one).

    You sound like a wonderful teacher, the kind of English teacher I would have loved when I was in high school.

  6. It's great that you try and engage students and let them process the material in their own way. I remember not liking that their was a right and wrong answer to how to see literature in college and as you mention I really love reading all the different perspectives on the blogs.

  7. I, too, have a different Sunday morning & evening now!

    I get my TSS post done on Saturday so that on Sunday I can just read and comment away!

  8. This is a great, thought provoking post. I imagine you are a fantastic teacher. I know you're a fantastic reviewer - please don't hesitate to post your reviews. I look forward to them.

  9. First of all, I love your reviews Molly so don't stop. (Yours, along with so many others put mine to shame--I think I am not really a book reviewer, just a book enjoyer)

    Second, you sound like an amazing teacher and I wish my boys could be in your class! I have been less than thrilled with the teachers they have had for English and the approach to literature our district takes in middle and high school. I really think that 5 weeks on Lord of the Flies and not just one, but TWO major projects regarding the symbolism in that book is just a tad bit of overkill. They sure are not instilling a love of literature or reading in general in my two sons this way. Unfortunately I think this method of teaching and over analyzing is pretty common right now in the educational community.

    Keep doing what you are doing--you are definitely impacting lives. :)

  10. Book blogging has definitely changed the way I spend my time! My morning routine is not unlike yours. :)

    It has also change the way I read - I'm much more thoughtful about what I'm reading, because I know I will be writing a review and discussing the book with others.

  11. I enjoyed reading your post today and all the comments following it.

    Book blogs are a reasonably new discovery for me and I am really enjoying reading the viewpoints of others on books that I have already read or picking up recommendations for new books/authors.

    An author told me recently that she believes that she is only ever half of the process of making a book - that the reader contributes just as much as she does to making the story real and significant and that each reader brings something different into the mix.

    I think that is why I enjoy reading book blogs so much - the different viewpoints open up new possibilities in a book I may have already read.

    I enjoy the book chat as well. Getting to a book group isn't possible for me at the moment, so it is great to be able to get all my book-related discussions online.

  12. Blogging especially about books has openend up a whole new world for me; there are so many authors/books I hadn't heard of before the blog started.

  13. I like your analogy between book blogging and the classroom. I've always thought a literature class was like an assigned book club that meets often. Book blogging is very similar. I thoroughly enjoy your book reviews so please don't stop.

    You mentioned a book of short stories over in the comments section of Belle's (Ms Bookish) blog and would like for you to share the title. It sounded so interesting - authors shared their inspiration after each short story. Hopefully you are going to review that book with us?

  14. Hi Molly, stop by when you get a chance and pick up your latest award from me.

  15. I think everyone reads each book differently. Sharing through blogs is such a great thing and makes us all better readers and writers and thinkers. Great post.

  16. Perception is everythingwhen it comes to books!

    One more thing, Molly...

  17. Molly--absolutely right, as teachers we are thinking of ways to teach ALL the time.
    I enjoyed your observation that sometimes we are so anxious that students get the meaning of a novel that we don't let them relate on their own.
    I wrote a blog a while back using the title of Billy Collins' wonderful poem Tie A Poem to a Chair. That blog talks about poetry and understanding it, and also links to the Collins poem.
    Tie a Poem to a Chair

  18. "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."

    Me neither! Perfectly put. There's something so unique and personal about how each one of us reacts to a book. That's one of the reasons why I love book blogs.

  19. Molly, I LOVE this post! As usual, you are insightful and always get me thinking about things I haven't thought of before, whether it be a book review or a general topic. I think that is what probably makes you a great teacher! I think it's important for students to express their interpretation of a book as well as the mainstream literary world. It promotes free-thinking and self confidence in expressing themselves. I am constantly learning when I read other bloggers reviews. It's an on-going process and I'm so happy that I have found a place in this blogging community. I can't imagine my life without it.

  20. Really interesting thoughts, Molly. You're right that sometimes the comments can be just as fascinating as the post (although I don't usually have time to read them all). I really appreciate when bloggers take the time to leave a thoughtful comment other than "I liked this book" or "great review" as I do think it adds to the ongoing discussion. A lot of times bloggers will point out an aspect of the book that I didn't pick up on or enlighten me about a point or direct me to a different book to read. My favorite book reviews of others are the ones for books that I've already read. I love comparing what others thought. Sure the newer books are fun to see, but I've noticed that comments are usually more meaningful when I post about a classic rather than the hotest new release.

    Great topic--this is one I've been thinking about a lot lately.


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