Another shelf safari or some navel gazing?

The beginnings of a shelf safari. I didn’t know what to read so I used a random number generator to determine which shelf to choose from. And number 11 of 20 was the winner.


The other night I was again faced with needing to find a book to read…I had a post in my head, but am beginning to wonder about the point of it.

To my recollection, in the 14 years or so that I have been blogging I don’t think I have ever really written a navel gazing post about whether to keep on plugging away at my blog. But it seems like the time has come to maybe do just that.

Here are some mostly random thoughts about the state of my blogging psyche:

Social Media Has Changed Everything

Although I am active on Twitter and to a much lesser degree, Instagram, and really enjoy my interactions with bookish people on those platforms, the rise of those behemoths (and others) has pretty much meant the death of blogging, or at least the death of what I used to know of the blogging community. I was going to write about activity in the comments sections here at Hogglestock, but to be honest, my comments sections were never all that lively. There was a core of regulars, but again to be honest, I still have a core of regulars, and I love them/you. And some read my blog posts and then comment on Twitter instead of here. But I sometimes I feel like I am just whistling in the wind.

you can’t skim a podcast

Let’s be honest, the only way we could keep up with so many bloggers back in the day, was because we skimmed the shit out of those things. Sometimes a post title was a far as we would get, sometimes we’d skim and jump around all the way to the end, and sometimes we’d read the whole damn post. But c’mon, skimming was the only thing that left room to read actual books. But with podcasts, there ain’t no such thing as skimming.

Now some of you may be thinking, hey wait, you idiot, you were co-host of a podcast for a couple of years. Yes! But my not so secret dirty secret was that before Simon asked me to join The Readers I had never listened to a book podcast–not even The Readers. I absolutely loved being on the podcast and, based on the number of downloads we got, people liked listening to it as much as I liked doing it. Since then I have listened to a few book podcasts by others and definitely enjoy some of them, but, not being able to skim, and not having much time for  listening, I pretty much skip them entirely.


This is no disrespect to anyone with a booktube channel, but holy shit, really? I’m painting with a broad brush. They are great in some ways, and no doubt, yours is better than the rest, but…I should probably stop right there. Also…impossible to skim, like podcasts.

The rise of the author industrial complex

None of you are surprised I don’t read much recent fiction. I certainly read more of it when I was on The Readers, but with each passing year I’m less and less interested in newly published books. Part of it is the fact that so many superlatives are thrown around for truly mediocre or uninteresting books. Part of it is MFA programs churning out cookie cutter authors with entitlement complexes. Boo hoo, you wrote a masterpiece that isn’t getting isn’t any press? You can’t live off of what you make as a writer? Well, that’s never happened to any artist ever.

OLD books vibrate

On a less antagonistic note, I used to think that I liked older books because they stood the test of time, etc. But in reality I read plenty  of  books that didn’t stand the test of time. Many have not only been forgotten but the authors who wrote them are barely even mentioned in the farthest, deepest recesses of the web. Truth is, I have a predilection for the past. It was highly imperfect. It was deadly for so many. But I like inhabiting the past, whether it is the 1890s or the 1990s. I can be moved by recently published books, for sure. But there is something about older books. They vibrate across the years, decades, and centuries. I like connecting with those dead authors.

As I went on my book safari I pulled off these four short story collections. I’ve started the Jack London. And let me tell you, it positively vibrates.
old books don’t sell newspapers and i’m going to die one day

My interest in older fiction keeps many of you coming back here, but old books don’t, as they say, sell newspapers. I’m okay with that. In fact, as long as I know a few of you are out there, I will keep blathering on about them. In fact, as I have said before, I consider myself a bit of a literary seed banker. I keep some books just because I don’t want them to get pulped because no one is clamoring to read them. And although much of what I write here is just to have a creative outlet, or as a reminder for myself of what I have read, I like the idea that some day someone is going to come across an old book no one has ever heard of, and they are going to surf whatever the web of the future is and will come across something here. And I’m not thinking about my legacy, I’m thinking about the book’s legacy. I feel the same way about my library. I think a lot about what will happen to my books when I die. I have no heirs and, even if I did, most heirs don’t give a rat’s fanny for the books they inherit. And nothing I have is of any interest to any book depositories. But I know there is some young weirdo out there that would like them. But then again maybe not. And even if, well, needle in the haystack, etc.

More from the shelf safari. Three novels, none of which were born yesterday. Haven’t started any yet since I got immersed in the London Hawai’i stories.
Friends forever

The reality of this old blog and bookish Twitter is that I have made friends with flesh and blood people, some of whom I have met in real life. And we get each other. We don’t always agree but we like each others quirks and senses of humor and most importantly, we like each others pets.

