To help celebrate Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW), I signed up for the interview swap, which I think is a great way to get to know other book bloggers. This year, I was lucky enough to be matched up with Tony from Tony’s Reading List. Although I find the books he reads kind of intimidating, he proved to be very friendly, down-to-earth, honest and interesting. So, without further ado, meet Tony!
When and why did you start your blog?
A few years back, for a number of reasons (work, postgraduate study, arrival of daughter number one, cost of books in Australia), I had started to read less, and when I joined a few Facebook reading groups, I felt a bit embarrassed by how little I was reading and, perhaps, by the lack of thought I put into that reading. I saw that a few of the posters there had created book blogs, so in December 2008 I decided that I would create a blog to document what I was reading and what I thought about it, to be started on New Year’s Day 2009. Probably the most successful New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made. : )
What is the primary focus of your blog?
My blog is primarily (in fact, almost exclusively) a review blog, and with around a hundred books to talk about each year, there’s very little time for anything else – not without abandoning my family, anyway! The blog has quickly developed into a literary one, with a focus on Victorian, German, French, Russian and Japanese novels, but I try to be as eclectic as possible. No vampires though
Do you have any goals for your blog that you hope to accomplish?
In a word, no! Why I’m doing this is a question which crops up periodically, and while a tiny part of me is keen to promote my blog more and increase the number of followers, the reality is that I read and review good books, and that’s it; I’m not a marketer or a social butterfly. Review it, and they will come – as Kevin Costner may or may not have said…
What do you look for in the blogs that you read?
Firstly, good writing. I’m looking for well-written reviews, and it amazes me how often I see ones with huge chunks copied from the book, surrounded by a few comments saying “I liked this, you should read it”. Secondly, I’m looking for good books, and as I’m fairly conservative with my choices, it’s quite rare for me to trust other bloggers’ opinions, especially about contemporary literature. Finally, the writer has to have a certain kind of humour. If the blogger is too serious to poke fun at themselves, or, at the other end of the scale, has an attention-seeking ‘look at me’ zany approach, I’ll struggle to take the posts seriously.
Having read my answer again, it’s a wonder I manage to find anything at all. : (
What are some of your favo(u)rite things about book blogging?
Getting encouraging comments from people who have enjoyed my posts and want to read the book; helping people to find new writers and scenes they may not have been aware of; being part of a community of people who think that reading involves something more than flicking through Cosmopolitan once a month; gradually being led gently into the realm of 21st-century literature (eyes blinking, unaccustomed to the light after being buried in the dark Victorian era for so long). The usual.
What are some of your least favo(u)rite things about book blogging?
Competitiveness; the tendency to constantly check stats and followers; the feeling of unspeakable unfairness that comes over me when I see a terribly-written post on an inane book get 373 comments; RSI; the fact that everyone in the world except me appears to have free review copies on tap from any publisher they want (OK, I’m going off to cry now).
Most of the bloggers I’ve “met” have been female. How does it feel to be a male blogger in what seems to be a female-oriented community?
It has taken a while to get used to. Some of the things which puzzle me a little about blogging come from the gender differences. The creation of bonds and the idea of sowing many comments on other blogs in order to reap the harvest of replies on your own is something that does not come naturally to me. I also find that a lot of books reviewed, especially modern ones, simply don’t interest me, and that can make it difficult to create close links with a lot of bloggers. I know many people will say that this has more to do with my character than the fact that I’m a man (and they may be right); whatever the truth may be, I probably have a higher like ratio with the few male-produced blogs out there than with the numerous female-produced sites. However, the gender divide is not the only one, and I think that national and age differences are just as important issues as the gender gap. I’m always going to be more likely to enjoy posts written by people with a similar upbringing and, perhaps, mindset to mine.
I’m sensing you might have some opinions about e-books. What is your take on this latest development in the publishing world?
I love my i-Pod, love it to bits, can’t imagine a world without it. But…
…reading has so much more to it than just the words. Each book is a part of your life, linked to memories. There’s something about the feel of a book in your hand that I can’t imagine an e-reader being able to replace. I know, in my heart of hearts, that e-books are a good idea, especially in terms of space saving, but…
You seem to read what I think of as more “serious” books. Is that your preferred reading or just what you choose to blog about?
That is really what I prefer to read, and I’m not alone in that: in the past few weeks alone, I have noticed several comments by bloggers in my circle of acquaintances who want to go back to reading classics (going back to their reading roots). If you like this kind of reading, then it’s a kind of safety blanket, comfort reading which is guaranteed to make you feel better. Of course, your enjoyment rate is also likely to be much higher when reading classics than when reading new books which you may or may not like. Some people would argue that you need to read something a little lighter from time to time, but to me some so-called ‘serious’ books are much more fun to read than the lighter fare preferred elsewhere.
What are some of your favo(u)rite books you’ve read in the past year?
Damn. I knew that would come up.
For this year so far, I’ll nominate 8 books which may well feature in my end-of-year ‘Best of 2010’ post:
- Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas (Australia)
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (England)
- The Waves by Virginia Woolf (England)
- The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (England)
- Drei Kameraden by Erich Maria Remarque (Germany)
- Quicksand by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki (Japan)
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (India)
- Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (France)
I reserve the right to change my mind at any time though…
You were short-listed for Best Written Book Blog. How do you approach the writing aspect part of your blog?
Correction – like David Mitchell in the Booker prize, I was cut at the longlist stage (nice to have something in common with him!). (Note from Jenners: Oops! How embarrassing! I guess I just added him to the short list in my mind because I was so impressed with his writing when I visited!) The writing part has gradually become more important to me as the blog has developed. When I first started, a typical post was about 300-400 words; this slowly moved upwards until I wrote an absurdly long piece on Ulysses which was the best part of 2000 words. At that point, I realised that I was in very deep water and began to edge gently back towards dry land. Now, I typically aim for around 800-1000 words, and I have a fairly standard structure, unless I go for the occasional radically different style of post (such as my interview with Dostoevsky or my evening meal at the Fusion Lit Bistro…)…
As for the actual writing process, I try to take notes as I go along, usually little things about connections to other works, themes, interesting characters – then I put it all together over a couple of days, along with liberal dashings of personal anecdotes and misjudged jokes. Voilà! A completed post!
Now if someone will just comment on it…
Thanks, Tony! It was wonderful getting to know you better, and I hope this interview swap helps to guide other classic-loving readers and bloggers your way!