Blog ReviewsBlog, Reviews
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2018

Best Book Blogs for Avid Readers

For those of us lost in the world of fiction, the question will always be, "What should I read next?" To that end, we search the depths of second-hand bookstores. We scour our local libraries, or the Amazon best-seller list and recommended purchases. We do this not simply to find a book that we will enjoy, but almost always to find a novel which strikes the same spark in our heart as the last masterpiece (the one which has now been read so often and so thoroughly that the pages have come loose in their binding).

To that end, Silent Book Club, Bookanista and Book Smugglers are here to help. These three websites scratch the itch of the endlessly-reading reader; and they provide more than just a blog – they provide a cozy community of fellow readers.

Silent Book Club

Silent Book Club is a website for readers like us (often introverted, sometimes too introverted) to come together and discuss their current favorite novels, and to find the next piece of fiction that really blows us away. The website boasts more than thirty active chapters, from London, England to Nagoya, Japan, which come together (usually monthly) to discuss their latest read. Silent Book Club has an active Facebook group, and they post regularly on Instagram and Twitter.

For those of us with our fingers on the pulse of the book world, Silent Book Club's use of social media is indispensable. It keeps its readers up to date on events, meetups and attractions in the world of reading and publishing. Still, the book club is growing, and though it has already stretched worldwide, the presence of a chapter in your hometown might be lacking. No matter! Silent Book Club will help you set up your own official chapter, and help you create a new tradition (your own personal meetup) in your neighborhood.

This all seems too good to be true, and of course, cynical minds immediately begin whirring: we ask questions about where the site finds its profits, or what supports this community. The answer is that they run a small merchandise shop, and those proceeds go toward supporting volunteers, which keep the whole community running smoothly. It's a cute little e-shop with a selection of kitschy bookmarks, postcards and handbags (and, of course, the occasional book).

Other than these optional purchases to support the community, all the services offered by the silent book club are free of charge. In fact, without even submitting an e-mail address, you can browse their calendar of meetups and find the one nearest you. This great community provides the opportunity, without commitment, for us to crawl out of our favorite arm-chair (the one we sunk into years ago and have now fortified with a particular side-table for our tea, an arm upon which the cat perches, and a bag at the side filled with knitting projects).

On top of this call to action, to bring us out to the meetups, the silent book club boasts a warm blog: a welcome resource for readers. Each article is written by volunteers from the various silent book club chapters, and if you start your own chapter, then you can contribute to the blog yourself. Though often insightful, because of the volunteer nature of the contributions, updates are sporadic – sometimes they come too fast to keep up with, and other times lag to only a single update each month. Still, when the articles are posted, they offer unique insight into the author of the post, and that writer's book club.

One recent article, written by the organizer of the Portland, Maine chapter, gives a wonderful overview of influential poets throughout the years. It was written for poetry month and includes excerpts by which to judge each of the poets, and gauge one's interest before delving more deeply into their works.

Most articles discuss comfortable topics like "what to read next" and offer insightful critiques written on new works of fiction. Others delve into matters of political interest, in the reading and writing world. For example, a short series of posts called Read the World, gives details about historical publishing in nations and geographic areas, and suggests where one might begin if they want to explore the fiction of a certain area. Further still, other posts discuss the rise of audiobooks, and their place in the silent book club; they give details on how to host your own silent book club, and what makes the meetups successful. Other articles address the We Will Not Be Silent campaign, which offers a toolbox to activists, as well as hard-hitting subjects such as the effect of literature on children and on developing minds.

Finally, I have personally found Silent Book Club's presence on Facebook to be incredibly beneficial. The core Facebook group @silentbookclub is one resource: it offers updates on all the events which the silent book club promotes, and it helps us introverts look ahead to getting out of the house (and plan out our busy week so we can make time for the meetups); it brings book news like releases and author interviews conveniently into our Facebook feed; and it gives the opportunity (without being pushy) to participate in demonstrations or political activism.