65 thoughts on “Another shelf safari or some navel gazing?

  1. robinandian2013 January 26, 2020 / 12:25 am

    Please don’t stop blogging. I always read ALL that you write and you have certainly influenced my reading and buying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:27 pm

      That is good to hear. I will keep it going.


  2. Audrey Driscoll January 26, 2020 / 12:27 am

    Don’t stop blogging yet, please. I just started following your blog.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:28 pm

      A newbie? That is fun to hear. Do you remember how you stumbled over this way?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Audrey Driscoll February 9, 2020 / 10:30 pm

        I think WP suggested one of your posts and I checked it out, liked what I saw and decided to follow.


  3. Brona January 26, 2020 / 7:29 am

    I’ve been through so many ups & downs with my blog over the past ten years, but I keep coming back/hanging around.
    I still need to read contemporary stuff for work & I like to have a record of my reading, new and old. So even when I get no comments, I remind myself I’m doing this for me. I follow mostly book bloggers on Twitter & insta and live reading their politics and seeing their pets & pics of where they’re reading their latest book. I’ve still managed to never watch one single book tube, I just can’t.

    I hope you stick around, but all you can do is what’s right for you in the end. Blogging should be a pleasure not a chore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Geoff W January 27, 2020 / 3:30 pm

      That’s the same reason I blog, to keep a record for myself. The engagement is fun, but I decided NOT to seek it out so religiously after the first couple of years and the huge shift to booktube.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:29 pm

      I’ve definitely given myself permission to post when I feel like I have something interesting to say rather than feeling I need to. and I agree with everything you say.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Heather January 26, 2020 / 8:24 am

    My favorite part of this particular post was the section about the author industrial complex—that made me laugh out loud. Heh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:30 pm

      I find a lot of things fit that construction. I am also fond of skewering the Wedding Industrial Complex.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pamela Foster January 26, 2020 / 10:28 am

    Thanks for writing this, Thomas! You write about books I’ll likely never read, but your writing voice is much like hearing you talk, which is loads of fun. I miss The Readers, and actually have made more time for podcasts because of it.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:31 pm

      I miss The Readers too, but I don’t miss get up at 7:00 AM on Sundays to record it. And now we need to do something about getting you to read something older than you.


  6. Liz Dexter January 26, 2020 / 12:38 pm

    Do not stop, please! I love your posts. And I don’t think blogging is dead – I just found a load more non-fiction bloggers through non-fiction november and I’ve been having some lively conversations with some!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:32 pm

      I’ve been buying a bit of non-fiction recently. It all looks so good, but I tend to treat NF more as reference materials.


  7. Kateg January 26, 2020 / 1:32 pm

    I LOVE your blog! And I was so happy to meet you at Booktopia Petoskey. I read a lot of contemporary fiction and enjoy it, but you have greatly enriched my reading life by introducing me to authors I had never heard of prior to hearing you on The Readers. Barbara Pym has been a great find and Victoria 4:30 is now a lifetime favorite. I listen to other bookish podcasts because I spend way too much time in my car, but I still miss The Readers and Books on the Nightstand. I do not have time for Booktube, I would rather be reading. I follow you on Twitter and enjoy it. Although petless, I like the Lucy photos, but I am always happy when I have a new blogpost from you in my inbox. As a non-blogger, I hope you keep it up, but I understand if you decide it is time to end.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:33 pm

      I had so much fun at Booktopia (even though I didn’t go to any author events!). And I love that you love Victoria 4:30. I’ve found a few other books by him, but haven’t read them yet. I fear I won’t like them as much.


  8. Jeane January 26, 2020 / 1:49 pm

    Much of what you say here really resonates with me. I’ve never used Twitter or other like platforms, I stick to the blog and mine is often a quiet corner. I suppose because the books I read are not really popular or new. I like hearing about the older ones, even though I don’t often come across the same titles as you and so might not have much to say. Old books need to be appreciated too!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:35 pm

      “mine is a quiet corner” I like that. Nice way to think of it.


  9. Barbara from California January 26, 2020 / 3:10 pm

    I, for one, have you to thank for introducing me to “Mapp and Lucia” by E.F. Benson. You recommended it while you were on “The Readers”. I will always be grateful to you for that.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:36 pm

      Oooh, that is good to know. One of the more gratifying things is that my husband, who tends to only read non-fiction, is a big M&L fan now as well.


