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Apple

Back to our Roots?

I can't help noticing (and I know I'm probably not the only one) how quiet it is around here and has been for months now, I am hoping there are a number of members who lurk here but don't post, (I am thinking of a post in response to my resurrection of the Seasonal Shorts game last christmas when a long absent poster reappeared and commented that he had been lured out of lurking).

Anyway, back to the point of this thread, I am thinking we go back to our roots, to try and generate a bit of light hearted book discussion, as it has become increasingly obvious to me that, that is what is lacking, and has been for a while and members are dropping off at an alarming rate and if something isn't done there won't even be any lurkers to lure back to posting. So my idea is, remember how this book forum started? - the BBC Big Read, I'm thinking a top 100 is a touch ambitious given the fact there are such a small number of regular posters to start with.

My idea is a current top 5 favourite books we pick our favourite book and discuss what we like about it and why, and another quirky take on this we could also include a top 5 worst books which we nominate a book we have read which we have not liked and reasons why and then others post theirs and we compare the results, and compile a list of the best and worst books read by members. (If there are more than 5 in the list even better as it means more people have contributed, top 5 was just a starting point).  Similar in a way to the big readers cup which seems to have died a death, but no direct competition which some people seem to think is not a good idea.  There are numerous variations on this idea, as well as best and worst book, eg.  different genres, favourite authors, etc.

What do people think of this idea?
Joe McWilliams

It sounds good to me, Apple. I look forward to more lurking and reading other people's thoughts.
Caro

That's odd - just last night I was thinking we used to do more of those favourites and literary quizzes etc.  And I wondered about resurrecting one.  I would be happy to.  (Some of them, though, ended in tears!)

I am always keen on hearing people's favourites like this.  Gives me ideas for authors and books to try.  

Cheers, Caro.
Apple

Thanks for your comments nice to have a bit of postive feedback so soon after posting my idea.  Smile

Also, you know Joe, you don't have to just lurk and read other peoples point of view either you can contribute your fave's/worst books as well!!

Caro wrote:
That's odd - just last night I was thinking we used to do more of those favourites and literary quizzes etc.  And I wondered about resurrecting one.  I would be happy to.  (Some of them, though, ended in tears!)

I am always keen on hearing people's favourites like this.  Gives me ideas for authors and books to try.  

Cheers, Caro.
Exactly! thats what I liked about them as well, finding out about what other people liked and why they liked them, and gave me pointers for trying stuff I'd never read before.

I understand what you are saying about some of them ended in tears, the BR Cup got quite competitive and I know I got very competitive about it, mainly because of my very poor range of books which I had read at that point I was keen to promote the books which had meant a lot to me and sometimes I got a bit carried away, on a positive note though, my sparring with the Baron on the Bronte vs Zola tie was positively commented on and produced a hell of a lot of feedback and contribution which was the point of the whole thing.  As you say though sometimes it did get a bit heated which is why I have purposely left out the competitive element to this.

It does seem ages since we did any proper structured literary stuff like the BRC etc which encouraged all members to contribute - in my opinion it seemed to start to fade away when the individual reading blogs appeared and although I enjoy reading those, it it does kind of feel (to me) like a site within a site.  I'm just hoping that its not too little too late!
Evie

Hi Apple - I have to say I have long regretted starting the personal blogs...with all due respect to those who use them a lot, I think they've been a big mistake.  I did it in response to a request from a particular poster, but have never seen that poster since!  They encourage people to post on their own threads and not on the general What are you reading?, etc, boards.  It's too late to change it now, but I do take your point over that!
Marita

Hello Apple, I like your idea of a top 5 best and worst read. I haven't been posting much recently but haven't been reading much either.
I still visit daily and read every post though. Obviously I've become a serial lurker.
Ann

Re: Back to our Roots?

Apple wrote:
Anyway, back to the point of this thread, I am thinking we go back to our roots, to try and generate a bit of light hearted book discussion, as it has become increasingly obvious to me that, that is what is lacking, and has been for a while and members are dropping off at an alarming rate and if something isn't done there won't even be any lurkers to lure back to posting. So my idea is, remember how this book forum started? - the BBC Big Read, I'm thinking a top 100 is a touch ambitious given the fact there are such a small number of regular posters to start with.