Beyond this core group, however, are a network of smaller silent book club groups, one for each chapter. These are usually beyond amazing. Just by making a quick search in Facebook, I stumbled on three silent book club chapters, all with very active Facebook groups. One was in my home city, and each of the other two were within quick driving distance. These sub-communities are the result of the natural branching and expanding of a good idea. Like a good book, readers know that a good idea should be shared.

Bookanista

The writers at Bookanista.com refer to their site as a web magazine (as opposed to a blog). This professional demeanour isn't simply a pretentious grab for new readers: their posts are closer to scholarly journal entries than the topical discussions of many bloggers, and they take a deep dive into each discussion.

That being said, its less likely that you'll find a new read in a quick skim of Bookanista. The themes and discussions on the site are often much wider, addressing issues of mental illness and gender in novels, and delving into ideas such as ambiguity in writing, and the pitfalls of considering everyone who writes a poem, a poet. With an archive stretching back to 2015, and an extensive collection of short stories and extracts, Bookanista has content to spare. There is bound to be something on the site which snags any readaholic's imagination, and because of their reputation, Bookanista is often one of the first sites to get review copies and exclusive excerpts from new authors.

Similarly, if you are the kind of reader who devours all the works of an author before moving on, but you've run out of your favorite writer's works, then Bookanista might be able to find you a new literary love. Their author interviews are a source of insight into the latest trends in publishing and up-coming novels. They often obscure the work itself in favor of addressing the author's method, or their stylistic choices. Rather than attempt to describe the works of each author, they let the novels and short stories speak for themselves, publishing short pieces of fiction alongside interviews and articles. Everything on Bookanista is free, and well worth a look.

The Book Smugglers

TheBookSmugglers.com describe themselves as, A book review blog specializing in speculative fiction and popgeekery for all ages since 2008; A digital-first publisher of speculative fiction and nonfiction since 2014; the 2017 Hugo Nominee for best Semiprozine; and a duo of awesomely badass book nerds. Their blog posts focus on new works, but especially science fiction and fantasy. For those looking for their next great read, their current headlining article is a piece called X Marks the Story, which seeks to pair the reader with excellent short fiction, to hopefully bridge the gap between great novels.

On top of their blog, the book smugglers are a publishing house with a focus on digital press. They offer book reviews for newly published novels, and support authors by showing off full and partial works on their site, in addition to longer works published by the book smuggler online imprint.

Like Bookanista, the book smugglers host a collection of short fiction on their site in a section called Gods and Monsters. This section is worth a quick look, and if you are a fantasy or science fiction buff, it warrants a much longer look. The short stories included in Gods and Monsters are each written by different authors, but always play with similar themes. From religion, to humanity, to serial killers or werewolves, each story is focussed on gods and monsters, either literally or figuratively (or both). Just a quick glance at this portion of the site will find you in the company of dozens of well-polished, professionally edited shorter fictions.

The wider community

The blogs discussed here are not where these communities end. Silent book club, Bookanista and The Book Smugglers have a network of readers which place an emphasis on doing. Each of these sites is concerned with getting out of your chair and making change alongside like-minded individuals – or just on getting out of the house and swapping books with new friends. To this end, Silent Book Club is anything but silent within the Twitterverse. They have cultivated a massive network of friendships, bringing together dozens of sites, each with a similar attitude towards reading. Each of these three excellent blogs boast very active Twitter handles. Silent Book Club at @readwinerepeat, @bookanista, and @booksmugglers bring together a wealth of related content and inspiring images. Browsing through their combined Twitter profiles is a sure method to link a reader to a community in their geographic area, or a cause which interests them and brings them out of their shell. We all have something which gets us fired up and out of the house, and these communities provide valuable links to those places and people which help to establish communities of readers.

In short, reading can be isolating, but it can also be the bridge of shared experience that brings like-minded individuals together in service of a cause, or to discuss the matters which are important to us. Getting out of our arm chair may be a bit uncomfortable, but so long as it means a quiet read, with those who had to struggle out of their own comfy armchair; and as long as it means a glass of good wine, and the presence of good companions; as long as the silent book club, Bookanista and the book smugglers are asking these things of us, I think we can find some time to meet in the real world (or at the very least on twitter), even if it is only to discuss the fictional worlds we love.

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