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  • Clare Dudman, a former research scientist and lecturer, is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Her blog is Keeper of the Snails and she lives in the north-west of England.

    Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Clare?

    Clare Dudman: In 2004, the award-winning fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer reviewed my novel One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead for Publishers Weekly in the US and, very luckily for me, liked it enough to give it a star.

    He then contacted me to interview me for the magazine, and we became friends. A few months later, when he was making one of his many author tours to foreign parts, he asked me to guest blog on VanderWorld (now Ecstatic Days) and so, with some trepidation, I did. After a week or so I was pretty much hooked, and after a couple of months of trying to resist finally succumbed to the blog-lure in August 2005.

    MT: What do you most get out of it?

    CD: Several things. First, meeting a lot of very interesting people -- both virtually, and then, sometimes, in real life. Some of them have become very good friends, and have been a great support when life has been hard. For instance, when my younger brother died, Jeff arranged for some trees to be planted in his honour, which touched me enormously. As well as finding an occasional period of free-lance employment through my blog, I have taken part in things like 24 hour book-reviewing -- which led to Sunday Salon, an initiative started by Debra Hamel of Deblog, and been invited to speak at conferences -- the last one being the highly successful Sciblog 08 run by Nature Network (this was through another friend, Maxine of Petrona).

    MT: What are your favourite blogs?

    CD: BLDG BLOG: I restrict my visits to this place because I find it so enthralling each time I go. I feel like I could lose myself in there for days and be perfectly happy. I find both the writing and the images are incredibly stimulating and I come away with my head crammed with ideas. It has led to many new interests and preoccupations.

    I also like McCabism: This is a fascinating blend of writing and physics. It is in turn witty, profound and moving. Sometimes it is quite beyond me, but somehow this doesn't seem to matter.

    I also loved Connaissances by the geologist and poet Jonathan Wonham. A wonderful blend of poetry, imagery and science, by a very talented writer.

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    MT: What are you reading right now?

    CD: Rather embarrassingly I find myself reading more books than I have eyes. Great British Journeys by Nicholas Crane, because I am a fan of the television series, Coast. I haven't read any of Nicholas Crane's writing before, but unsurprisingly, given that I enjoy his commentating so much, find that I like it. It has the same endearing combination of gentle humour and interest. But more importantly, perhaps, I like the subject of the book which is the exploration of the British countryside. With global warming this is becoming a moral message too, a subtle plea to all of us to take holidays at home and avoid polluting the planet just for pleasure -- especially since there happens to be such beautiful countryside immediately around us.

    After Dark by Murakami. I bought this on a whim because it looks interesting and different, and so far, it is.

    Then I keep dipping into Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown. Having read a couple of Chown's other books (most recently The Magic Crucible) I know I am in for a treat. He makes difficult subjects accessible, because, I think, he understands them so well. I love to stretch myself and often find myself incorporating ideas from science in my fiction.

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    MT: What book(s) that you have read recently do you most recommend?

    CD: Three come immediately to mind from this year:

    In the summer I read Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb which is an exploration of various sorts of loss, and also the business of creativity. It is extremely well-written and I found it engrossing, as well as being in turn funny and very moving. Eli Gottlieb is a master of dialogue, and I am very much looking forward to the film of this book. It ought to be excellent.

    I started the year with Serious Things by Gregory Norminton. This is a highly satisfying literary thriller. It takes place partly in a boarding school and partly in modern-day London, and is about how a single misjudged moment can haunt our lives forever. I've long admired Gregory Norminton as a stylist, and the plot in Serious Things is excellent too -- really tightly structured and skilful.

    In between I read Now We Are Beginning Our Descent by James Meek and found it fascinating -- a novel very much for our times. Like Now You See Him this too dealt with the business of writing -- the motivation and the purpose, but not just of fiction but of war journalism too, with a lot of the action taking place in Afghanistan.

  • "My name is Tracy Miller but I go by the name Gentle Reader on my blog Shelf Life. I'm a reader, writer, and mother of three in Los Angeles, California, and books are my entertainment, my solace, my friends."

    Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Tracy?

