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6

I almost forgot this blog turns six today. I never thought a project on a whim would slowly steering out of control and becoming a commitment. For six years, I have been thriving in silence, putting in words all my thoughts on the books I read. I didn’t start this blog to be competitive or to get free books, nor do I intend to be a famous blogger. It just makes my day when someone e-mails or leaves a comment saying he/she finds my reviews helpful. I love reading and I enjoy making public all the conversations in my head. Thank you all for coming by to read my bookish thoughts. A very special thank to the 149 subscribers who make the blog a part of your day. I’m not the most interactive blogger but I appreciate all your comments. As long as I read, this blog will continue.

Personally I resonate with a trusted circle of book bloggers with whom I share a common reading taste. Their opinions become my primary source of books to be purchased and read. That said, the diversity of interests is conducive to broadening a reader’s horizon—to read out of the comfort zone. I owe the many book bloggers for books that I otherwise would never have read. Thank you all for enlightening me in this regard.

Book Bloggers: Golden Rules

Daily Topic: The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.

Tried and True Practices

1. Consistency. I’m not talking about how often you should update the blog. Of course you have to show a sense of commitment in blogging even though daily update is not necessary. Consistency in the content is what really matters–write the blog that you’ll enjoy reading. Although the blog will not appeal to every reader, at least commit to bringing very useful information, insights and thoughts on what you write about. I focus mine on book reviews, which always come first. Even if nobody interests in what I have to say about the books I read, I’m committed to the cause of sharing my thoughts on the eclectic mix of books I read.

2. Have Fun. For most of us, book blogging is amateur, meaning we all have jobs by the day and probably family to take care of. Blogging should be fun and never should be a chore or forced labor. I was once overwhelmed by the obligation of having a daily post. I have got over the need for a daily post. I no longer care if I don’t read books that everyone reads. I don’t mind if all that I can manage is one book over a week. I admire that many book bloggers are fast readers who can manage multiple books at the same time. I admire how between all their books, they have time to read and comment on so many blogs. I tried commenting a lot only to feel all burned out. But why?

3. Reciprocate the Love. While it’s impossible to visit all the book blogs and comment on them, do reciprocate the ones who have visited your blog. It’s a polite gesture. I have been slacking in this regard because increasing workload has further cut what time I have for reading blogs everyday. This is why social networking shines. Once you have established a relationship with your favorite book bloggers, you can add them to Facebook or Twitter and follow their readings closely. This goes back to doing community. It’s silly to spam every blog you read with a link back to your blog. But a thoughtful comment responding to a post goes a long way. Honestly we all love comments because they make me feel appreciated.

Tools

1. Google reader. This helps me keep track of what’s going on in the community everyday. I might not be able to visit all the blogs, let alone commenting on them (commenting is first to go when I’m buried in work), but at least I get a feel for what everyone is reading.

2. Social networks. Become friends with your favorite book bloggers on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter. Even if you don’t have time to read all the posts and comment on them, you have time to respond/tweet/like their status updates. It’s quick way to communicate and to bond.

3. Make sure you respond to comments on your blog. ‘Nuff said.

Give Me 5: 5th Anniversary

The blog turns 5. What was meant to be a chronicle of my thoughts and reflections from reading has turned into a vanity project. The best thing out of this blog is the interaction with fellow readers, who have pointed to me books that I would otherwise not read. On top of blogging about books, I’ve had some fun, some great conversations, been warmly welcomed by the book blogging community—and have met a few of you. I do read and re-read your thoughtful comments, and try to response to all book-related ones promptly.

Although I’ve long been over the days when I was a huge sucker of statistics, getting so caught up with driving more traffic, I still enjoy reading the stats every once in a while (it’s in fact quite addictive). I love that WordPress show me referrers and search engine terms that have lead people to my blog. I tend to get several visits a day from people searching for “white tigers.” As for the most popular search terms, I want to show some interesting stats:

Most popular book-related search terms: white tiger, master and margarita, the boy in the striped pajamas, the stranger, a separate peace, the great gatsby, crime and punishment, their eyes were watching god, beloved, beloved toni morrison

Most popular non-book-related search terms: forbidden city, moleskine, puerto vallarta, abba, lang lang, mattviews, leslie cheung, kinokuniya, de young museum, sandy lam songs

My question for you is, how did you find my blog?

Blogsphere is a Zoo?

Biweekly Gathering 47: 笑傲江湖 It’s a Zoo Out There!