  10. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay January 26, 2020 / 10:05 pm

    Dearest Thomas. Don’t be daft. Hogglestock.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:36 pm

      I like Hogglestock as a verb. That’s good.


  11. Anon January 27, 2020 / 7:43 am

    I agree that many mid century novels are poor or bad and some bloggers seem to recommend a lot of duds merely because they found a copy in a junk shop and want to gain attention.
    I honestly think book bloggers have almost had their day.I like your latest post very much for its honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. quinn January 27, 2020 / 11:39 am

    Oh please Thomas…keep blogging. Just this xmas, I did Yankee Swap of doz. bks all recommended by u! I have found Pym, Lively, brokner,shute etc thru u. And those have led me thru others if their time. I always say I dont read living authors….u r my voice in the wilderness (az)…
    I brought up.your blig in midst of reading in cafe to tell u that u must!read Adam nicholson..though he is alive…gorgeous writing…reading why homer matters now..but he wrote 1 on sissyhurst…please check it out:)
    I avoid twitter etc, do more texting than I really want to and twitter is of same ilk for me…but a thoughtful personal blog, as all yours are, is more like reading! Please stay with us as best you can…we do need you, for your selections,thoughts, good taste,honesty (new authors comment example of such :)…
    Now please check out nicholson… and I wait with bated breath your next blog! Xo..quinn


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:38 pm

      We have a few books by Adam Nicholson, but I haven’t read them yet. John has. Did you know that we met him when we stayed at Sissinghurst in June? He was very gracious.


      • quinn quinn February 10, 2020 / 12:21 am

        NO WAAAAY! Wonderful you met adam ……..makes me happy that fav blogger met new fav (living) author…and now u must read Sissyhurst…though as long as John has, since he’s the gardener in the family. Enjoy!


  13. Geoff W January 27, 2020 / 3:33 pm

    The Booktube is the one that got me laughing. That and bookstagram are the ones that put me over the edge. I’ve seen people trying to boil their reviews down to an instagram post or comment on a photo and I’m like nope. That and the hyper stylized always sponsored posts have just made me go meh. I still post the books I buy and try to publicize my posts on instagram, but that’s only when I’ve got the free time or I’m super excited about a purchase.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:39 pm

      I guess we all get to a point where we draw a line in the sand. That’s mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ruthiella January 27, 2020 / 4:44 pm

    Another impassioned please for you to keep on blogging Thomas. I am not on Twitter or Instagram. I am older than many of the books you like to read and don’t want to have to switch to something new. I like when you blog about reading, book buying, house decorating, vacation time, etc.

    P.S. I hope you occasionally continue to guest on the Reading Envy Podcast from time to time.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:41 pm

      It looks like I will be back on Reading Envy later this year. And I guess I couldn’t give it up because then when would I hear from you?


  15. Susan Scanlon January 28, 2020 / 7:42 pm


    I love your blog. I have read many of the books you’ve reviewed and find your posts invaluable. And I love your vacation posts as well. Please don’t feel like you’re shouting into the void. We your readers should probably comment more often so you know we’re out here and paying attention!

    Thank you,



    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:42 pm

      Hi Susan. I’m glad you like it. I must say I like my vacation posts as well. In these days of digital photos the only time I ever see the ones we take are when I post them here.


  16. Michelle Reeve January 29, 2020 / 4:32 am

    I hope you do continue blogging Thomas. i know the blogging world is not as large as it used to be, but it is the ideal forum for bookish thoughts, and as others have said, it is also nice to hear of bloggers homes, pets, holidays etc. I feel the old book enthusiasts have become a select community, and where else would we hear of all these wonderful old gems?


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:43 pm

      I think most are still out there somewhere, there are just too many platforms. It’s harder to get everyone in one place these days.


  17. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) January 29, 2020 / 6:57 am

    I love your blog too – have done for years. Don’t always have time to comment, but I rarely skim. Being mainly a newer books reader, I love my favourite blogs that concentrate on older books – reading vicariously in that respect! :) With the growing number of outlets for material, it’s hard to keep up and everyone’s effort is diluted – my blog view stats are pants these days – but I still love writing about what I read, sharing and having that conversation when it happens. Don’t stop!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:44 pm

      The stats can be kind of disappointing. I never did it for fame ;) but I did like it when the community seemed bigger.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Lori January 29, 2020 / 6:38 pm

    I discovered the world of bookish blogs and podcasts about a year ago and you are at the top of my list. I have never commented on a blog before but want you to know how much I enjoy your posts (I also loved The Readers podcast and re-listen to the episodes often). I have learned a new appreciation for older books and now have four shelves devoted to them, many are your recommendations. Yesterday I finished my first Anita Brookner and loved it! Please do not stop blogging as long as you enjoy it. I may not always comment but I will always be reading the whole post!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:46 pm

      Well you have warmed the cockles of my heart on many levels. So excited you gave older books a chance and even more so that you finished your first Brookner and loved it. Now you only have 23 more to read.