My idea is a current top 5 favourite books we pick our favourite book and discuss what we like about it and why, and another quirky take on this we could also include a top 5 worst books which we nominate a book we have read which we have not liked and reasons why and then others post theirs and we compare the results, and compile a list of the best and worst books read by members. (If there are more than 5 in the list even better as it means more people have contributed, top 5 was just a starting point).  Similar in a way to the big readers cup which seems to have died a death, but no direct competition which some people seem to think is not a good idea.  There are numerous variations on this idea, as well as best and worst book, eg.  different genres, favourite authors, etc.

What do people think of this idea?


I agree Apple and I'm afraid I am a bit of a lurker nowadays too. If one is reading a blog there is very little to say except 'that sounds like a nice book' or 'I agree/disagree with your point of view.'
However do you mean my favourite top 5 books of all time or just this year? I assume the former. Many of my favourite books are still the same books I go on about a lot (I am loyal but boring) so could you think of a way of getting past that? Would it be possible to think of 'favourite book ever' and 'favourite book I've read recently' leading on to 'favourite book as a child'? I liked your idea of my worst 5 books though I would have a job to limit them to 5! Also the real meat of the post ought to be why this book means so much to the poster. I could think of lots of other sub catagories but I suspect these ideas are just going to make the whole thing much too complicated:-
e.g.
Books I am ashamed to own that I like
Books I like because of their associations with family or friends
Books I read just because someone here recommended them

I won't go on and on and do just ignore me - often the best thing to do!
TheRejectAmidHair

Re: Back to our Roots?

Ann wrote:
 
I agree Apple and I'm afraid I am a bit of a lurker nowadays too. If one is reading a blog there is very little to say except 'that sounds like a nice book' or 'I agree/disagree with your point of view.'


I must admit that I've always regarded 'I agree/disagree with your point of view' as the start of a discussion, rather than the end of one, although I realise that's a dangerous perspective in a world in which personal opinion is regarded as sacrosanct, and challenging a personal opinion as an affront.

I think the only way to talk about books is to ... Well, just talk about books. Discuss. Argue. Put forward counter-arguments. Question the terminology. Consider the nuances. Be prepared to look on familiar things in different ways, and to modify one's own thought in the process. This is what discussion is. I find these days that I can't really get too interested in mere opinions - not even my own. A mere opinion leaves no scope for discussion. Presenting an argument is another matter, and unless and until we can do so, I honestly don't see much scope for discussion. But if we can do so, and are happy to do so, then even if there are only a few of us doing it, we can still have a discussion board on which we can actually discuss.
Apple

Well its nice to see two serial lurkers have come forward already!  Wink

Its also nice to see that my idea has been received so well!

Ann wrote:
Quote:
I agree Apple and I'm afraid I am a bit of a lurker nowadays too. If one is reading a blog there is very little to say except 'that sounds like a nice book' or 'I agree/disagree with your point of view.'
However do you mean my favourite top 5 books of all time or just this year? I assume the former. Many of my favourite books are still the same books I go on about a lot (I am loyal but boring) so could you think of a way of getting past that? Would it be possible to think of 'favourite book ever' and 'favourite book I've read recently' leading on to 'favourite book as a child'? I liked your idea of my worst 5 books though I would have a job to limit them to 5! Also the real meat of the post ought to be why this book means so much to the poster. I could think of lots of other sub catagories but I suspect these ideas are just going to make the whole thing much too complicated:-
e.g.
Books I am ashamed to own that I like
Books I like because of their associations with family or friends
Books I read just because someone here recommended them

I won't go on and on and do just ignore me - often the best thing to do!
Ann! good to see you I was only thinking about you the other week when I posted that I had pre-ordered the final Sookie book! Anyway back to the point, you have made some really valid points. So I am not going to bloody well ignore you!!

