Blog as Personal Archive
April 17, 2020
Written by Murray Browne from The Book Shopper.
As one who has been blogging for over a decade, musing about books and book culture to a handful of readers, several beneficial aspects have emerged over the years. No, it’s not riches or fame, but I’ve discovered that personal blogging has provided me with a diary of what I have been reading and thinking about since 2008.
The blog has evolved over the years. It began as a promotional tool for my book of essays, The Book Shopper: A Life in Review published by Paul Dry Books in 2009. For a while I even kept a calendar of book activities and did some reportage of author events here in the Atlanta area where I live. I saw some good authors over the years, but then my interests shifted. I broadened my scope to the current musings format, which gives me more leeway to come up with various topics to write for my biweekly postings.
Some of the postings fall into categories like book reviews or bookstores, or some of my favorite subjects like baseball and military history. I also prefer to read older books and lesser-known titles. (Who needs another spin on a bestseller?) Other noteworthy categories are Books-as-Art-as-Books and the MARTA Book Club – a series of 34 postings where on my daily commute I logged the titles of books that people were reading while on the trains of the city’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
Using the Typelist feature on Typepad, I also keep a running list of what I have been reading throughout the year and display it on the sidebar. I have recently added a new page of “Suggested Readings” so I can keep track of what bookish friends have recommended. (If nothing else, the blog provides a handy jog to my memory, which I can access through my phone on a moment’s notice.)
Because the blog has more of personal take on subjects instead an authoritative one, I have been able to combine events – such as vacations and trips – into postings and travelogues. For example, over the years I have visited bookstores in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oaxaca, Amsterdam, Nova Scotia, Prague, and the Greek isle of Santorini to name but a few. Accompanying on these excursions is my longtime partner Denise who is always willing to pose as a book browser or snap an “action” picture of me standing in front of a bookstore.
Blog subjects sometimes include other family members too. For example, I wrote about going with my younger daughter Bonnie to the Rickwood Baseball Classic in Birmingham, Alabama to honor the Willie Mays biography I was reading (Mays played for the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues in 1948). When the Kansas City Royals played in the World Series in 2014, I wrote about the Kansas native, baseball writer Bill James, reminiscing about the time I lived in the Sunflower State. It included a photograph of my mother pushing my older daughter Cynthia in a swing wearing a toddler-sized George Brett uniform (a future Hall of Famer). Thoughts about my father have been included in numerous postings as well, particularly as I reflected on his service in World War II. All this flooded back to me after I chatted briefly with historian Rick Atkinson, the author of The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 at a small reading at my local library.
While flipping through my 450+ musings, I noticed that I should be a little more diligent about assigning categories to these postings. This can go a long way to help me find specific things I wrote about. Moreover, it has made me more aware of how topics like certain writers or themes have reoccurred and how my thinking has evolved over the past decade. This digital “paper trail” is like a diary of sorts, but with the added challenge of making it interesting, since I know others are going to be reading it.
A final advantage of the blog archive is that once I’ve taken the time to record my thoughts and observations and add some photos and artwork, I will sometimes stumble upon new opportunities to send that link out to connect with others. An informal conversation or a serendipitous article I’ve come across online reminds me of something I’ve already thought and written about. A quick follow-up is a convenient cut-and -paste away.
While there are rarely riches and fame in blogging, connecting to friends, family members, subscribers, and even oneself can be reward enough.
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