Let’s Talk Book Reviews

You may have noticed I’ve recently seriously overhauled this website, in terms of appearance, ease of use, a more centralized and direct focus, hard work at trying to make information under various menus and in archives consistent with each other and while I’m not finished, I’m pretty happy with it so far. But I’ve also been spending some time going through the WP analytics, trying to interpret what seems like two or three very different reader/follower states that coincide with changes in my content over the years, a reaction to my progressive health problems and new and different ways of engaging. I won’t bore you with most details, but when I moved from Xanga to WordPress in 2011, I wrote many small diary-like entries and as I’ve always been an avid reader, found myself writing a ton of largely smallish book reviews, the vast majority of which were on sci fi books. Basically I can boil my existence here down to two different “lives.” From 2011-2016 I published a ton of blog posts, a huge percent of them book reviews which received the most eyes and comments. Fair enough. But in late 2016, my health started seriously going to hell and I literally was unable to post all of 2017 except for one end-of-year post trying to both explain and apologize. In 2018 I tried to return and did, but on a far more meagre scale which has been the case ever since, all due to progressively horrible health problems. From 2018 through the present, then, I’ve gone from averaging over 100 posts per year (but less than 800 words per post) to now barely 19 posts per year which have averaged about 1,150 words per post. In addition to many of my posts changing during this time, reflecting diverse interests and a changing focus, a couple of odd things occurred with my reader/follower base. And it’s been hard to interpret. When I returned in 2018 (and I actually had some of my worst health problems that year, so more realistically 2019), I hadn’t lost any followers — per WP stats. In fact, I had gained a trickle more to my surprise. But for some reason, while the stats said I got just as many visitors and views, you dropped out! Now I can understand why and I blame only myself and circumstances. This is not intended to be a critical post by any means. It’s just that if I got 1,000 viewers sometime during 2013, I still get about the same, if not more. The difference is back then I’d get 350 likes, hundreds of comments, interactions with people. Since 2018, I get none. Like literally. I crunched the numbers last night and since 2018, I’ve averaged less than 19 posts per year with 11 comments per YEAR and 51 likes. I’m writing close to 22,000 words each year for an average of about 1,150 words per post (but more each year), far greater than 2011-2016. I also noticed that before the illnesses, most people came through the WP Reader but since 2018, the vast majority via search engines. So I’ve found it interesting that allegedly just as many if not more people seem to be viewing my few posts, but I’ve dropped from hundreds of comments per year to 11 and thousands of likes to 50 per year. So does that mean people are interested in some of my topics (perhaps non-subscribers — this happens to me on LinkedIn too) but not enough to comment, let alone like? And why? One reason may be the change in my focus. Early, many of my viewers were lit/poetry fans and the hundreds of book reviews were a big hit, while possibly the short length of them was more ideal than my current verbiage. I have many viewers/readers at different places who are always present but don’t comment because many of them aren’t poetry/lit fans, but often in security-based careers, fields, etc., and since I’ve written much more in recent years about things such as policy issues, geopolitics, national defense, space warfare, doctrine, nuclear proliferation, etc., well a lot of viewers find that interesting but don’t or can’t comment — and I know some aren’t necessarily fans, but “observers.” I’ve gotten used to that over the past 4-5 years but at the same time I’d like to feel that while I still have diverse interests and want to write about whatever interests me, I miss doing the book reviews and the two main things that have been holding me back from resuming those are that my health condition just doesn’t allow for the time or energy necessary to pump some out while it also doesn’t help that I’m averaging 2000 word reviews now, or three times longer than 2013 and frankly longer than I should be investing my time.

I want to resume writing and publishing more book reviews, but while sometimes on more diverse, “heavier” topics and not so much on sci fi. My hope is that there will basically be something for everyone so to speak and if I can force myself to be more concise (like I’ve failed to do here!), maybe I’ll have more time and energy to attempt greater numbers, which will make me happy as well as possibly some of you out there. I don’t expect this to draw back bunches of former readers who will start engaging again and that’s not why I’m doing this. I just want to say that while it’s still possible, I’d like to resume being more active here and in the process, possibly creating some more content that appeared to be to more people’s liking long ago than now. However I’m going to start by “cheating.” I’m in the middle of a lot of books, but not expecting to finish many very soon, and I do have other responsibilities. But I also have tons of book reviews, articles, discussions I’ve written over the past couple of years, a few of which have wound up on Goodreads, one or two on Medium, a couple here and there,

so I’m hoping to grab a few, make some edits, and then publish some here while I try to make myself more active and integrated. They’re a bridge, I guess. I’ve spent some time the past couple of days looking for and choosing maybe 20 or so. They have very different topics and fields and don’t worry — I have no artificial timeline so I don’t wish or plan to just pound the site with nothing but these book reviews — just some at different times when it may seem like a good time. Some topics include philosophy, technology, fiction, history, horror novels, hacking, politics/geopolitics, science, general literature, military/military history and different cultural/social topics. So, diverse…

Ray's Road Review Summer 2016 Website Header
Ray’s Road Review Summer 2016

Today I’m starting with a real cheat. In addition to being on Google Scholar, I also have a small Academia.edu profile. I have some papers there, a few poems and four book reviews that were published about five years ago or so. (Some appeared on Ray’s Road Review.)

As I’m pressed for time but want to get this underway, I’m gong to provide links to the four and if you are not familiar with Academia.edu, basically anyone can read anything there and I believe people can even download what’s there, so if you wanted to, you could either download PDFs now to read later, if interested, or read them online and if wanted, download PDFs of them to later use. I don’t know if you need a free account, but I don’t think you do. Three of these reviews are for poetry books and the fourth is of a dystopian novel (written by a poet I know!). Here are the four book reviews:

Bunkong Tuon signed his excellent book Gruel for me a few years ago. A compelling story and recommended.

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