Of course it is important to state why these books mean so much to you, and you have given some brilliant idea's not for sub categories but for top 5's in their own right - love the idea of books ashamed that you own and like thats screaming out to be a "Top 5 guilty pleasures" and your other ideas are good as well "Top 5 recommendations" etc it could potentially generate a shed load of discussion and activity.  Plus with these sorts of things it doesn't rely on what you are currently reading, which is a valid point Marita made (Hi Marita good to see you as well again! wave ) I think is the problem here, people think its not worth posting because they are not currently reading anything , and then those who do are tending to do it in the personal blogs, rather than the wider discussion area. (Which is a point Evie also made)

I also get what you (Ann) said about sometimes there is very little to say except 'that sounds like a nice book' or 'I agree/disagree with your point of view.'  Now that has never bothered me I am the sort of person who never minds giving my opinion on anything (and at times it has got me into more trouble than if I'd just kept my big mouth shut (virtually so to speak) but in this case I felt something should be done as this is a well loved site which a lot of us have been with since the old Beeb days (albeit in my case I joined only months before the beeb board shut) and it is sort of a place I would miss if it wasn't here because I have personally learnt so much from it and "met" some fab people and discussed some really interesting stuff, yes we have our disagreements and I for one have probably made things worse sometimes with my forthright say it like it is attitude, but right now this site is just fading away and is a shell of its former self and that is just sad and wrong after all these years and shouldn't be allowed to just happen. There are just a handful of people now who post regularly compared to the long list of members and hopefully some of those members are still here and will take this oportunity to step out of the shadows and start posting again!

Ok I'll shut up now and get off my soapbox!  Embarassed
Green Jay

Good idea(s) Apple. And I like Ann's ideas too, because, far from being too complicated, it is that sort of category that actually sets me thinking. I've said before that i'm very bad at putting things into a hierarchy and slightly resent the idea. I can just about choose my favourite colour becuase that's been the same answer all my life. But favorite anything else, even top 5, is very hard for me because I'm not comparing like with like and don't want to leave anything out. I realise that doesn't make sense with choosing my Desert Island Discs, which I recently said I had ready, but they're a shifting sand anyway, as shifting as the sands on said island.

Agree about the rot setting in after the personal blogs/logs started. I think I posted as such ages ago. They are just not as communal, somehow.

So I'm willing to give this a go.
Evie

I can only apologise again re the personal blogs - I hope you both saw my earlier post about this.  For what it's worth, I agree!

I'd also say, in my defence, that they weren't intended as an alternative to the communal threads - the request was for somewhere for people to keep a track of their own reading and their own thoughts, so they could refer back to them easily, as a complement to the existing discussions.  I agree that they have separated people off a bit too much.

I don't think of Ann and Marita as lurkers, though...they both seem to post from time to time, or maybe I am just confused as to how long it is between posts!

Anyway - the key thing is to get on with the discussions, and for Apple to work out how she wants to set this up - separate threads for each person who wants to post (otherwise discussion is going to be tricky, I imagine) or some other way?  Then we can get started and stop worrying specifically about who is or isn't around, and as Apple says, maybe some lurkers will be encouraged to join in.
TheRejectAmidHair

Evie wrote:
I can only apologise again re the personal blogs - I hope you both saw my earlier post about this.  For what it's worth, I agree!
.


Oh Evie - do stop apologising! Very Happy You have nothing to apologise for - not even the first time round!

As it is, I don't think the personal blogs were such a bad idea. I've certainly made use of them, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys Mike's regular blog posts. The reason this board has become quiet is that, for whatever reason, and with the occasional exception, we stopped engaging with each other. And I'm as much to blame for that as anyone.

The only way to get discussion going is to discuss, and invite discussion. And respond to others' invitations to discuss. In short, to engage with each other.
Evie

It is hard to discuss things when you haven't read the book someone else has posted about, even if they have posted a really interesting review.  I would personally rather see things on the What are you reading? threads than in the blog threads, but I realise some people enjoy using them - I do think it's a bigger issue than that, but I don't think the personal blogs have helped in terms of group engagement.

Anyway - onward is the only way we can go!  Look forward to reading about people's favourite or least favourite authors.
Apple

Re: Back to our Roots?

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I must admit that I've always regarded 'I agree/disagree with your point of view' as the start of a discussion, rather than the end of one, although I realise that's a dangerous perspective in a world in which personal opinion is regarded as sacrosanct, and challenging a personal opinion as an affront.