    Tracy Miller: I started Shelf Life because I needed a place to keep track of the books I was reading and what I thought about them. I was tired of using a notebook! I was also hoping to find a literary community; a place to share my love of books with other book lovers.

    MT: What do you most get out of it?

    TM: The big surprise about blogging is the wonderful sense of community it brings, and that's what I most get out of it: a multi-national, smart, funny, and kind group of people who are similarly passionate about books. I've been pleasantly surprised by the connections I've made, and those connections are what make blogging absolutely addictive to me.

    MT: What are your favourite blogs?

    TM: I have so many favourite book blogs, there's no way to list them all -- except maybe on the sidebar of my blog!

    But a few of my must-reads are Tales from the Reading Room, So Many Books, and Of Books and Bicycles, all of which I read for their intelligent and insightful analysis.

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    MT: What are you reading right now Tracy?

    TM: I'm reading When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. Once again, I am beguiled by Atkinson's writing. I appreciate her light touch in writing about humanity's dark side.

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    MT: What book(s) that you have read recently do you most recommend?

    TM: I have two novels of transformation to recommend:

    Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, a post-9/11 tale about New York and two immigrants who fall under its spell...

    And Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles, about a man who contemplates the wreck of his life while stuck in the airport on the way to his daughter's wedding.

  • Rebecca I'm Rebecca; a 23 (soon to be 24) year old, and I've lived in Oxford all my life (apart from four years when I went to University).

    I'm currently on a book buying ban, as I have enough unread books on my shelves to last for eight years! I blog at Oxford Reader.

    Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Rebecca?

    Rebecca: I first discovered blogging in general in Autumn of 2006, when I went to Norwich to do my MA, and was encouraged by my housemate to blog. There I created a blog that documented the comings and goings of my general life, and provided me a space to rant -- losing my passport was a particularly fun time!

    When I met Justine Picardie last year, she told me she had a blog, and through hers I was introduced to loads of other 'bookish' blogs. I'd been wanting to write more specifically about what I'd been reading, and thus Oxford Reader was born!

    MT: What do you most get out of it?

    Rebecca: I really enjoy talking about books that others might not have read and being able to start a debate. I attempt to post a poem every week, and look for things not too generally known. I've also made a few close friends, and there are sites I go to every day, either for the books they talk about, or the pictures they post.

    MT: What are your favourite blogs?

    Rebecca: I love Dovegreyreader scribbles for her insight, and the way she makes the books she reads relate to her own life; Stuck-in-a-book is always reading things I've never heard of (and the fact he's a fellow Oxford blogger is great too!); Musings From a Muddy Island always has something worth looking at, even if it's just pictures of the beach; Random Jottings touches every aspect of my interests, with her insightful posts into books, music and tv -- she really was the blog to go to for rational thoughts on the Strictly Come Dancing goings on! Finally, there is Henri Llewelyn Davies, who is a long distance relative of the family that inspired 'Peter Pan' -- whilst she doesn't blog about books, her family history is extraordinarily fascinating.

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    MT: What are you reading now?

    Rebecca: I'm a little all over the place right now, but I've just finished Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne (part of my A to Z journey that I embarked on a couple of weeks ago), and Gigi by Collette. In my pile of reading and to be read there can be found Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Trilby by George du Maurier, Flush by Virginia Woolf, and a plethora of Mitford sisters letters.

    That doesn't mean that these are definitely what I'm going to read next. I might very easily pick up The 39 Steps by John Buchan or Anne Frank's diary -- it all depends on what I fancy that morning.

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    MT: What book(s) that you have read recently do you most recommend?

    Rebecca: I will always recommend Daphne by Justine Picardie, because I think it's one of the best biographical novels that I've read in a long time -- not least because of the way she manages to capture the essence of a real person, whilst still maintaining a sense of mystery.

    Other than that, I've not been able to get enough of Agatha Christie and have been diving into her fantastically crafted books as often as possible. Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks and The Spare Room by Helen Garner have both moved me to tears as they look at (in very different ways) what makes us human, and how we deal with the troubles life throws at us.

  • Born into a theatrical family, Harriet Devine abandoned her early ambitions on discovering she was not a very good actress. Until recently she taught English at a small UK university, and now works for the British Library as an oral history interviewer.

