book blogs in the UK

This week’s Top 10 of lit blogs is just in from mega-multi PR & media giant Cision UK, & I’m pleased to tell you Baroque in Hackney is on the list. Hurrah! There are several blogs there I didn’t know about, so it’s good to read it and learn. I can heartily recommend This Space, which is new to me.

Now, the arrival of a list like this (or indeed the Wikio list, on which yours truly clocks in at a more humbling 28) inevitably makes you think about the whole phenomenon of book blogging: what is it, who’s doing it, why, what are they providing and what are the gaps? (Well, that’s what it makes me think about.) Is there a local gap? The USA , with its enormous market, features ambitious, semi-pro review-section-like book sites with numerous features and contributors, giveaway competitions, and a seeming inside track to the publishing industry. Maud Newton springs to mind. The UK seems characterised more by readers’ blogs, enthusiastic reviews of the books the blogger has enjoyed (often improbably numbers of them. How do people read so many novels?? I manage about four a year.) – a slightly more hobbyish landscape (don’t get me wrong – not a bad thing!! ).* And it is clear that they do “move books,” which is why they are important enough to be sent the books in the first place. (Coming soon, speaking of which: some reviews of books I’ve been sent.) My main point is just a sort of cultural difference between UK and US book blogs, and a gap in the critical terrain that I wonder why we don’t fill over here.

Talking myself into a hole… yet again… and this isn’t the time or place to reprise the old arguments for and against the Book Blogs.  I seem to remember some hoohah a while back that started with John Sutherland’s rant against amateur critics** to which everyone (I mean me) took absolutely huge umbrage – but I do think the efficacy of book blogging, and what we want from it, is a good thing to think about, as we trundle through our days and ways… if you read my linked post you’ll find lots of other links, which will fill you in, and also make you wish you’d never asked.

Of course, the main reason the book blogs are perceived to be important at all is their power to (as above, in Sutherland’s picturesque phrase) “move books,” and some of my favourite book blogs really aren’t likely to do that. They’re about ideas, quirky things or old stuff. One or two, like the impressive new Hand + Star review site, do the engagement-&-ideas thing as well as the book-moving thing – except that it’s mainly poetry, so whether the books will visibly move is another question, though maybe they’ll inspire some readers by stealth. I certainly haven’t got much of a programme here on Baroque, it’s just a completely self-indulgent romp through my brain. (Fun, huh.) I’ve often thought of making it more programmatic, scheduling things, running regular guest spots, competitions, etc, but I’m not sure that wouldn’t be a disaster. I think the Baroque overgrown-hedge feel is part of the integral concept, and just as well.

And what about poetry blogs, as distinct from general book ones?

And what about casting a wider cultural net – what about culture blogs? Theatre, arts, film, books?

Over in the USA, Harriet, the Poetry Foundation’s blog, has just changed from a guest-written blog to a more newsy aggregate one – partly because (as Don Share told me) there is already so much fine poetry blogging going on around the world. Of course, it is a painful truth that one can’t know every blog. Far from it. I don’t claim to be an authority. I know there are fine blogs not listed on my sidebar; the compendium page BritLitBlogs is pretty much the source, I think, for what it says on the tin, at least on this side of the Atlantic, which is what I’m interested in today. What do people think? Let’s use the comments thread here to point out poetry blogs and other book blogs people read. What blogs do you like? Do you care if a poetry blog is US- or UK-centric? And what do you look for in a blog? What makes you read it?

* I’ll come clean here, though. I tend to skip past, without reading, any blog whose title refers to “jottings,” “ramblings,”  “musings,” “witterings,” or any other self-deprecating term that sounds not worth reading.

** which is unfortunately no longer up at the Telegraph; I wonder if anyone thought to make a Word copy…