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the Complete Review
the complete review - guidebook / internet / books

The Bookaholics' Guide
to Book Blogs

Rebecca Gillieron and Catheryn Kilgarriff

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the authors

To purchase The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs

Title: The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs
Authors: Rebecca Gillieron and Catheryn Kilgarriff
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2007
Length: 247 pages
Availability: The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs - US
The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs - UK
The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs - Canada

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Our Assessment:

-- : solid overview and introduction, a bit heavy on the quotes/excerpts

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 30/10/2007 Peter Carty
Independent on Sunday . 28/10/2007 Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski
TLS A- 21-8/12/2007 Sarah Crown

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Guide's index of bookblog URLs will tempt many away from Facebook, at least temporarily. Where it is flawed is in not giving more coverage to good author- and reader-blogs, dedicating space instead to more parochial blogs about publishing and retailing (although the bitchy agent Ms Snark merits a surf). Finally, although Gillieron and Kilgarriff have had problems editing their own work, fortunately, their book relies more on content than style." - Peter Carty, The Independent

  • "Unless you're a blog fanatic, this book is bound to contain something you didn't know about -- some oddball site capable of yielding the kind of gem that'll make you think just as carefully as anything you'll find in print." - Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski, Independent on Sunday

  • "But any infelicities of style are, in the end, offset by the authors' feel for their subject, and the confidence and care with which they map the slippery terrain. (...) This comprehensive, digestible handbook will prove indispensable to anyone in need of a summary of the literary blogosphere as it currently stands. " - Sarah Crown, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs is a Marion Boyars-production: published by them and written/compiled by the publisher and senior editor. Marion Boyars also has it's own weblog (Riskingit), and so the book comes at the subject from all angles: reader, publisher, blogger. It is also more than merely a guide to 'book blogs', considering a number of sites that aren't strictly weblogs and looking at the impact of online bookselling and even the Internet generally on writing/reading/publishing.
       The personal and publishing perspective add to the appeal of the book, as the authors make clear where they're coming from -- noting right at the beginning, for example, that:

     As a publisher, I also have little idea of how our books are received, except I know I enjoy publishing them, and enough people buy them to pay the bills that a small company needs to pay.
       There's also that wall of separation between publisher and bookseller, or the mystery of how newspapers and other outlets choose what to review -- all things that the Internet, and book blogs, have begun to fundamentally change. And so with all the sites considered here the authors also frequently mention their own attitudes towards (and relationships with) them -- why they're of interest and/or use, what they get out of them (as readers and as publishers) -- a slightly limiting viewpoint, but one that works for the book overall.
       There are now hundreds of 'book blogs' (see our links-list for most of those mentioned in the book, and many others), and the literary blogosphere continues to grow and shift -- something hard to fix on the page, as they acknowledge. "This book is meant to capture this moment" they write, and as of the writing of this review (11/2007) it does feel remarkably current and fresh (though a few major changes have already occurred, most notably (at this time) that Richard Charkin's weblog is now defunct, after his move away from Macmillan -- all the more noticeable since it is one of only two weblogs discussed in the chapter on 'The Literary Establishment and its Blogs').
       The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs is, indeed, very much a snapshot rather than a history. A bit more attention to the evolution of literary weblogs (and other sites) would have been useful and might have given a better sense of the coming and going of blogs. But the authors are quite thorough and bring in most of the variety out there, from the traditional literary weblogs to fan sites, author blogs, publisher blogs, bookseller blogs and pretty much all the rest. It's far from a comprehensive picture (especially -- and understandably -- when it comes to author sites and weblogs, less understandably when it comes to publisher weblogs (see the ones we have links for)), but there is a great deal here, from across the board.
       One weakness, however, is the almost complete absence of any sites outside the US and UK; the Canadian Bookninja slips in, but English-language sites from Australia and New Zealand, India, Malaysia, etc. are pretty much entirely ignored, not to mention any foreign-language sites -- somewhat surprising given that the authors are associated with the very international Marion Boyars. Among the few 'international' uses of the web they describe is how they might look up what other Amazon.com sites (!) and customers there might have to say about a foreign book they were thinking of buying ("If we find hardly any mention of the book on any Amazon site, we know we are unlikely to do well with it in the English language" -- the single most horrifying sentence in the book).
       The authors do offer a fairly thorough tour -- it's hard to think of a major US or UK literary weblog that doesn't at least rate a passing mention, though some prominent ones do get short shrift -- and they also try to give a good impression of what's on offer at these sites. Often, however, they try far too hard (or too lazily ?), offering great chunks -- pages and pages -- of blog-text. A paragraph often seem more than enough (and there are more than enough of those); nine uninterrupted pages from Toby Litt's website is just ridiculous.
       The problem with quoting at length from weblogs is that it inevitably takes it out of at least part of its context. Some commentary stands readily enough on its own, but much is part of that longer, ongoing dialogue with self and others. The authors do a decent job with some of their favourites, explaining what appeals to them and choosing excerpts that reflect that, but too many of the quotes disrupt the flow of the book (all the more so due to their often great length). In fact, the authors are often better at describing than in choosing samples .....
       They do also cover a lot of the major issues and 'controversies', especially ones of recent vintage, such as the debate about online v. mainstream-media book reviewing.
       The authors show themselves to be knowledgeable guides. The sense of history is missing, suggesting they were a bit slower to embrace all this new technology than some, and it shows, but they have certainly caught up. There are a number of oversimplifications (so also their conflating of the complete review and the Literary Saloon) but few real mistakes. (Ron Hogan and Sarah Weinman will presumably be amused to be considered: "the husband-and-wife team behind GalleyCat", though Ron may be less amused to find that he's been turned into 'Ron Howard' in the book. And meanwhile Sarah has retired from that weblog as well .....)
       Occasionally, the author's sense of the Internet (and their research) also shows some weaknesses, as when they write about a Chad Post-post about a panel at the PEN World Voices Festival in 2006:
It seems that the festival included a talk on the power of the internet and the nature of truth. Any vestige of this talk has probably disappeared in the mists of time (ie two years later) and this is where blogs can be useful, as they can record conversations
       It really doesn't take much effort (two minutes, perhaps ?) to track down PEN's audio archive of practically all the events from that festival; scroll down to 4/28/06: Just the Facts: Truth & the Internet and you can listen to all 57 minutes and 48 seconds of the panel. It's the sort of carelessness that undermines an otherwise interesting point -- as well as demanding a slight reassessment as, in fact, little truly disappears on the Internet.
       It's difficult to write a book about websites: from the fact that there's a disconnect between mediums (the authors helpfully provide all the URLs, but how many people will have the patience to type them in ?) to problems of staying up-to-date and the sneaking suspicion that you could probably find all this information online a lot seems to speak against it. But The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs does offer a handy overview of what's out there, and there is something to be said for having that in book form. They over-do it with the quotes, but they do give you a good general sense of at least some of what's out there -- and the bigger picture and bigger issues --, and so there is some value to it. Those already immersed in the 'book blog' world may think they have no need for it, but in looking at so many facets of book-related online coverage there's probably something new (or forgotten) for almost everyone in here.

        The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs mentions the complete review and its Literary Saloon several times, which made us wary of reviewing the book and led us to not assign it a letter grade, as we usually do; we figure any lingering objectivity goes out the window when you're one of the subjects. The irony here is that in discussing the complete review the authors specifically harp on our grading-system ..... (We would have thought maybe the links to all the other reviews were more interesting or noteworthy, but what do we know ? And we can see where they -- as graded publishers -- are coming from.)
       Yes, we're:
the only review outlet which sends us publishers, and the authors of course, straight back to the schoolroom.
       Perhaps a bit misleading, but hard for us to judge -- and like we said, objectivity goes by the wayside when you read yourself and the reactions to your writing being discussed (it's nice to hear that when a new review of one of their books is up at our site: "it makes us lift our heads from whichever manuscript or computer programme we are currently cajoling into producing a finished book" but also oddly disconcerting).
       Ah, but we can't let that wry smile fade completely in disappointment, what with them turning their attention from those manuscripts and computers to this, so if we had given the book a grade ... well, it would have been a tough call right there in the B to B+ range, as it does what it sets out to do quite well, is thorough and more or less 'gets it', and it reads well (though the audience for it is perhaps somewhat limited), the only major fault being the somewhat less than discriminating choice of excerpts and quotes (and, specifically, the length of these).

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The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: Reviews: Literary weblogs: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       Catheryn Kilgarriff is the daughter of Marion Boyars and now runs that publishing house.
       Rebecca Gillieron is senior editor at Marin Boyars.

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© 2007-2010 the complete review

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