    Harriet blogs at the ingeniously entitled Harriet Devine's Blog!

    Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Harriet?

    Harriet Devine: I honestly can't remember what started me on reading other peoples' blogs -- possibly I read an extract in a newspaper? I do know that I got hooked very quickly, and soon had a stable of about half a dozen that I read, and commented on, regularly. It was so great to find a whole community of people out there whose interests I shared, even if I didn't always agree with their opinions. So, after many months, I took courage and started my own.

    MT: What do you most get out of it?

    HD: I've always enjoyed thinking and writing about books, but usually have had to do this in an academic context. Blogging is a wonderfully relaxed way of doing this! It gives me so much pleasure when people comment that my reviews have made them want to read things I've written about. I've also made some really good friends among fellow bloggers, though I've only so far met a couple of them face to face.

    MT: What are your favourite blogs?

    HD: Top of the list has to be dovegreyreader, the first blog I ever read, and still a real favorite -- Lynne was so encouraging to me when I first started blogging.

    I really enjoy Cornflower, a wonderful mix of books, baking and knitting -- very inspiriing.

    For intellectual stimulation I like Tales from the Reading Room and always enjoy the intelligent reviews, poems and pictures on Books Do Furnish a Room.

    I'm very fond of the delightful Stuck In A Book, and Normblog is a great place to visit for stimulating thoughts on all kinds of important issues.

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    MT: What are you reading right now Harriet?

    HD: Right now I am reading, and very much enjoying, Little Dorrit, which, though a great Dickens fan, I had never read. But I've put it aside for a week as I don't want to get ahead of the BBC TV series which is on at the moment. I'm also about halfway through Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, a book I've been meaning to read for ages. I'm always a bit wary when I start something that many people have raved about in case I'm disappointed, which does happen from time to time. But not in this case: I'm finding it enthralling and hard to put down.

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    MT: What books that you have have read recently do you most recommend?

    HD: Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, a funny, sad, imaginative story which subtly and perceptively looks into the human heart; Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (which really should have won the Booker this year), a wonderful, disturbing, beautifully written novel about a woman wrongly confined in a mental hospital for over 60 years; Julia Gregson's East of the Sun, set in India in a wonderfully imagined 1920s, and following the adventures of three young women -- a classy comfort read; and Owen Shears Resistance, a novel set in a remote Welsh valley, in which the Germans are imagined to have won the second world war.

  • Lesley Williams A Canadian who now lives in the southern United States, Lesley has been writing about books on her blog, A Life in Books, since January 2006. She also works at public library, where she gets to connect readers to books every day. Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Lesley? Lesley Williams: I'd wanted to keep a reading diary for ages so I could keep track of what I'd been reading and my thoughts on those books. I've lost count of how many times I've wondered if I've read a book or not, what a certain book was about, how long ago I read a given book, etc. At the same time, I had several people telling me I should start a blog, with my response invariably being that my life wasn't exciting enough to write about on a regular basis! However, the online format seemed a perfect means of keeping a reading diary, and thus A Life in Books was begun. MT: What do you most get out of it? LW: Besides the personal gain of being able to look back over time and see what I've read and my thoughts on those books, what I really enjoy is being able to connect with other readers. When I started my blog back at the beginning of 2006, I didn't even know "book blogs" existed. Since that time, I've come to realize how many like-minded folks are out there, fellow bibliophiles who also look to the Internet to talk books -- which has turned into one of my favorite things about being online. I have discovered authors and books I didn't know about, been turned onto genres and books I might otherwise have overlooked, and have had some really fantastic reading experiences thanks to other book bloggers. MT: What are your favorite blogs? LW: Wow, this is almost like asking a reader to name their favorite book - there are so many! I have the blogs I visit most frequently listed on my site, but some of my favorites are Bibliolatry, who I can always count on to make me laugh and think; Tripping Toward Lucidity, because she doesn't hold back on what she thinks about books or life; Bookfoolery and Babble, where I never leave without adding at least one book to my wish list; and A Guy's Moleskine Notebook, because we seem to share similar reading tastes and I enjoy reading his thoughts on books and reading. 9781905294770.jpg
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