Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution—such I call good books. - Henry David Thoreau
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Reflections on the Year Gone By, and a Question for You, Dear Reader: How Can We Be Better?
With the coming of 2011, it is inevitable (and healthy, I would argue) that we all reflect for a time on the year gone by. I began TLM in March with my very first blog post on The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and, with the help of Aaron and Greg, we proceeded to genarate another 50 posts (including this one) in the following 9 months. I have my personal favorites, of course: our Declaration of War on All Things Twilight is a poor (but honest) man's literary manifesto; Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, which continues both to haunt me and to climb the ranks of my top ten novels of all time (it's currently number seven); and Ulysses, which represents a hard-won personal battle over the forces of literary intimidation and general laziness.
Objectively speaking, I think that we've been modestly successful in 2010. This past November, we received more than a thousand page views in a single month, which I consider a real achievement. And, in December, we briefly achieved 100 followers before someone dropped off the face of Google Earth and reduced us to 99 once again. Of course, many, many book blogs carry several hundred or even several thousand followers as a matter of course (and we applaud them for it). But our focus is a little different--we've tried to stay true to our mission: promoting the reading of literary fiction (and the occassional work of non-fiction) among male readers, an endangered species if ever there was one.
Which leads me to the point of this reflective post--we here at TLM appreciate the support of each and every one of you, and we recognize the strides that we have made in 2010--but we want to refocus and redouble our efforts on promoting the reading of fiction among men in 2011, and for that we need your help.
Based upon the comments that we received in 2010, there are a few promises that we are making to you in 2011:
1. Keep the post titles and tone light and playful--it seems clear that a playful sense of humor or at least a dry wit generates interest, drives readership, and creates loyalty. Relatedly, I vow not to use the first-person plural unless I am actually talking about "us" as a group;
2. Bring insight to bear and focus on unique aspects of each work that we review--there are literally thousands upon thousands of dry, uninteresting, and very opinionated book reviews out there (I'm looking at you, Amazon). But we strive to create discussion, which requires a novel approach, or at least an interesting topic.
3. Be more specific about how each work is of specific interest to men--we've never been nor will we ever be a He-Man Woman-Hater's Club (that's a Little Rascals reference for you youngsters out there), but the point here is to make reading relevant to the lives of our male readers (which we hope may also be of interest to our female readers); and
4. (Related to number three above) Incorporate more references to our favorite alcoholic beverages--we've received almost as much comment on our passing references to microbrews, scotches, and rums as we've received on the books themselves. And they seem to go hand in hand--a good book and a nice warm tumbler of single-malt scotch. It's always after five o'clock somewhere.
And now it's your turn. What else would you have us do? What do you love about your favorite book blogs? What do you hate? How can we improve the quality of our posts here at TLM? How can we generate/maintain more interest among our target demographic--men and the women that love them will push them to read again? Please do comment, and do so with brutal honesty, for we are committed to improvements in 2011.
Happy New Year to all!
Patrick (at The Literate Man)