Sunday Salon: Summarizing

I’ve been struggling with the whole business of book blogging as of late. If you haven’t already noticed, commenting has been sparse both here and on others’ blogs while posts have been a little, um, sloppy. While my reading has picked up and I’m doing an excellent job of whittling down the ol’ TBR pile, turning my thoughts into coherent posts has not gone as smoothly.

I transitioned from my old blog to this blog after finding I was unable to relate to books and write my reviews in the same fashion. I used to rate books on a scale and while I still do that on GoodReads, I’ve tried to avoid assigning an arbitrary number to books because, for me, a three doesn’t mean the same thing from book to book. I was never able to develop a system of assigning numbers that could transition from a fictional novel to a nonfiction chunkster about genocide.

I state on my about page that this blog is meant to be different, that I wanted this book blog to be “more about my interactions with books — my feelings, my reactions, my understandings — rather than an evaluation of the technical side and mechanics of the books I read”. Yet I find that I’m sliding back into old habits and I feel restless.

The hardest part of writing reviews for me is not my interaction with the book but rather the summary. I tried copying the summary off the back of the book for a period of time, but there are many instances where the summary does not match the true content of the book. Trying to write my own summary is a challenge, though. I worry about giving away too many details in my summary and my thoughts (something I have been criticized for on GoodReads). I worry that I fundamentally did not understand the book and therefore my summary will be incorrect. However, I think the root of my struggle with writing can best be summed up with this quote below that I have been mulling over for a few weeks now.

“Books? Books are sacred. Books are to me what the host is to the priest, the oasis to the desert wanderer, the arrival of winged seraphim to a dying man. That’s the main reason why I can’t write a book report. I can’t stand what a book report does, boils a book down to a few sentences about plot. What about the words that make each book unique, an island unto itself, words like cursory and ingenuous and immerse? What about the heart and soul?” (Shadow Baby, pg. 63)

How do I translate all these beautiful words into something coherent that can help facilitate discussion? I focus on discussion because steering peoples’ buying and reading habits have never been the point of this blog. I want to share my excitement about a book but, unfortunately, I do not always have that excitement. I not going to stop discussing books I didn’t enjoy; I think it’s weird when fellow bloggers only post about books they love.

But trying to write summaries makes me feel vulnerable. Like someone is going to jump about from behind the curtain and take me to task over my “misunderstanding” of a book. This feeling rears its ugly head when I particularly did not enjoy a book, but I’ve also felt it even when I did love a book. It is just such a weird feeling and one I am afraid I will always feel as a I navigate the weird world of book blogging.

The Sunday Salon:

The Sunday Salon.com The Sunday Salon encourages bloggers to get together –at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones– every Sunday and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another’s blogs. Salon participants are encouraged to blog about their time spent reading, pages read, information about current reading, discuss a reaction to a book, state what they plan to read the following week, or make suggestions for a group read.

3 comments

  1. Jillian ♣

    I think you are too critical of your views on literature. A book is only meaningful if someone reads it. Thus, by default, you are valuable in your interpretation of it (summary or otherwise) because you read it. If people critique your thoughts, they would do as well to critique a flower. Each is what it is. (I delete all critiques because I dislike having them sour my day. But I think you and I are different.) 🙂

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