Looking for Something Different?

I have been pondering the direction of this blog for the future. Not in a naval gazing or woe is me way, no one likes those sort of introspective blog posts, actually in a very positive and hopefully exciting way. As the blogosphere grows, seemingly daily, there are now a plethora of places where you can find book reviews in abundance, yet strangely it seems that the more blogs there are the more the same books get discussed. I don’t know about all of you but I sometimes feel like I want something different. A wander round Waterstones Piccadilly last week, where all this posts photos were sneakily shot, made me realise this all the more last week.


However, I am a fine one to talk. Which is one of the most talked about books in and out of the industry at the moment? Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. Which book did I review only last week? A God in Ruins. That said, she one of my favourite authors who I have loved ever since Gran introduced me to one of her lesser known novels. Why am I sounding defensive though, isn’t that what we all want from our reading, to read some of the most talked about books AND read a diverse mix of books that you might just find on a random mooch and meander around a bookshop looking on the shelves and the tables. I know I do. I am always keen to hear what books people are talking about, yet I only read them if I really want to not because the world seems to be telling me so.


Often though (for me) it is the books I might be missing, the hidden gems somehow overlooked, that I am keener to find out about. Judging Fiction Uncovered has shown me there are vast numbers of these books in the UK alone and those are contemporary, when you think about all the ones there must be all around the world be they books published right now or back listed, modern classic or truly ancient, the mind starts to boggle and highlights my point. There are so many books out there not being discussed or seemingly hunted down, and I think that is what I want to do but maybe it is just me?


The reason why I ask if it is just me is that I have noticed on Savidge Reads that when I review a lesser known book, for example something like the wonderfully quirky Girly which I mentioned yesterday, there seems to be less chatter on the blog and (as I went and had a look) a few less views than when I talk about one of the big buzz books. Now this isn’t an issue as I am not a hits and views chaser, don’t get me wrong they are lovely but I still see this blog as a diary of my journey to find great reads for myself. Selfish so and so aren’t I? I can also understand it as I love seeing what bloggers I respect and follow have thought of books I have read in the past and the potential to have a natter about them (I know my commenting has been rubbish, I have been chastising myself this very morning) as reading can be a lonely activity.


With their being so many books coming out; being rediscovered, republished and translated and with all the wonderful powerhouse publishers and the new and niche imprints and independents, it is the books I know nothing about that will have me clicking to read further. Maybe that is just me though? Maybe I am just at a stage in my reading life where I need to go off on a tangent and read by the seat of my pants in some unusual and different directions. Reporting back of course along the way!

I would love your thoughts, if my ramblings made any sense? If they didn’t thanks anyway for providing me with a sounding board, it may have muddied the waters your end but they are much clearer here, if you know what I mean? Oh dear Simon, quit while your ahead! Right, chip in with your thoughts below if you fancy…


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

30 responses to “Looking for Something Different?

  1. I understand exactly what you mean Simon. When I review something “current” I get lots of comments, and then deathly silence when I review something more unusual. That said, as much as I like comments, I would rather that I can introduce myself and others (via the blog) to an unknown gem. I think as I get older I am becoming more contrary too, so I want to read things that everyone else has missed. I don’t think that’s selfish at all! I look forward to seeing all the undiscovered gems you are going to find for us!

  2. Victoria

    I agree with you totally, about wanting to find something different to read. I’m becoming increasingly bored by reading reviews on the same books on blogs and print reviews, so when I see a review on a writer new to me, or a book I’ve not heard of, I then want to read on. If you’re looking for some different writers to read, here are 3 writers who I have recently discovered: Alice Thompson, Leonora Carrington, Linda Spalding.

  3. I know what you mean I think. Most of what I read and review are not current books I love old stuff best. I get pretty decent stats so I don’t worry too much about comments though I love to get them as we all do and recently they have got a lot better. I think someone somewhere must like what I post about and I am pleasing myself by reading mainly what I want, not what everyone else is. Though I am occasionally influenced by others to read new things too. I like the fact that I sometimes read things other people haven’t heard of. Until I started banging on about Mary Hocking many people hadn’t heard of her and now I hope that this year Mary Hocking week will bring her to the attention of a few more. I think it can be more interesting and more rewarding reading and talking about writers everyone else has forgotten about.

  4. This definitely makes sense. I’ll read maybe one or two of the same review, but when I read a lesser known book I seek out as many of the reviews I can to read about them! And I’m with you on it being a diary. Even the books I am embarrassed to write about I write about because it shows me over time. It’s funny how people read and not respond to books when they have a book blog. Seems like it’s all “publisher sent” books that are getting the reviews.

