Should Book Bloggers Feature Discussion Questions That Focus on Specific Books?

Should Book Bloggers Feature Discussion Posts on Specific Titles

Discussion posts have become a staple of book blogs, with readers reporting that they often prefer to read discussions and bloggers reporting that discussions do indeed generate higher traffic than reviews. While book discussions started out as simple questions, with bloggers often just asking questions such as, “How many books do you currently have on your nightstand?” the length and quality of these posts have evolved over the years. Now, bloggers might discuss anything from whether series or standalones are preferable to consumerism on Bookstagram. What many bloggers still seem not to post, however, are discussions that focus on a single title or a single aspect of a book.

When I raise the idea that book bloggers might post in-depth discussions about specific titles, instead of talking about books in general, some bloggers seem hesitant. Part of this is a fear of sounding too “academic” and scaring potential readers away. Much blogging advice, after all, advises bloggers that readers on the internet have short attention spans, and thus anything text-heavy should be avoided. Extrapolation of this idea suggests that anything that sounds intellectually heavy should also be avoided–readers presumably do not want to read anything that might remind them of a high school English paper.

Blogging about the questions raised books need not be dry and tedious, however. Interesting ideas can be raised without clouding them in academic jargon or writing a post that becomes the length of a doctoral thesis. A balance can be struck with intellectual ideas and an engaging writing style. In short, bloggers need not dread that writing about books in-depth might make them sound overly scholarly and thus scare people away. Truly, a discussion post about a single feature in a book could be merely five or six paragraphs–the idea is, after all, to generate discussion, not to post the final word on the book. A post can simply raise a question or idea, and then let the rest of the conversation, with all its complexities, contradictions, and side trails, unfold in the comment section.

Here at Pages Unbound, we do periodically post discussions that focus on specific books, and, far from scaring people away, they often generate great comments! Our post on not liking The Giving Tree, for instance, generated a lot of like-minded comments, as well as a follow-up post that was equally popular, and then a post on why another popular children’s book, The Rainbow Fish, is also one we do not enjoy. Likewise, posts on how to interpret the ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver and whether J. R. R. Tolkien’s Boromir is a likeable character have also proved popular. Some text-specific posts have generated fewer comments, but regularly receive views from search engine hits–for example, our post “Why I Don’t Like the Ending of A Heart So Fierce and Broken is still pretty popular, as is our post on why people should read The Lord of the Rings appendices.

Despite their mixed reputation, discussion posts focused on specific titles have many benefits for bloggers. Firstly, they allow bloggers to expand upon their thoughts on a book. Because most reviews are fairly short, they need to be focused and thus may only mention a few main points of interest, rather than everything the reviewer might wish they could talk about. Secondly, they open up the door for more discussion about favorite books–an especially wonderful benefit since many bloggers start blogs specifically because they want to talk about their favorite books with other fans. And, lastly, they allow bloggers to generate more content without having to read a bunch of books. One title could, in theory, be the inspiration for an unlimited amount of future posts!

But what kinds of discussion posts might generate the most discussion? At Pages Unbound, we have posted a mix of discussions on everything from classic works to childhood favorites to the latest YA bestsellers. These sorts of posts seem to work best for getting a conversation going. After all, people need to have read a book or at least heard of it in order to discuss it. So anything that people might conceivably have been exposed to or have strong feelings about (think, for instance, books regularly assigned to students or the latest release that everyone seems to be reading) is a reasonable choice. Taking up questions that have constantly intrigued readers (such as whether C. S. Lewis did Susan Pevensie wrong) could all get a conversation started. Not all discussions will take off, of course, but it could still be fun writing them!

For inspiration, here are a few text-specific posts we have written:

The posts range from more general questions–what makes a book or a franchise successful– to more in-depth analyses about characters or philosophy to opinions on fan-based issues such as romances. Discussions can be based around almost anything!

Book-specific discussion posts do not have to be boring or dry. Nor do they have to scare readers away! Many readers are waiting for the opportunity to talk about their favorite works and to think about them deeply. General bookish discussion posts are fun–but specific ones can be, too!