I think the only way to talk about books is to ... Well, just talk about books. Discuss. Argue. Put forward counter-arguments. Question the terminology. Consider the nuances. Be prepared to look on familiar things in different ways, and to modify one's own thought in the process. This is what discussion is. I find these days that I can't really get too interested in mere opinions - not even my own. A mere opinion leaves no scope for discussion. Presenting an argument is another matter, and unless and until we can do so, I honestly don't see much scope for discussion. But if we can do so, and are happy to do so, then even if there are only a few of us doing it, we can still have a discussion board on which we can actually discuss.
There is a big difference between discussing, and between arguing, arguing is putting your viewpoint over as the correct one and the only one and belittling contributions of those you don't agree with and by bullying people around to your way of thinking, and by twisting what they say to suit your agenda, and jumping on things that have been said and taking them out of context to make something out of something which wasn't there in the first place, just to try and make yourself seem right. Whereas discussing is as you say listening and appreciating other peoples contributions and accepting that maybe just because they don't agree with your view that that is not necessarily wrong and to be belittled.  For example you dismissively say  "mere opinion" well that for me is the starting place for discussion to develop, if you don't have an opinion on something how can you offer it to create a discussion, which can develop? which confuses me slightly as in your opening to your post your comment was
Quote:
I've always regarded 'I agree/disagree with your point of view' as the start of a discussion, rather than the end of one
to say you agree or disagree is to offer an opinion surely?!

Anyway...

Evie wrote:
Quote:
I can only apologise again re the personal blogs - I hope you both saw my earlier post about this.  For what it's worth, I agree!

I'd also say, in my defence, that they weren't intended as an alternative to the communal threads - the request was for somewhere for people to keep a track of their own reading and their own thoughts, so they could refer back to them easily, as a complement to the existing discussions.  I agree that they have separated people off a bit too much.

I don't think of Ann and Marita as lurkers, though...they both seem to post from time to time, or maybe I am just confused as to how long it is between posts!

Anyway - the key thing is to get on with the discussions, and for Apple to work out how she wants to set this up - separate threads for each person who wants to post (otherwise discussion is going to be tricky, I imagine) or some other way?  Then we can get started and stop worrying specifically about who is or isn't around, and as Apple says, maybe some lurkers will be encouraged to join in.
Don't apologise Evie, you set up the blogs in good faith its not your fault - you were the founder of this site and the MSN one before it and if it wasn't for you when the beeb board shut there would be no forum.

Also as you said in your later post -
Quote:
It is hard to discuss things when you haven't read the book someone else has posted about, even if they have posted a really interesting review.  I would personally rather see things on the What are you reading? threads than in the blog threads, but I realise some people enjoy using them - I do think it's a bigger issue than that, but I don't think the personal blogs have helped in terms of group engagement.
I couldn't agree more they haven't but I reiterate thats not your fault, in a way thats the fault of the person who writes the blog, if as you say it was in the what have you read portion or in book reviews that generates more discussion as perhaps people feel unwilling to "intrude" in a personal blog, whereas they are more willing to ask questions or offer an opinion on open threads and as Himadri says there has been a distinct lack of engaging with each other and that I think has become a vicious cycle.

I would like to add I only referred to Ann and Marita as lurkers as tht is what they called themselves in their responding posts I didn't mean anything by it.

Finally yes I do have to decide how to set this up, if we are going for it, and for that I am hoping that maybe Evie can help me? and also use this thread for people to offer ideas as Ann did for topics to use, up to now we have Top 5 fav books, Top 5 worst books we have ever read, Top 5 guilty pleasures, top 5 best recommendations, I was thinking when we have all the discussion genres sorted, set up a sub forum or something for it - like on the lines of the seasonal shorts so it can be accessed easilty and people can post there what do you think?
TheRejectAmidHair

Re: Back to our Roots?

Apple wrote:
TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I must admit that I've always regarded 'I agree/disagree with your point of view' as the start of a discussion, rather than the end of one, although I realise that's a dangerous perspective in a world in which personal opinion is regarded as sacrosanct, and challenging a personal opinion as an affront.

I think the only way to talk about books is to ... Well, just talk about books. Discuss. Argue. Put forward counter-arguments. Question the terminology. Consider the nuances. Be prepared to look on familiar things in different ways, and to modify one's own thought in the process. This is what discussion is. I find these days that I can't really get too interested in mere opinions - not even my own. A mere opinion leaves no scope for discussion. Presenting an argument is another matter, and unless and until we can do so, I honestly don't see much scope for discussion. But if we can do so, and are happy to do so, then even if there are only a few of us doing it, we can still have a discussion board on which we can actually discuss.
There is a big difference between discussing, and between arguing, arguing is putting your viewpoint over as the correct one and the only one and belittling contributions of those you don't agree with and by bullying people around to your way of thinking, and by twisting what they say to suit your agenda, and jumping on things that have been said and taking them out of context to make something out of something which wasn't there in the first place, just to try and make yourself seem right.