  5. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Agreed – I’m always looking for hidden gems and I love it when blogs point me at them. You’re recording what you’re reading here and that’s interesting to us readers so definitely read what you want to, even if it’s not the current favourite or popular choice. Personally, I’m all for obscure…. (and very intrigued by the looks of the books in the bottom photo!)

  6. utterbiblio

    I totally agree with you Simon. The lesser known books seem to hold a little more excitement for me because if I want to hear about the latest releases I just need to read my Twitter feed. They become little gems that feel more personal, I feel. As you say, there are so many books out there and some of them have the chance to become a favourite.

  7. The hard part about popular books, and stuff like blog tours, is that content gets repetitive when everyone you follow is reviewing the same book. There’s certainly a place for promotion and tours, but this is a downside. As such, I have a tendency to read older stuff, out of personal preference.

  8. Annabel (gaskella)

    It’s nice to share thoughts about a book everyone is reading every once in a while because as a commenter it’s great to join in the conversation about the book you’ve read, rather than the one you may read.
    But, it’s probably more rewarding personally to share a hidden gem and intrigue other readers. I’m hoping my ‘Annabel’s Shelves’ project will bring a few of those to the fore, as I mustn’t forget my ever-growing TBR piles.

  9. Kathy

    Since the reading blogs that I visit the most seem to review more obscure or older books, I am very fond of checking yours to hopefully find a new (old) author that I can haunt used bookstores for or perhaps visit Book Depository for gems that have not been republished in the US. I found May Sarton through you (and Stuck In A Book) and absolutely loved The Fur Person. But, like you, after I finish the Trollope I am reading now, the next two on my TBR pile are A Little Life and God in Ruins. Oh well, diversity is wonderful, isn’t it?

  10. Because I only blog about books on my TBR, I never review anything newer than when I started out in 2013. I sometimes feel a wee bit removed from the book blogging community because I’m not reading the latest must-have book. I know I don’t get the traffic of other blogs but that’s fair enough and I understand it.

  11. snoakes

    Well, as I found your blog through a review of A Place Called Winter (equally as discussed as A God in Ruins) I can hardly talk can I?!
    Some things get talked about a lot because they are simply brilliant (like the two above). Others are over-hyped and sometimes you have to read them to figure out which is which.
    Personally I like a mixture of the two. I love the snob value of finding something no-one else has read – but then it’s highly frustrating to have no-one to talk to about it!

  12. I always avoid what is popular I try to discover at least a dozen books a year that have maybe disappeared of course in translation .I think you should maybe try lots different thing and find a new glove that fits so to speak

  13. My blog is 5 years old this month, and I still have no idea how best to approach/order what I read and write. Maybe I mix it up TOO much between popular and obscure, very old and very new etc…. might explain why nobody reads me, eh?! 🙂

  14. I do enjoy reading your thoughts on newer books sometimes, but one of the things I most like about your blog is discovering writers through your reviews that I’d never heard of before – Lucy Wood being a prime example. I’d never have found her if it wasn’t for you!

  15. As a book blogger who is still finding his footing I would say follow your heart. As I started to move toward more reviews I was terribly self conscious and often veered away from covering anything I read that was not relatively current. My favourite book blogs tend to be very idiosyncratic whether that leads to something highly specialized or an eclectic mix. And don’t apologize for what you like. You never know what a visitor takes away from a visit to your space. Last year on of my favourite reads I simply noted in passing from a glance at your sideline Green Carnation Prize (The Absent Therapist). I had to go out of my way to obtain it. That review and the response from the publisher and author helped me think I might actually have something to offer as a book blogger myself. So cheers!

    And PS. Is that bookstore in London and near a tube station? I have a 9 hour stopover next month and have never been to London.

    • Joe, it’s very near Piccadilly Circus tube station and it’s one of the largest bookstores in Europe – I don’t think 9 hours would be enough time to explore the whole shop! 😉

      Simon, I agree too. I recently reviewed The Girl in the Red Coat which is one of the big buzz books this year which I wasn’t that keen on, but my post has attracted more hits in 2 days than some of my reviews shadowing the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist have attracted in 2 months. I think all the best book blogs have a bit of a mix though between new/old and well-known/unknown books as well as the good/not so good.

      • Thanks Clare. I know I won’t have too much time but want to pop into a bookstore. I have to be very careful to not be tempted by anything I can access here. I am on my way to South Africa with a long list of books to look for and have to be able to drag everything home!

