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!

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

  1. _tirilu says:

    What a great post, Krysta! I really liked it. I have to admit that I like reading posts like that but I’m unsure about writing them. I just never seem to have enough ideas when it comes to that or enough to say when I’m actually trying to write a post like that. Blogging is hard.
    But I’m actually very intrigued that you say that it generates so many comments on your blog. And I’m surely gonna take a look at some of the posts you linked.
    Have you received any negative comments about your opinions on specific books?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I agree! Blogging IS hard! But I find it helps to take inspiration from/respond to and link back to other posts, sometimes. So if someone starts a good conversation, I just try to continue it!

      We’ve had mostly positive interactions over the years. Book bloggers tend to be very respectful in general, so even if they have a different opinion about a book, most people will just acknowledge their viewpoint and use it as a conversation starter.

      I will say, though, that whenever we post about a classic book (even if it’s a review, not a discussion), there often emerges some person (not a regular follower) who seems to think that we (as women) didn’t REALLY understood the book. (These commenters are invariably men, and they don’t stick around after telling us that we’re ignorant.)

      Like

      • _tirilu says:

        That is weird. But I guess there are always people who think that they are more cultured than others. I hope you don’t let them bother you. Different people have different opinions, there is no reason to be obnoxious about it.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          It does seem to be a classics thing. I remember a classics blogger who used to be upset all the time because she couldn’t post anything without a bunch of people getting argumentative about it. It’s like…because the books are “classics” and therefore for the “elite” or something, people feel more of a need to prove themselves? Whereas if I read a kid’s book, mostly other bloggers and I just talk about what we liked or didn’t like as much, without trying to one up each other about our deep interpretations. XD

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Maria @ The Character Study says:

    Discussion posts focusing on specific books are some of my favourite ones. For me, the main appeal of blogging is getting to discuss books with other readers, so finding these types of posts is always interesting. The only downside is that many times you can find discussion posts of books you haven’t read, so you have no way to engage.

    Like

  3. RAnn says:

    I’ve tried ending review posts with discussion questions are rarely get responses. I tried a weekly link up years ago when I was part of a book tour group, such that I know that a bunch of other folks read the book too, but it never took off. I think one problem with discussion posts about particular books is that if you haven’t read them you don’ t feel qualified to respond.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Our most visited and commented on posts tend to be books that a lot of people have read–classics, books frequently assigned in schools, and bestsellers. That helps with the issue that people will need to have read the book in question.

      Like

  4. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    Interesting! I’ve not been posting discussion posts because I can’t think of any topics, but perhaps that’s because I’ve been thinking too generically! I quite like book specific posts because 1) I don’t mind spoilers and 2) it’s always interesting to hear people’s thoughts, but if I haven’t read the book, then I generally don’t have anything to say.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It’s true I might not have anything to say if I haven’t read the book. But, like you, I don’t think I would necessarily mind spoilers for at least some books!

      I also find we get a lot search engine traffic for book discussions. Our post on the love triangle in the bestselling MG series Keeper of the Lost Cities is incredibly popular for some reason. But most people don’t comment on it. Some do, but they seem like kids who are messing around, honestly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Linda I PagesandPapers says:

    I think you mention a really important point: people need to have read a book or at least heard of it in order to discuss it. I guess this is precisely why book-specific discussions don’t generate as much traffic. Sadly, it’s the same with reviews, which I think is quite disappointing as a lot of work goes into writing them!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, our most commented-upon discussions tend to be on books a lot of people have read, whether that means it’s regularly assigned in schools, it’s a classic, or it’s a bestseller. A midlist book wouldn’t likely get a lot of interaction.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I hesitate to write discussion posts because of spoilers but I guess I will think about it and will not make it long. I just commented on your Grisha trilogy post and it’s big enough for me that it can be a separate post, haha.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That’s true. I guess you could just put a spoiler warning upfront? And then only people who have read the book/don’t mind can continue on?

      Haha! Sometimes when I write a really long comment, I actually do go make it a post!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Amber says:

    I love that you wrote this post, because this is actually something I think about a lot. I’ve done discussion posts on both Tess of the Road and Warcross… and they didn’t do well. But I really enjoyed writing them and I enjoy reading those things on other blogs. I hear you on the “academic writing” excuse because that’s the first thing I think about too.. but also… every time I talk about a book with a friend it feels a bit academic – analysing the character motivations, the tropes. It’s not a “is this book good” review, it’s “lets talk about predictions and theories and what broke us” conversation and those discussions are the best!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I loved Tess of the Road! But it’s true I don’t see many people mention it. I haven’t read Warcross, though, so I guess I couldn’t really comment on that! I’m surprised, though, because I remember Warcross being really popular!

      And, yeah, that’s a good point! I think people’s minds do tend to think, “Oh, this sounds like school” or something, but talking in-depth about books is something book lovers do naturally all the time! It’s just stuff like teasing out the details to guess at what will happen in the sequel, or wondering what a character’s motivations are, and stuff readers think about when they’re reading anyway.

      Like

  8. Mary Drover says:

    Yes, this! I love all of your posts, but I really love the ones that dig deep into something specific because readers are always going to be people who flail about books, and it’s so fun to see someone else flailing about the specific thing that we’re busy flailing about. It brings people together in such a quick, easy way of community.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I love the way you put it! Readers DO love to flail about their favorite books! And I think many bloggers started blogging precisely to find people to flail with them! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.