  19. Aileen January 30, 2020 / 10:28 am

    I enjoy your blog! And I think that blogs in general will continue to limp along and maybe they’ll have a renaissance eventually when people start craving more in-depth content. I love what you said about being a literary seed saver. I use the public library for as many of my old books as possible and I hope that by doing so, I prevent them from being weeded out to make room for new books.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:48 pm

      Not to scare you, but I once checked out an old juvenile book that I had read as a kid. But, because it hadn’t been checked it out in so long, when it was checked back in they looked at the circulation history and discarded it! Happily, I know own that copy.


  20. Sarah Faragher January 30, 2020 / 5:59 pm

    Add me to the list of those who would like you to keep writing about books, life, travel, and Lucy. Readers like to read. Lots of text, please. ;O)

    No kids in our household either, but luckily a few bookish nieces and nephews. Still, I don’t expect them to want many of my books. Sooo, when I turned 50 I commissioned bookplates. It has been wonderful to tip them in. Now I know that in years to come, whenever my books are released back into the wild, the bookplates will go out into the world with them. Into the world of old books again, which we love. Sounds silly, but makes me happy.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:49 pm

      Ooh, I’d love to see your bookplates. Can you email me an image? I was chuffed to order an old Eric Ambler book and when I got it saw that it came from Gore Vidal’s library.


      • Sarah Faragher February 10, 2020 / 8:01 am

        Will do. I commissioned them from the British wood engraver Andy English. Wonderful artist, also specializes in ex libris. I’d had my eye on his work for at least fifteen years. How cool about your Gore Vidal bookplate, wow…


  21. Sarah Faragher January 30, 2020 / 6:05 pm

    p.s. forgot to say: Jack London, what a writer (Martin Eden!), and, I would like that Rose Macaulay book on your shelf.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:51 pm

      Yes! I was just thinking earlier tonight that if I could get my bookish friends to read one older book it would be that one. So many would like it, but for some reason they all get scared away. It would make a great film. Maybe that could lead the renaissance.


  22. Melissa F. February 1, 2020 / 2:42 pm

    Yours is one of my absolute favorite blogs, Thomas — indeed, it is right there in my “Favorites” feed. Has been for quite some time. As others have said, many of the books you reference may not be ones I’ll pick up but I feel your voice and advocacy for them is incredibly valuable. That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back. I, too, miss The Readers and Books on the Nightstand. There was a special vibe to both that was so enjoyable, especially the friendly banter on The Readers. All this to say, I hope you continue blogging for a long, long time. There are, apparently, a few of us still out here reading. ;)


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:52 pm

      Well, the response to this post has been so nice to see. Thank you so much for chiming in and coming back on the regular to see what I’m yapping about.


  23. Susan in TX February 1, 2020 / 6:42 pm

    Well, I would most definitely miss you! I was surprised at how much I missed hearing y’all chatter on the podcast because I do listen to several – they keep me company while I’m walking. You’ve got to do what’s best for you, but yours has always been one of the most consistently entertaining blogs I’ve read. Not to mention the Lucy pics, the Hoggies, the trip pictures…


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:53 pm

      Alas I don’t think the Hoggies are going to happen this year. Those always require some sort of hook and one hasn’t presented itself to me this year. But everything else will continue.


  24. Desperate Reader February 2, 2020 / 10:58 am

    I still like blogs, twitter, even book twitter, is to easy to get lost in and somebody’s always offended by something. I follow a couple of podcasts which I like, but they’re quite an investment of time so I’m unlikely to follow more. Blogs on the other hand are easy to follow, and now I’ve been blogging for a decade or so appreciate the way it’s become a sort of diary that I can use for my own reference. Like everybody else here I hope you find enough satisfaction in it to carry on.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:55 pm

      Well,let me just say, you are one of my favorite presences on social media. Since we met, what maybe a decade ago, I’ve loved following your books, baking, and gosh I need a b word for traipsing around Scotland.


