In Search of a Good Read

Goodreads the platform, has a very evocative name. No matter how much you read or how many books you have in your digital or home library, there comes a time when you are searching for the next book that will make you feel alive, involved, entertained and other such tall orders.

So, Goodreads works on recommendations based on the books you have been reading or the books people in your network or those with similar tastes are reading. However, even these are not enough at times.

And so begins the quest to read beyond your normal preferences. I picked one such book recently, from a platform I rarely visit, published by small, indie publisher with a tacky name meant to obfuscate rather than enlighten. The collection of stories seemed wanting, as did the cover. The blurb had extracts from the stories, as if someone did not want to spend time writing them afresh.

The text, sigh, was rife with exclamation marks as if the reader could not understand what was being written. There were ellipses, is that even the way each sentence should end?

There was no reason the stories were clubbed together. I prefer reading anthologies that have atleast a thread of theme running through the collection or some logic that defends them being put in a book.

This post is a rant, I know, and from talking about finding a good book to read I am discussing why a book did not work. But here’s the understanding I have arrived at: just because we can now put together any content, choose any cover, package and publish it as a book, whether it is 10 pages or 100, does not mean we go ahead with work that does not fulfil the bare minimum obligations of it being good work.

‘Do it right and well, even if there are no gatekeepers.’

This post is part of BlogchatterA2Z.


Voracious Readers vs Mere Readers

True book nerds always have a book under their arm or in their digital library. Here are a few things that distinguish a voracious reader from the one who – um, reads the occasional book, because everyone else seems to be reading it.

Photo by Sofia Alejandra from Pexels

1. They are not intimidated by books
Whether it’s a tome or a slim paperback, a classic or a light novella, philosophy or a genre they are most comfortable with, any book is game for the voracious reader provided it’s well-written.

2. They like being hyphenated with books
Book worm, book nerd, book lover are not really derogatory to their ears even when others mean it this way. Anything bookish gets their attention and affection.

3. To them, every place is suited to reading
Window seats, comfortable armchairs, beanbags, a quiet corner of the house, the library – these are mere crutches for the uninitiated. A really voracious reader will grab a book and read with great concentration even in the midst of a noisy mid-day office rush.

4. No eating, only reading is their mantra
Voracious readers are known to shun food in favour of reading. In the unlikely event of them being offered snacks, they would rather not eat and spoil the book/e-reader with their greasy fingers. As per a recent survey, there’s an unexplored market for ‘reader-eats’, snacks that are non-spilling and non-greasy for readers to nourish themselves as they reread the fantasy book series over the weekend.

5. Solitude over company is their priority
Spending weekends curled up with a book while the rest of the world is partying or hiking or whatever they did before and during a pandemic is a no-brainer.

6. Concentration is their middle name
Reading a number of books at the same time, not even losing the threads of the plot or the backstory of the minor characters over the time it takes to finish them all is less-celebrated attribute. However, voracious readers don’t even care what the world thinks about multi-taskers or multi-readers.

Surely, a few things popped into your mind as you read the post. What do you think is a voracious reader’s most striking characteristic?

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

7 Things I Discovered during #MyFriendAlexa

I am participating in #MyFriendAlexa campaign organised by Blogchatter for the month of September. It is for bloggers looking to boost their Alexa rank.

What is an Alexa rank, you might ask.

“Alexa is a global ranking system that utilizes web traffic data to compile a list of the most popular websites, the Alexa Rank. The lower your Alexa rank, the more popular (for example, a site with the rank of 1 has the most visitors on the internet)”.

In trying to take my blog and Alexa rank to the next level, here are some surprising things that I discovered this September.
(Ideally, this should have have been a month end post but the significant learning means I can talk about it now).

1. I can Read a lot.

I am a voracious reader and often read three books concurrently. When I found out that reading a few blog posts on a daily basis is a requirement of this campaign, I was cool.

But in reality, reading and commenting on a large number of blogs everyday, consistently, gets a little difficult. Add to that the writing I have to do for the blog. Add to that the book reviews that I have promised to write this month. And add to that the books I am supposed to read and finish before writing those reviews. Add a busy life, other than the reading and writing, to the mix.

It felt very difficult and yet I am finding that it is very much possible to do a lot of reading everyday if I put my mind to it.

Reading in slots comes to the rescue. I never realised I have so many little pockets of time in my day when I can quickly read a page or five of the books.

2. I can make time to Write.

Yes, you never have enough time but you have to make time for the things you are passionate about. All these motivational quotes are very good but in reality I was very apprehensive about the required twice a week posting schedule. Normally, this is doable, but this month was different. I felt being pulled in so many directions.

Usually, I need complete silence to be able to write contemplative, well crafted posts. I make time for these late in the nights or in early mornings. For some reasons, this was not possible and I was barely getting enough time to relax, let alone be in an expansive time frame to write.