I hope this is what the moderator meant. 笑傲江湖 is a popular Chinese epic novel that has been adopted into television series and movies. Think of flying daggers, swooshing swords, and healing potions. It reminds me of gangster, swordsmen, hooligans—someone whom you don’t want to cross path with, let alone mess with. 笑傲江湖 is that transcendental state of mindset in which one is completely at ease and is above all the mumbo jumbo that’s going on around him. What kind of place is the blogging world? Is it also a crazy zoo?

I’m lucky to have met many (book) bloggers with whom I share common (reading) interests. A blog (specialty blogs like book blogs) is specific and only people who are interested in a specific subject will stay connected. The returning visitors of a site-specific blog must either resonate with the subject matter or find the content informative. My blog, for example, exercises a pattern of which book reviews and editorial pieces on bookish issues form the backbone. An effort is made to minimize digression from the standard subject matter, in other words, readers will usually find what they expect. Compared to one-sentence status updates, say, on social media sites like Facebook, blogging seems too big and impersonal, because I only blog about books. If the subject of books is what readers dig, the time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is well-spent. Blogs should continue to thrive as long as readers appreciate prose. The personal weblogs that rant about daily trivia are most likely be replaced by Facebook status updates.

While fulfilling my lust on books and literature, the best thing that happens to me is meeting all of you readers and book bloggers, who contribute to a very thought-provoking and inspiring discussion. I enjoy reading all your comments although I might not be able to get on top of responding promptly. In establishing a voice here, I have found myself–to express myself fully. Recently I feel challenged to be able to post daily, although readers probably won’t mind if I skip a day or two, as long as the content delivers. As to the audience, I have never thought the blog would have attracted so many people from all over the world. Strange is that my friends and family, to whom I target at the beginning of this establishment, hardly read my blog. Individuals who were separate during the day—at work and in whatever circumstances and station of life—begin to lose uniqueness, to leak distinctiveness, melting into a collective that is found in this blog, which talks about books and literary topics. In a way, this is a healthy kind of zoo, with all the sanity you can be rest-assured, because the subject matter of this patch of the blogging world steers me clear of the zoo.

In Which the Blog Celebrates 4th Anniversary

It all began here, at my corner seat at Cafe Flore. Four years ago, inspired by a few blogs that I have followed scrupulously, I found an outlet of my grief in creating this book blog. The best way to cope with sadness (other than debauchery) is verbalizing one’s thoughts. Actually it was no more than a conglomeration of random thoughts, rants, whims and book reviews. Bubbles of conversation in my brain. As time goes by, through brainstorming, modeling, and emulating, the blog assumes a more rigid structure, limiting and emphasizing on book reviews and book-related topics. I wouldn’t go as far to brand this blog, but readers at least would know what they expect because the content speaks for itself: high-brow literature and honest reviews. Shall we look at some of the statistics? These statistics, of course, are made possible by all of you who have contributed to the cause:

Top Posts of All Time by Hit

White Tiger, Booker Prize? (12369)
[173] The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne (2313)
[92] A Separate Peace – John Knowles (2292)
SF GLBT Film Festival: Solos (1945)
Mama Mia!: The Film (1801)
[185] Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston (1426)
[70] The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov (1407)
[95] The Stranger – Albert Camus (1328)
[183] Beloved – Toni Morrison (1274)
Beijing 3: Forbidden City (1119)

My Favorite Posts of All Time

Facebook’s Predominance over Blogs? (12/4/09)
Posterity: What Makes a Classic? (11/28/09)
Reading Beyond the Words: On Symbolism (4/23/09)
[243] Howards End – E.M. Forster (11/13/09)
[226] Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (9/7/09)
[195] The Hours – Michael Cunningham (3/30/09)
[184] The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (2/10/09)
[113] The Gentleman in the Palour – W. Somerset Maugham (12/11/07)
[105] The Go-Between – L.P. Hartley (10/25/07)
[12] The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov (2/3/06)

While fulfilling my lust on books and literature, the best thing that happens to me is meeting all of you readers and book bloggers, who contribute to a very thought-provoking and inspiring discussion. I enjoy reading all your comments although I might not be able to get on top of responding promptly. In establishing a voice here, I have found myself–to express myself fully. Recently I feel challenged to be able to post daily, although readers probably won’t mind if I skip a day or two, as long as the content delivers. As to the audience, I have never thought the blog would have attracted so many people from all over the world. Strange is that my friends and family, to whom I target at the beginning of this establishment, hardly read my blog.

