City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

img_0147After you’ve been blogging for as many years as I have, ever after far fewer years than I have for some people, the activity can get a little stale.  About halfway through the TBR Triple Dog Dare, I found myself entering one of those “do I want to keep doing this” phases so many of us go through from time to time.

Do I really want to keep on writing reviews of every book I read?

A couple of years ago, I semi-retired from book blogging.  Instead of trying to post every day as I had been doing for many years, I decided to only post when I had something to review knowing full well that my traffic would suffer for it.

We just in this for fun, right?img_0145

So when I found myself wondering, once again, if I wanted to keep on blogging, I had to come up with some way to keep myself interested.  I don’t think I want to write full reviews all the time anymore, so what to do?

One thing I often make my students do is to draw their response to what we are reading.  It’s something I started doing this year as a result of a series of courses on integrated learning I’ve been taking.

So why not do something like that.

I’ve been keeping a journal of first lines in a little book I made last summer, and I have almost a full shelf of blank books that I’ve made over the years. It’s long been a hobby of mine.  So here’s my first sketchbook journal review.

img_0152Above is the first line of City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.  Pretty good; I had high hopes.  But I think there was a similar line in White, a French movie about Poland.  Still.  I kept reading.

Here’s the first drawing in my sketchbook.

I decided that rather than writing a full review I’d make a list of three.  Another thing I have my students do sometimes. This list says punk rock – ensemble cast- time shifts.

Here’s my final sketch.  As you can see, I’m marking City on Fire and DNF.  I really just am not feeling the flashbacks and backstory narrative stuff this month.  Set your story in motion and go forward.  If you have to go back and fill us in on what happened before, you’re not doing it right.  img_0153

At least until I read a book that does it right, which probably won’t be too long from now.

Making these little drawings forced me to really think about the book in a different way, which is the point.  I enjoyed it.

I’ll think I’ll do it again.

I’ll work on my handwriting, too.

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12 Comments

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I have these moments of ‘this book deserves a review but can I really be bothered’ and I haven’t even been blogging that long (nor exclusively reviewing), so I do understand. This seems like a creative and somehow intuitive way of describing a book. Or at least your reaction to it.

  2. alison41 says:

    GREAT post – loved it! you have given me so many new ideas – thank you! I presume you know about Goodreads? I review 99% of books I read on GR, the 1% is the books that were so awful it was better not to say anything at all! But: I frequently sum up my reads in only one or two lines. Partly due to time restraints and partly as an exercise to focus my thoughts and to ‘write tight’. And – brag brag – GR messaged me to say I’m in their top 1% of reviewers. Considering they have a membership verging on half a million I should stop smirking and shut up.

  3. Liz Dexter says:

    How interesting! I review pretty well everything i read, but don’t feel I have to post x times a week (I do on my business blog however). I have experimented with putting up images of my written journals, mainly to save time, and probably because I’m prideful about my handwriting, but then I realised this wasn’t particularly accessible for visually impaired people (I have a friend and reader of my blog who is VI). But it’s interesting to see other people doing such experimentation.

    1. Not an issue I had considered. You’ve made me think of the sleepover scene in El Deafo where the girls keep talking after they have turned out the lights for the night without thinking about the main character who will no longer be able to read their lips. So, I will continue to type up the written part of my artwork. Almost no one can read my handwritting anyway.

  4. Frances says:

    Great ideas for book journaling – including DNF’s. I’d like to remember when and why I give up finishing a book, particularly when there are very interesting images and ideas in parts of it. Your graph is inspirational. Thanks for the post

  5. tracybham says:

    I like the idea of coming up with creative approaches to reviews. I enjoy writing the reviews (a lot) but don’t have enough time and I write too much.

  6. lailaarch says:

    I LOVE this idea – using artwork and graphs to “review” a book. I might steal this sometime!

    1. Steal away. I can’t say the idea is original to me. I think it’s probably on of Lynda Barry’s ideas.

  7. Sam Sattler says:

    Very cool idea, James; I’ll look forward to your new approach.

    I’ve gone through those “why do I do this” phases before myself. I suspect that those book bloggers who never feel this way are the exception to the rule. I’ve found myself mentally refusing to review some of the books I read now because they are just so damned “blah” that they leave me with a feeling of “been there done that.” They seem so stale that I can’t think of anything to say about them that I haven’t said a dozen times before, and because I don’t want to start coming across as an angry old man, I just toss them aside when done and never give them another thought.

    Hang in there…you are so creative, that I suspect you can always find something to offer the rest of us here. Thanks.

    1. Thank you, Sam. By the way, I just started my first Hap and Leonard book thanks to one of your reviews. I’m enjoying it. Quite funny.

  8. Judith says:

    When writing something about a book read becomes a burden or a chore or worse, my thoughts for myself have always been to lay back, avoid reviewing every book, do anything to relieve myself of onerous obligation. We all have too much of that in our lives.
    If it sounds like I’m suggesting that you stop blogging, I’m really not, not at all. I think art is a good approach, if it works for you as an inspiration to share a book with others. Sometimes taking a break can be a powerful thing. I would miss your blog while you’re on respite, but I would understand that you might need some time away.
    Judith

    1. I’ve tried, and failed, to stop blogging a couple of times. Truth is, I really enjoy it. I’ll keep doing it as long as I enjoy it, whatever for it takes.

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