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When I started this blog I never thought it’d become such a big part of my life. Barely a day goes by when I’m not posting about a book or responding to a comment or email or chatting with someone on social media about books. I’ve written 452 book reviews for the blog thus far and met countless readers – some of you I’ve even met in real life! And I really value all the chats about books we’ve had. 

Of course I’ve always been a reader, but keeping this blog and interacting with other readers online has given me such a deeper appreciation for what a social activity reading is rather than seeing it as a strictly solitary act. It’s not an accident that so many avid readers are introverts - although, certainly not every reader could be classified this way. But I am someone who enjoys solitude and the process of reading demands this. So much alone time can cause a creeping glumness where I feel too disconnected from other people and I think this is partly why a sense of loneliness can overwhelm me at times.

I clearly remember a summer in my teens where I took a month off from working and school. For whatever reason, I was lucky enough to have freedom at that time to mostly sit at home and read. So I ardently read Dostoevsky and Faulkner for hours on end day after day. And one afternoon I looked up and thought: I AM SO DEPRESSED. Ha. Of course I was! Yes, it’s important to go out in the world now and then, but I think if I were online then interacting with other readers it would have made me feel a lot better. Hearing opinions and book recommendations from other readers and getting involved in so many bookish activities goes a long way to alleviate this occasional sadness and recognize how empowering solitude can be. So thanks for chatting with me about books!

I keep quotes from five wonderful authors in the side column of this blog to remind myself about the distinction between loneliness and solitude. It’s important for readers to remind themselves that there is a strength and connectedness that comes with the activity of reading when we’re alone. Since you’re also a keen reader I’m glad you understand what I mean. Thank you for being here.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
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I started this blog exactly four years ago. In a way it feels like my little safe haven away from the noise of normal life where I can mull over what I’m reading to my heart’s content. I’m truly grateful for people who want to engage with me discussing what they’re reading too. Now that I’ve built up quite a back catalogue of reviews one of the best things is when someone has just finished reading a book I read years ago and comments on that old post. Suddenly, my thoughts and feelings for that book come rushing back to me while we have a discussion in the present. Having that sort of connection helps assuage the feeling of loneliness which always goes with reading and makes it much more fun. It’s a lovely thing.

Since I like to mug for the camera and come up with creative ways of photographing myself with what I’ve been reading, I’ve also built up quite an album of book selfies. So here’s a selection from the past four years. Thanks for reading my blog and watching my Booktube videos and let me know what you’ve been reading lately… I always love hearing about what good books I’m missing out on.

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It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I first started this book blog. I’m amazed at the opportunities it’s opened up for me to engage with other passionate readers, interact with authors personally and celebrate literature I love. Some highlights from the past year include being a judge on the Green Carnation Prize, joining rambunctious reader extraordinaire Simon of Savidge Reads to form the Baileys Bearded Book Club, fabulous feminist Naomi of The Writes of Women in shadowing the Baileys Prize and insightful reader of classic fiction Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal to organize a Jean Rhys Reading Week. It’s also been interesting starting a booktube channel recently to speak about books on video and finding on Youtube a whole new community of readers to interact with online.

It was a pleasure and thrill being asked to interview Zadie Smith about her excellent forthcoming novel “Swing Time” at the beginning of August. This coming week I’m looking forward to chairing an evening with Baileys Prize and Desmond Eliot Prize winner Lisa McInerney alongside other prize winning authors Andrew Hurley and Jessie Greengrass at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road. Details and ticket info are here if you’d like to come along! It’d be wonderful to see you there. I’m also being commissioned to write articles about literature for publishers. So these things mean I’m earning a bit of money for the first time by talking about books and writing about books. This blog has always just been a passion project I do in my spare time so it’s a nice extra validation to be getting this work.

However, the biggest honour this year and probably the biggest honour of my whole life was when Joyce Carol Oates dedicated her new book “Soul at the White Heat” to me. If you’ve read my blog much or know me at all you’ll know she’s my absolute favourite writer. She’s a supreme artist and genius so it’s truly humbling receiving this dedication. It’s also particularly poignant that this is a collection of nonfiction about the writing life and Oates’ own passion for reading classic and contemporary fiction. Readers are kindred spirits and though reading is a solitary act just patiently engaging with a book connects you to a whole community of invisible readers.

