Are classics the best books to review?

Posted July 8, 2018 by Lory in discussions / 32 Comments

DiscussionNEW

 

When I started this blog, I thought I would focus mainly on children’s books and fantasy, which for years formed my main reading interests. And I was excited to read and review new releases from many genres. But as things developed, and I discovered more blogs and The Classics Club, I began reading and writing more about classic literature. There’s a large subset of the book blog community that focuses on classics and they reminded me of many time-honored titles I had yet to read, and some I wanted to revisit.

I was surprised to find that in general my posts about classic books were more popular than my reviews of new releases. There are exceptions — I admit to being disappointed that my carefully written review of Our Town garnered only a single comment — but others, including My Cousin Rachel (my most popular review ever), Ethan Frome, The Makioka Sisters, Armadale, and The Return of the Native got much more attention.

I had thought the opposite would be the case, as I assumed readers of blogs were primarily looking for reviews of new and unknown titles, and there would be more commenting on and discussion of these. But when I think about it, it makes sense that there’s more activity around the classics, for these reasons:

  • They’ve been around longer and more people have had a chance to read them, and thus have something to say about them. New releases, by necessity, have been read by few people and there’s not much to say except “I really want to read this!”
  • They’re classics for a reason; they have substance and thought-provoking content that lends itself to discussion.
  • Even when they belong to the category of “Classics I hated and wish I hadn’t been forced to read,” people have a lot to say about that. (I think that’s why Ethan Frome was such a hot one.)

 

Some book bloggers have stopped doing reviews because they don’t get much attention. If you find that a problem, I suggest reviewing some classics (which can be from any genre or time period), connecting to the blog community that shares this interest, and seeing what happens!

Do you read and review classic literature? Do you find these posts are some of the more popular ones on your blog?

Linked in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

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32 responses to “Are classics the best books to review?

  1. Being temperamentally lazy I never got round to reviewing new books and authors on a regular basis — too much pressure to adhere to nominal deadlines! — so in a sense most of what I review tends to be classics or titles on the way to becoming classics (whatever that now means, maybe anything that stands the test of time).

    I find that nowadays I get a reasonably stable number of likes and comments for my reviews, though the more obscure the author or subject matter the less is the response. This is only an impression, I’d have to do a proper statistical analysis to justify it I suppose!

    Still, your basic premise seems sound. I’ve noticed that I’ve tended not to follow bloggers who only review new titles (usually sent for appraisal by small presses or self-published authors) as it’s highly unlikely I’d put myself out to purchase most of them — I’ve been too often disappointed by the quality of the writing and the standard of the editing to want to go down that road again. And life’s too short, and, as I said, I veer towards laziness, and I can’t be the only one.

    Classics it is then!

    • With very few exceptions, I’ve found all the books I’ve read from that somewhat contested category of “classics” to be worth the reading, even if not entirely my cup of tea. There is something in letting books pass the test of time.

  2. Just wanted to let you know I’ve so enjoyed reading your Classics Club posts, that I’ve been inspired to join myself! Fingers crossed it opens up some new doors in this lovely reading community.

  3. So interesting! I do find that my book reviews that do well are of more well known books (but not classics since I don’t read many of those)…I think because more people have read them and have something to say. Also – my negative reviews of really popular books do the best for me.

    But, like you said, I don’t write a ton of book reviews anymore. I do more round-ups of mini reviews. When I do write a review, I strategically pick the book. I pick something that’s hyped, but that I may have a contrarian opinion about.

    • Ha ha, negative reviews are sometimes sooo much fun to read! I don’t do many myself, but I’ve had a good laugh at some others (even when I hadn’t read the book).

      If reviewing new books, I think it’s a good strategy to pick a popular book about which you have something different to say from the general stream of opinion out there. That will catch readers’ attention and give them a reason to pay heed to what you say.

  4. I don’t read and review a lot of classics, but I have done some and they have gotten a good amount of feedback. But my general “strategy” is that I read what I want to read and if others are interested in it, great! And if they’re not, that’s fine too! I read a mix of new and not-so-new, but even the older books I read tend to be on the obscure side so not many readers have read them, or even come across them. But those are the ones I want to read, and I like to be able to shine a little light on them, if I can!
    I’m off to read your review of “Our Town”… 🙂

    • I think reading and writing about what you want to read is the best basis for a book blog, and that’s where I go from as well. I don’t mean to give the impression I’m angling for lots of comments and “strategizing” to get more … I do enjoy the interaction involved, but I’m okay with posting sometimes about books I am interested in even if nobody else seems to be. (Sniff.) But I have found this pattern interesting over the years.

      Thank you for giving Our Town some attention! 😀

  5. When I first started my blog I knew I wanted to write about the classics, especially 19th and early 20th century novels. And I do find the more well-known classics get more “Likes” and comments. But I also find that less well-known titles by well-known authors also generate interest, and comments from readers familiar with that book help me to place it within the context of the author, which I so appreciate. I also read history and like to be aware of new books in that time period. I don’t blog about those much, because I think people go to a blog and expect a certain type of book, a certain genre and in this case may not be interested in history. But since I have been reading challenged this last month (surgery scheduled for the 20th, yay!), I’ve reflected a lot on this and probably will include more nonfiction.

    I can relate to your thoughts on Our Town, one of the greatest classics of American literature, as not being that popular on my blog, either. It is such a simple and beautiful story that should really be rediscovered.