So, dear readers; may I venture to ask:
(1) What do you like/dislike about this blog?
(2) What would you like to see different in this blog?
(3) How long have you been reading this blog?

Facebook’s Predominance over Blogs?

Recently I organize my blogroll and establish a tab at the top of the page. Upon checking all the links, several of them are dead. Bloggers have either started new blogs whose links I have yet to update or have withdrawn from the blogsphere altogether. Closer scrutiny reveals that a few people actually have switched over to constantly texting, spieling, and uploading status updates on Facebook. Social multimedia sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook have since made publishing pics and video as easy as typing text. Easier and faster, consider how bloggers might spend the time fretting over words. But does it mean Facebook has taken over blogs?

I venture to say Facebook might take over the world faster than it does the blogs. Facebook is just a kind of social network that gets people communicating briefly, and somehow it is very informal and unprofessional. It is not a specific-purpose site, but a general social network that serves the purpose connecting people. Somehow it becomes a mouthpiece that allows people to keep in touch without making an actual phone call. The speedy way Facebook penetrates our lives is like the cellphone revolution.

A blog (specialty blogs like book blogs) is specific and only people who are interested in an article will stay connected. The returning visitors of a site-specific blog must either resonate with the subject matter or find the content informative. My blog, for example, exercises a pattern of which book reviews and editorial pieces on bookish issues form the backbone. An effort is made to minimize digression from the standard subject matter, in other words, readers will usually find what they expect. Compared to status updates on Facebook, blogging seems too big and impersonal, because I only blog about books. If the subject of books is what readers dig, the time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is well-spent. Blogs should continue to thrive as long as readers appreciate prose. The personal weblogs that rant about daily trivia are most likely be replaced by Facebook status updates.

The intimacy that draws book bloggers to post is their passion for books; whereas the case for Facebook is interpersonal intimacy. The advantage of an expansive network can be used to spread blog articles to those blogs cannot immediately reach. Facebook has a book application that allows users to upload book reviews, which will appear to the profile page. The application functions very much like LibraryThing. Facebook and blogs can coexist because of their disparate appeal to how much information one seeks. I can shoot a one-liner update saying I enjoy Brideshead Revisited on Facebook, but it is on the blog that readers will find the full review of the book. From my experience, Facebook and blog followers hardly crossover; the ones who do happen to be friends who share common interests in reading books and doing geeky things.

Recent Sadness

btt button

What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?
CarsonJudging by the title alone, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers does not spell an upbeat mood. The loneliness of the characters pervades the entire narrative that makes me sore. Each of the characters struggles in their social position, ambition, civil justice, and racial inequality. The all find solace in the friendship of a deaf man named John Singer. The writing captures a feeling so tense as conspiracy and menacing or as the deadly quiet before a catastrophe—and indeed, compounding the soreness, the novel culminates very sadly. I am surprised I have not discovered this book earlier, consider it has been widely taught in high schools and colleges. Given the weighty subject matter that McCullers delves, I gather it is far more fulfilling, in the sense of appreciating the autistic nature of the book, that I have read it after my flighty years are behind me. I hope the grim outlook of the book would not deter prospective reader, for the writing is beautifully lucid and contemplative. It irradiates a sense of forlornness that life is already all plotted out and so dismal for these people that all they could do is to admit the absurdity and cry.

A Word of Gratitude

I have been catching up on my blog reading and responding to all your enthusiastic and thoughtful comments. Aware of the fact that blogging is a two-way activity, I used to feel anxious that my readers might turn their back on me if I haven’t been either attending to the comments promptly or visiting their blogs on a regular basis. The solicitude that you have shown to me during my absence (I’ve been away from home for quite a while) shows me that my worry is unnecessary.

During my absence from blogging (most of the recent posts have been programmed), I have been delighted and honored by three Book Blogger Appreciation Week nominations:

Most Eclectic Taste Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best GLBT Blog

I want to thank you all who have read and supported this blog, which I started three years ago to chronicle my reading history. What originated as a conversation with my mind has emerged into a public forum in which book bloggers have interacted, shared their thoughts, and most importantly, directed me to books that I would otherwise not read. From the bottom of my heart, I wish to thank you all of you, and even if the blog does not make it to the short-list of any of the three categories, I feel very honored to be part of a great blogging community. I feel honored to be named along other wonderful book bloggers for the accolade. This blog will continue to be eclectic, literary, and GLBT-aware.