  16. Book bloggers and reviewers generally have to review what is current, what is ‘fashionable’ and cannot allow themselves to wander freely onto the novels their subconscious dictates they should read read next. In the matter of free choice, one book will lead naturally to another. Each sparks different questions in the mind of the individual reader. Each reader is different in their subconscious needs and in the stories that challenge and fulfil them. I suggest you should allow yourself to be guided by your own inner voice in your choice of book. Get rid of your ‘To Be Read’ pile and choose your books according to the dictates of your own inner guide, one novel at a time. Then you will see how your reading develops along lines that are more relevant to you personally at this time, in this age, at this stage in your life. You owe it to yourself as a bibliophile to discover what reading in this unfettered way reveals to you about yourself and the world.

  17. Nena

    You should review your varied interests that is why I read and throughly enjoy your blog. I might always agree with your suggestions but your point of view is always diverse and totally interesting. Don’t change!!!! A U.S. fan.

  18. Michael F.

    Simon, I came across your blog after listening to a few episodes of The Readers. I love that your focus is mainly on literary fiction. It’s so nice to have a reliable curator who can point me to great writing in the U.K. Through your writings I have been introduced to Rose Tremain, Laline Paull, Penelope Fitzgerald and J.L. Carr among others. And for that I am grateful. I am not connected in any way with the publishing world. I am semi-retired from the soul-sucking corporate world and am truly savoring the time I now have to indulge in my passion to read. BTW, you mentioned something about rebooting the Persephone Project a little while back; I would certainly be interested in reading along.

    I say ignore the sirens of hype from the major publishers and follow your instincts. Cheers!

  19. Dee

    It is great to get away from the books that everyone is reviewing. I went to an event in Foyles in Bristol to launch a new book by James Wilson called The Summer of Broken Stories. I think this is just the sort of book you are looking for. I have read another of his, Consolation, which was also great literary fiction.

  20. I do write-ups so that I don’t forget what books I’ve read and what they’re about. I put them online so I can find them easily wherever I am. I read library books and small press publications (which is where I find “something different”). Particularly with poetry pamphlets, mine might be the only “review” the publication gets. When there are other reviews online, I link to them on the grounds that “Interpretation is a community effort, even if judgement is singular.”

    BTW, I’ve mentioned “The Poet Tasters” http://www.sydneyreviewofbooks.com/australian-poetry-reviewing/ elsewhere already. In it, Ben Etherington studies a year of poetry reviews in Australia, going beyond the raw stats (though he quotes those too) by reading all 247 of the eligible reviews. I think several of his points (about formulaic reviews, etc) apply in the UK too.

  21. Interesting thoughts. In my own modest blog, I am reviewing mainly books of the “hidden gem” category which I would like to have a few readers more and I am also reading mainly book blogs that are not focused on mainstream literature or bestsellers. That helps me to discover books I was not aware of and is much more interesting and rewarding than to read just another write-up of that book that is all over the book stores and media. The world of book blogs is so vast that there is a niche for everyone; the main thing is that you enjoy what you do. So in short: good that you reflect from time to time the direction of your blog in the future – but no need to make big changes (from the reader’s point of view, since your blog is always interesting to read.)

  22. I think read what ever makes you feel happiest, and it sounds like discovering lesser-known or older fiction has really bolstered you of late. And you’re right, there is nothing wrong with reading new or advance books either.

    When I started blogging I wanted a space to talk about what I was reading, whatever that may be. And when I tried the whole NetGalley thing, it turned out it wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a new book, but not to the detriment of my reading happiness.

    Balance is key 🙂

  23. These are the blogs I already see, I have to say! Somehow I don’t even notice most of those that aren’t drawn to the niche…

  24. Another agreement here. I think I discover at least half of my new books through you Simon, so don’t change too much! I review a fairly eclectic mix myself, but I’m not nearly as good as you at finding those hidden gems.

  25. Uniquity

    I can’t manage to say what I want, but I tend to skip your (and other) review posts because I am always worried about hearing too much of the story in advance. I have no idea how I expect someone to sell me on a book without actually giving me details, but apparently that’s me. I will sometimes read the first bit and then put the book on my list but I never go to the end for fear of the dreaded spoilers.

    Considering that I look at this and other blogs for book ideas though, I love seeing people read books off the beaten path. Thousands of people are reading and writing about the current popular book, but I am interested in loads of others as well and someone needs to guide me toward them!

  26. Great post Simon! I am all for reading and reviewing lesser known books in amongst the new stuff and bestsellers. I personally accept hardly any review copies now as I want to discover what else is out there. When I review something unusual but interesting, I find I get a good number of hits for it. I think when everyone reviews the same new books, things can get a bit repetitive. I read book blogs to find something new, so that’s what they should contain – even if it’s something old, it’s new to the reader!

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