No, that is not what I understand as "presenting an argument", and certainly not what I am proposing.
chris-l

I tend to agree with Himadri here: we are talking about 'argue' used in the sense of discussing in a focused way, not to mean quarrelling or falling out. So we could 'argue for' or 'argue against' a particular view, but at no point should we be lacking in respect for those who disagree. They will be convinced by the sheer force of our arguments, not by any bullying tactics!

On the other hand, I do welcome a few topics where a discussion such as this can be generated. Of late, I have tended to feel that I can only present ideas and responses that I have fully thought through (which partly explains why my posting rate is so low). The opportunity to develop and evolve opinion in the course of debate is a welcome one.
TheRejectAmidHair

chris-l wrote:
I tend to agree with Himadri here: we are talking about 'argue' used in the sense of discussing in a focused way, not to mean quarrelling or falling out. So we could 'argue for' or 'argue against' a particular view, but at no point should we be lacking in respect for those who disagree. They will be convinced by the sheer force of our arguments, not by any bullying tactics!

On the other hand, I do welcome a few topics where a discussion such as this can be generated. Of late, I have tended to feel that I can only present ideas and responses that I have fully thought through (which partly explains why my posting rate is so low). The opportunity to develop and evolve opinion in the course of debate is a welcome one.


Indeed, and thank you for that explanation.

I spoke in my earlier post of “mere opinion”. I don’t have the OED with me right now, but the free online dictionary defines “mere” as “being nothing more than what is specified”. I think this definition will serve for now: by “mere opinion”, I had meant – quite reasonably, given what the word “mere” means - “no more than opinion”. Or, in other words, “opinion unsupported by argument”. And I had said that “mere opinion” does not really interest me – not even my own “mere opinion”. And this is because “mere opinion” does not tell me why that opinion is held; and hence, there is nothing to discuss.

I often post thoughts that are not fully formed, in the hope that it will lead to discussion and debate, in the course of which I can come to more considered viewpoints. Discussion and debate are important, as without them, we are merely – that word again! - trapped in our own minds.

And, inevitably, words are important. Literature is made of words, after all, and we communicate on this board purely by words. Words have denotative meanings, and also connotative meanings, and they all count. This is why, when we debate these matters, the words we use should be scrutinised, their various levels of meaning teased out. This is why the words we use ourselves should be questioned. This is why we should question our own words, and be prepared to concede, or to modify our own viewpoints. Indeed, if I come out of an argument without having modified my own thoughts in the light of something I had not previously considered, I can’t help feeling that the argument has somehow been unsuccessful, that it has failed at some vital point. Literature is a complex and subtle thing, much more so perhaps than we can realise; and we must recognise the complexities and subtleties not merely of the words we read, but also of the words we write when discussing.

I have frequently enjoyed very fine debate and discussion on the internet, both on this and on other sites. On another thread here, I have been describing how my perspective on Austen has changed over the years, and much of this is thanks to various discussions I have had with people, both on this board and elsewhere. This is why boards such as this are so important. Our perspectives on literature are never fixed: they are always inchoate, in a state of perpetual flux. What better than to enter into debate and discussion – and, yes, argument – with those who may help direct one’s perspectives towards new and rewarding areas!

I am not talking about personal attacks: by “argument”, I mean probing each other’s viewpoints; I mean questioning the wording, teasing out subtleties and complexities that are not immediately apparent; I mean picking holes in what others are saying, and having holes picked in what I myself am saying, so that in filling in these holes, we may consider things we hadn't considered before. These are all not merely legitimate aspects of discussion, of “argument”: these are, indeed, vital if we are to have any discussion at all. My own literary perspectives have developed thanks to many people here; I hope I have myself been instrumental in helping develop some perspectives of others. This is what discussion boards should, ideally, be for, and this is what, I think, this one has lately been missing.
county_lady

Applause. (why is there not emoticon for this)

I lurk more nowadays as lately I've been too tired to read much. Sad
verityktw

Declaration of a serial lurker, one time prolific poster to try and stop lurking and start posting regularly this year Smile

I remember with fondness the Chocolates vs Poets competition - perhaps there is scope to do something similar. I wonder about some sort of books v films competition, but the books (for the most part) would undoubtedly win...

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