It’s not that I had not planned my writing. I had plenty of blog post drafts lined up, ready to be polished and shared with the world. But when the time came to publish them, I didn’t like them at all. Nor could I edit my drafts in peace.

And yet, the beauty of the Alexa campaign is such that I have been able to maintain the writing schedule. Breaking my self conceived notions of when and how I write, I have been able to post twice a week. This knowledge is empowering; I don’t have to give up on my writing when the going gets tough or busy.

3. I understand the Real components of Blogging

Let’s take this step by step. Blogging is Writing and posting on my blog. Enough? No, not really. The content needs to be good quality, I should know my audience, I should put out evergreen and useful content, the title needs to be catchy or self explanatory, I should know SEO…
I discovered all this during Alexa.

Blogging is not just writing. It is also reading- others, commenting and sharing, making connections in the blogosphere. Alexa taught me the importance of being social in the blogging world. It makes a world of difference in my own perspective and on my writing as I discover and engage with varied blogs.

4. I can improve Blog Design

Blogging effectively is also putting my best foot forward so that my audience comes to my space and stays. The factors that make it happen are a good website/blog design, easy navigation, easy commenting, without many fancy sign-ups and pop ups. I had understood all this theoretically. This month, visiting so many blogs this was a great practical learning. Now I know which elements in blog design to keep and which to eliminate.

And knowing that I would get higher page views helped me make the switch to an aesthetically pleasing design and easy navigation and sharing (hope my readers feel that too), along with making sure that the site loads quickly.

5. I can implement SEO

The exhaustive topic that SEO is, it is important to know at least the basics. Again it has been on my wish list, to implement good SEO. With Alexa, I am not only motivated but also have found the tools to implement this.

I am learning how to write an optimised blog post. I am also exploring Keyword planning, alt tags, meta description and headlines, site structure, on page optimisation, link building etc

6. I must Plan Content

I know many bloggers follow a strict posting schedule and maintain an editorial calendar. I have tried to do it many times but I baulk at planning anything that is a few days ahead.
But with Alexa, I realise the importance of planning my posts, knowing which topics are topical and looking at the most popular days and time to post. I see bloggers maintaining a consistency in posting and really it reaps plenty of benefits.

7. I can be responsive to the Changing Face of Blogging

A decade back, blogging was more about putting up our writing from the journals to an online space. It was more of a heartfelt thing, more of an expression of self. Now, the scene is much more professional. A blog can be a place to showcase good content, have people coming back for more and a business that provides a good income.

Visiting a variety of blogs has brought this into a clear focus and I can see the efforts of bloggers in generating an income through their blogs.

As the month nears the end, I am sure I am going to polish up on and internalise these learnings.

What have been your learnings this month?

This post is part of #MyFriendAlexa and I am taking my blog and Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

Reading vs Writing

Writing is so cathartic. It is such a creative pursuit. It brings out your innermost emotions, throws them down on paper or screen of an electronic device, morphed into something unrecognisable at times, but making sense to the people who consume this art form.

Writing is the best form of self expression for me; I may be a wordsmith. Even then, I cannot say that I have been writing for as long as I remember. But I can say that for reading. Yes, I have been reading ever since I learnt the alphabet, which of course was when I was but a toddler. At perhaps 5 years of age, I could read three languages. Although I went on to become really proficient in only one-and that serves my purpose quite well, I can still identify with languages.

I worship the written word- and printed, of course. I still love etymology, the nuances of a language, the layers inherent in dialects, words, just words. A well written piece for me is something that has words conveying exactly what needs to be said, without meandering and a seamless flow of thought. As a child, I would read and re-read passages written by the masters to understand their thought process and logic. Why one sentence led to the other? How one paragraph preceded this one? How ideas flowed from one to the other?

Recently, when my local library closed for a few days, I was distraught. There is so much more available to read but I could not bear the thought of not visiting this room full of shelves and shelves of books. It was my weekly fix. I tried to write instead, to take the edge off the waiting for it to reopen but nothing compares to flipping yellowing pages, musty smelling and crinkly to touch.

Reading, reading and reading. Any day over writing!

The books I am reading now…

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

A beautiful tale of a successful journalist getting the wisdom about life from his dying professor. The beloved professor’s proximity to death brings an amazing clarity of thought and this is communicated to his promising student in a series of meetings.
The professor Morrie talks of values, love, happiness…

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer

A true tale of an American woman and her young daughter kept hostage in Iran by her husband and his family. It is totally engrossing and very unputdownable. Still reading it.

Both books are set in the last century. Nineteen eighties and nineties. It is interesting to read something from that time although it was not so long back.

Get back to me with your current reads.