    Oh I laughed though about Ethan Frome…I would love to find a positive review of what must be one of the most depressing novels ever written!

    • Well, one can say “This book is amazing at being the most depressing novel ever.” I did find it quite impressive in that way.

  6. Excellent question, Lory! I would say that some of my best reviewing experiences have involved classics! I cite in particular The Classics Circuit Tours, which invited bloggers to write an essay on the classic of their choice under a particular theme or author, were amazing. I was sad when these stopped in 2011 (has it been that long?), and the tours are still archived at http://classics.rebeccareid.com/previous-tours/. I have also greatly enjoyed reviewing classics for the Travel the World in Books project (originated by Tanya of Mom’s Small Victories).

    On the other hand, reviewing new and forthcoming books in a well-organized book tour can also be delightful! Looking back over my Classics Circuit posts, I see that I first met Emma of Words and Peace there, and this led me to explore her France Book Tours and participate in that regularly.

    The common thread is that reviewing books in a communal way, where bloggers will see each others’ posts and pool their readership to some extent, has been the most memorable. I can certainly go it alone–and often do–but it is nice to have company!

  7. I haven’t reviewed a book in a while because I had a bit of a slump – but you are correct. Classics get more attention. I just started a real-life classics book club, so I hope I’ll be back on a roll soon.

    • Sorry about your slump, but it’s great you formed a book club! I’ve tried to do that IRL before but it never got off the ground. Maybe someday I’ll succeed, but in the meantime I enjoy the virtual book club here on the blog very much.

  8. I mainly lump my reviews (if you can call them that…very short) into end of month lump posts so I’m not sure. I tend to read old things mainly, so I can’t really compare. 🙂

  9. Kat

    What a fascinating subject! Yes, in general my blog posts about classics, or at least older books by women, Viragos, etc., are the most popular. I sometimes work very hard at something on Roman poetry and nobody reads it. Those are just for myself. I don’t consciously decide to read and write about classics, but it does turn out that way. Which reminds me: I have read only five or six new books this year and I do want to keep up with the culture~

    • How I wish I had studied Latin and Greek when I had the chance, so I could read those poets. And on the other hand, I’m also thinking I should read some NEW books at some point. I think I’m going to take some along with me on vacation.

  10. I joined the Classics Club but have been so busy trying to get caught up on ARCs that I haven’t been on track with reading through some classics AT ALL. It makes sense that more people have read classics and thus have more input that “I really want to read this!” I also feel like when reviewing classics, I write my review differently. I will go into things that are more “spoiler” territory in, say, a Jane Austen novel than I would in the latest romance release, because I’m assuming that either people have read it already or have been exposed to the story already through general knowledge, pop culture, and retellings. It makes it easier to post a review that’s more meaningful and in depth when I’m not worried about spoilers, and thus gives people more to connect to.

    And now I want to drop the 4 books I’m in the middle of and go read Persuasion finally!

    • I agree, I’m not so bothered about spoilers with classic books (doesn’t everyone know that Anna Karenina dies at the end?) and that makes them easier to write about in some ways.

      It’s tough when you have the new ARCs clamoring for attention though. I solved that by not requesting any more… for now!

  11. I’ve had a similar experience reviewing popular backlist books, so I suspect you’re right that classics having been around longer and read by more people leads to more discussion 🙂

  12. I’ve found that classic reviews often get more views, as well. (Sometimes far less, though!) I think it depends on what the book is. If it’s something a lot of high schools assign, for instance, the review will get much more attention than something like my coblogger’s post today on E. M. Forster. I think it is because more people have read the book than a new release. Or sometimes there is a trend where a lot of commenters want people to know they want to read the book. Like it’s a badge of merit to express interest in a classic. Also, yes, I’ll say it. Classic books often have a depth the YA books I read lack and so its’ much more interesting to review and discuss them. I wish this weren’t the case, but there it is.

  13. Especially a focused interest such as this month’s #AusteninAugust can bring a lot of like minded readers together over a particular author – Jane Austen at the moment!
    and increase the discussion options via blog, instagram and bookstagram challenges focused on either a particular book or that author’s books in general… Thanks for the thought provoking query.
    Are you part of The CLassics Club ?

    • I’m pleased to be a member of the Classics Club – going on five years now!

      And I love theme months and such events – Austen in August was one of my first.

  14. I haven’t read many classics in recent years, though I loved them when I was younger. I always find it interesting to see which types of posts get the most attention. For me, it’s definitely discussions and then reviews of new YA releases. I’ve only done a few posts on the classics, though!

    • Discussions are my MOST commented on posts, for sure. That’s why I’m so glad for the Book Blog Discussion Challenge! And I think blogs that post about new releases regularly tend to gather an audience that’s seeking that content … it’s good to have different kinds of blogs for those who are looking for different things!

  15. Lory this is a great post & rather thought provoking. My Australian reviews get virtually no comments, but have lots of views (which makes me think that people are interested/curious but have nothing to say because they don’t know the book, author or Australia!)
    My most comments occur in meme posts of posts written for another event like Paris in July or a CC spin.
    After that comes Classics & contemporary award winning books that have the zeitgeist thing going on for them. As you said, these are books that more people are likely to have read & have an opinion on.

    As one of the new cc mods, can I ask you if we could use this idea (fully acknowledged of course) somehow in a future monthly meme or something equivalent? It would gets lots of discussion going I think.
    Brona

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