To twist a famous phrase by Virginia Woolf, it’s important to have a virtual space of one’s own. Now more than ever before anyone with access to the internet can make themselves heard by creating a blog or starting an account on social media. It’s important to say what you think and express what you’re most passionate about. It’s also vital that we really listen to each other and exchange ideas instead of closing ourselves off to opinions other than our own. This week I read Donal Ryan’s brilliant new novel “All We Shall Know” and in it he writes “People get wicked vexed unless you agree away with them. There’s no countenancing argument any more.” It feels increasingly that people in politics and the media shout things and want others to simply agree with them. But we need to challenge each other and be challenged ourselves if we’re going to really converse and grow. Otherwise, it’s just noise. 

Thank you for reading my book blog. So, have you read anything good lately? 

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Two years ago I started this blog without any expectations about what it would turn into. I didn’t even have confidence in my ability to continue updating it. I’m grateful that people have read it and appreciated what I have to say about books. Conversing about books and reading what other people say about their own reading has only fuelled my obsession for reading more. And it is an obsession. Although I read more than most people, I sometimes feel quite down about all the books I don’t have time to read. Recently someone very wise said to me that I feel this way because I want to be on the inside when there is no inside. It seems to be an inevitable state of being for me and many other readers who tend to be more introverted to perpetually feel on the outside of things.

In writing this blog, I’m continuously trying to investigate the state of loneliness. It’s a kind of loneliness that can’t be assuaged by engaging with other people. Feelings of being an outsider, disconnected from the rest of the world, lost in one’s own thoughts. They are a state of mind which can only be settled by connecting with humanity through good literature. I really appreciate the distinction Joyce Carol Oates makes in her recent excellent memoir “The Lost Landscape” that “Loneliness weakens. Aloneness empowers. Aloneness makes of us something so much more than we are in the midst of others whose claim is that they know us.” It’s a sentiment echoed in quotes by May Sarton and Marianne Moore that I’ve put in the sidebar of this blog. Because only in this state of solitude can we live unencumbered by the judgements and projections of other people. That’s not to say I want to live like a hermit on a mountain (as appealing as this sounds from time to time). But I want to find strength in my self when I am alone and faced with a book that allows an entire world to unfurl inside my head.

So my fanaticism for reading more and more hasn’t waned. It’s been fascinating reading books for the Green Carnation Prize recently as it’s made me pick up types of books and genres I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards. This encourages me to not be so methodical in my reading in the future, to let my hand grab books out of sheer curiosity as I used to when I was a teenager wandering through used bookstores. There is a perpetual sense of excitement about where a book might take me when I have no preconceived notions about the author or the subject matter or what anyone thinks of it. But I still love hearing recommendations. Some of the best books I’ve read in the past two years have come from being nudged to read something by readers of this blog or by bookish people on social media.

So what are you reading and what do you think I should read next?

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a pile of some of the books I've read in the past year

a pile of some of the books I've read in the past year

I’m throwing myself a little blogger’s birthday party because I began this site exactly one year ago today. I wasn’t sure if I would have the stamina to keep it going but now this is my favourite personal project. This seems like a good time to stop and assess why I’m putting so much time and effort into the blog. It was also a little over a year ago that I became a qualified massage therapist – a practice I’ve kept up on weekends and weeknights in addition to my full time weekday office job. I do love the sense of connection and satisfaction I find in body work. Since I don’t earn anything from doing this blog I should really concentrate my efforts into building my practice more and expanding my skills. The thing is I’m not much of a businessman and money isn’t everything. Honestly, I'd rather be lost in a book.

Reading and discussing books is nourishing for the soul. I’ve made some wonderful connections with other bookish folk. And I genuinely appreciate all the lovely people who read and comment here. The blog has opened up some wonderful opportunities for me. I now contribute reviews to the wonderful book site Shiny New Books and review all new Oates titles for the academic journal Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies. I’ve met some brilliant writers I really admire and have even cooked tofu for a current Booker shortlisted author at my house. But what I enjoy most is the world of books that I’ve been introduced to by reading other blogs, communicating with readers and gathering recommendations. There will always be stacks of new books I’m aching to read. Even if I feel overwhelmed at times by the amount of books that are added to my To Be Read List, this isn’t a contest. No one is keeping score. This is about reading with care, giving time to fully appreciate the author’s intention, reflecting what it means to me and sharing with a wonderful community of readers. By necessity, reading will always an alone activity but it's good to share feelings and thoughts afterwards.

Now tell me what you’re reading and what I should read next.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
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