The Kreativ Blogger Award

Kreativ

My apology to those of you who out of kindness and generosity gave me different blogger awards because I have been absent-minded in acknowledging the awards. Most recently Elena from With Extra Pulp has given A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook the Kreativ Award.

To keep the wheels of karma going, I’m to list seven things I like and seven favorite blogs.

Seven Things Matt Likes:
1. Reading on a balcony in the morning or during sunset
2. Taking a walk with someone special at the beach
3. Trying out new restaurants with ethnic touch
4. Traveling the world
5. Sandy Lam, the Cantopop diva from Hong Kong
6. Hawaii
7. Playing with George the yellow labrador.

Seven Blogs Matt Likes:
1. Kiss A Cloud. Claire always writes thoughtful and gracious posts on books that pair with great pictures.
2. Steph & Tony Investigate. Steph writes very thorough reviews. A book that she likes will immediately manifest on my shopping cart!
3. Savidge Reads. Simon’s blog is a new favorite. How he manages to read and write in such a proliferate manner I have no clue.
4. A Work in Progress. I have followed Danielle’s blog before I started blogging. It’s still a heavy influence on my reading.
5. Boston Bibliophile. Marie must be a long-lost twin or how we can have so similar of reading taste?
6. You’ve Got to Read This. You’ve gotta read Sandy’s blog, which is a mixed bag of posts on movies, audio books, novels, and children books.
7. LakesideMusing. JoAnn also shares common reading interest and she writes thoughtful reviews.

Travel Personality

JoAnn at Lakeside Musing posts a travel personality test. A seasoned traveler that I am, I jump at the test in no time. Here are the questions on which the travel personality is determined:

1. Where do you stay when you travel?
___At a friend’s house – you usually only visit places where you know people
___The cheapest clean place you can find
___Five star hotels
___All inclusive resorts
_X_Any unique local hotel

I consider all five choices, depending on where I’m going. I go for 5 star hotels in Thailand and all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta. I almost always prefer unique boutique hotels that are reflective of the local flavors and that are very quiet.

2. Which of these vacations sounds like a total nightmare?
___Taking a group tour through Italy
___Going to Disneyworld
___Backpacking across Australia
___Traveling around the world by yourself
_X_A whirlwind trip around Europe, with a full itinerary

I have always traveled by myself to be free of planning hassles and complications. I plan to take Rick Steves’ tour around Italy, from Padua to Rome via Lucca. What I absolutely do not like is to be cattle-herded in a tour bus in a whirlwind of trip around anywhere. I like to take my time lingering at places that appeal to me.

3. Let’s say you call in sick for work when you’re feeling fine. What would you do with your free day?
___Take a drive to a place you’ve never been
___Convince a few friends to call in sick too – and then go have some fun
___Go for a haircut and get some new clothes
___Take a trip to your favorite downtown area… and treat yourself to a nice lunch
_X_Just hang out at home relaxing… skipping work is special enough

I’ll most likely be cooped up at home with a book.

4. When you go out to eat, you tend to choose:
___Hole in the wall ethnic restaurants with amazing food
___A restaurant you’ve been going to for years with great comfort food
_X_A favorite place that all your friends end up at too
___The latest new restaurant… before it gets big
___A five star place you had to get reservations for weeks ahead of time

Again, all five choices are possible. But that I’m very loyal and habit-driven, I always go for the favorite table at my favorite local restaurant.

5. Right now, where would you most want to travel to?
___New York… as long as you had a driver and could stay at the Four Seasons
_X_Your favorite little vacation spot. It’s not fancy, but you love it.
___Europe, no question
___Definitely someplace new and unexpected
___A city where one of your old friends lives

I like the thrill of new exotic locales but at the moment I’m settling for my favorite little vacation spot, which is most likely Hawaii.

Analysis: When you travel, you’re looking for a lot of downtime. Vacations are your chance to recoup. All you need is a scenic spot and plenty of time on your hands. You’ll figure out the rest. You’re not one to make lots of plans when you travel. You just follow whatever path seems right.

I’m very spontaneous on vacation, but I do not go to a destination without any semblance of knowledge as to what is there and what to expect. I read guide books and related historical background so I am savvy of what I will be offered. I’m very relaxed. I am fine traveling alone but can use a companion to share memories with.