  25. Gail in Washington State February 2, 2020 / 9:47 pm

    It’s 6:30 pm on Sunday night…all my chores are done..I am not watching the football game..I have climbed into bed with my kindle, book and phone…and I read every word of your blog. You are a beautiful writer, you go on the loveliest holidays and bring us back tons of photos and yes, Barbara Pym is now someone I read. I rarely comment or thank you or encourage you, but I certainly appreciate the effort put into your blog and enjoy it very much. If you don’t enjoy writing it anymore, I get that…but I think there are lots of lurkers out there just like me.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:56 pm

      Yes, I’m realizing the lurker force is strong. And you Sunday evening sounds so much better than football. Thanks for stopping by, so nice to hear from you.


  26. Simon T February 3, 2020 / 2:27 pm

    Well, you know that you’re up there with my favourite blogs. And I’m so pleased that blogging meant that we got to meet a few times. I hope you keep going and find joy in it – and frankly I hope that you start podcasting again because I loved The Readers so much when you were on it!

    And I’m surprised you’ve found the book blogging community is dying. It seems more active than ever to me, though of course individual bloggers have come and gone in the many years that you and I have been doing this!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:58 pm

      I suppose it isn’t dying–maybe it is me who has lost interest in discovering any new ones. I think the fact that it used to be that like minded folks had one platform and now everyone is all over the place and it is hard to know who is where these days.


  27. David Nolan (David73277) February 4, 2020 / 3:35 pm

    “Older books … vibrate across the years.” What a marvellous (or marvelous as you would spell it) phrase. Keep coming up with phrases like that and I’ll keep reading – or skimming – your blog!


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 10:59 pm

      Yes, skim away! There will not be a quiz at the end. Thanks for stopping by.


  28. Cal Gough February 4, 2020 / 7:04 pm

    Oh dear, I get very nervous whenever you’re contemplating whether it’s worthwhile to continue blogging. Yours was one of the earliest book blogs I stumbled over, when I started the Atlanta Booklover’s Blog (and my personal blog) 10 years ago, and it’s still a fave, despite the fact that i seldom comment (except whenever you start wondering about quitting!). Your comments in this post about not having heirs, etc. really touched a chord with me – like you, I realized that regardless of that, I wanted to keep on keeping on with recording what I’m reading, and for one of the reasons you mentioned: I want to REMEMBER (i.e., have a place to refer to to refresh my memory) of the pleasures my book-reading habits have produced over the Long Haul. Your blog was the reason I decided to start attaching mini-reviews to my list, and the brevity of your annotations are my ideal (and an ideal I’ve since decided I shall never approach: you’re just too talented in the brevity department! As others have mentioned, you (i.e., your commentary) have turned me on to authors I’d never in a million years have investigated, so I for one hope you will continue your habit of championing older (vs. new) books. I can’t say I get as much a kick out of the doggie photos as some, but I do very much enjoy your accounts of your travels, and the photos thereof. So keep on truckin’ for pete’s sake, or, rather, for the sake of all us lurkers out here in the biblioblogosphere. Our reading lives are much enriched thereby.


    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 11:00 pm

      I’ve gotten so bad about my own reviews, mini or otherwise. I realize I’ve started writing a sentence or two on Goodreads. So I guess I am part of the problem.


  29. Brownen February 5, 2020 / 1:24 pm

    not a skimmer please keep the blog! Love to read what you are reading and your thoughts! Instagram and twitter fine but blogs have substance.


    • Bronwen February 5, 2020 / 1:26 pm

      omg BRONWEN (and I complain about others misspelling my name!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 9, 2020 / 11:01 pm

      Bronwen, I promise I will keep blogging and I promise I will always spell your name correctly.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Karen K. February 12, 2020 / 12:51 pm

    I agree with so much of what you’ve written (and said it far better than I ever could!) I’m struggling to keep my blog going, and I blame much of it on Twitter — I spend far too much time reading other people’s posts and not enough reading and blogging. Or writing a post just feels like homework. It’s even hard to keep up with all the blogs I used to read, my feedly backlist is enormous.

    I particularly agree with your thoughts on old vs. new books — so much new fiction is just predictable and mediocre, and there’s so much drama with authors and social media. Of course I would never tag an author personally if I didn’t like their book, but it’s a lot easier to be honest about a work by a dead author.

    I hope you keep blogging, I have found so many wonderful books and authors because of your posts. I am especially joyful about finally getting around to reading Nevil Shute, whom I started reading because of your posts. And naturally I love all your photos, with and without Lucy!


  31. Emily February 27, 2020 / 8:56 am

    I’m one of those young weirdos. :) We need readers of old books for the sake of new books too. They don’t stay new forever.


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