13 Years of Blogging

On the 5th July 2009, with very little idea about what I was doing or what I was letting myself in for, I created a Blogspot account and wrote my first review on Brona’s Books (a teen thriller called Gone).

It has been quite a journey since then!

Given how much I’ve struggled with my blogging mojo this year, I feel that this year more than ever I should honour the years of work and passion that have gone into This Reading Life (WP) and Brona’s Books (Blogger).

To celebrate, I have trawled through my backlist of reviews to find MY thirteen favourite reads of the past thirteen years. In no particular order, I give you:

  1. Mansfield Park | Jane Austen – over the years I have reread all my Jane Austen books multiple times…except for MP. I read it in my late teens and then never again. Until one Austen in August I decided it was time to revisit this unloved (by me) Austen. It was a revelation. Fanny & Edmund may never be my favourite JA couple, but the story itself is truly masterful. JA’s plotting, dialogue and construction is sublime. MP is Austen at the height of her literary powers. Reading this book also spawned a WWW post and one on how to make Negus.
  2. Moby-Dick | Herman Melville – was a slow read for me a few years ago. I gave myself seven months to savour every moment. It was an extraordinary experience; one of the richest reading experiences of my life. There are certain books that benefit from a slow and thoughtful read – Moby-Dick is one. Although sadly, it appears that the linky links containing everyone else’s posts seems to have got lost in the move to WP. As I have time, I will add them back in manually.
  3. Germinal | Emile Zola – this was my very first Zola…and nearly my last. I first attempted to read it via an ePub format that contained lots of typo’s and an unhappy time with the translator, Havelock Ellis’ style. Thankfully Fanda @Classiclit continues to host her Zoladdiction month every April, and by the time the next one rolled around, I had acquired a paper copy of the book with a translation by Raymond N. MacKenzie. This was the first time I had become conscious of the power of translation and that taking the time to find the right one for you is worth it.
  4. Les Miserables | Victor Hugo – another slow read. This time a chapter a day for the entire year of 2019 with Nick from One Catholic Life. I wasn’t always able to maintain the chapter a day schedule, but once again, it was the perfect way to truly savour a monumental classic. Flipping between three different translations may not have been the most sensible way to read this book either, but it feed into my ongoing fascination with the art of being a translator.
  5. The Pea-Pickers | Eve Langley – was another sprawling slow read, timed to fit in with our driving holiday to Victoria, that included drives and overnight stays in some of the towns featured in The Pea-Pickers. I have many memoriable such holiday books, but this one was special for two reasons. Firstly, it came highly recommended from Bill @The Australian Legend. Secondly, it is an incredible story (or work of autofiction). Intense, demanding, heart-breaking and exuberant. It was topped off by reading the excellent biography by Helen Vines, called Eve Langley and The Pea Pickers, later on in the year.
  6. The Bloody Chamber | Angela Carter – it would appear that most of the books that are featuring in this top 13 are the books that I obsessed over during and after the reading journey. I wrote six separate posts about the stories in this collection! I was swept away by Carter’s sumptuous language and the heady mix of sexuality and disturbing imagery.
  7. Testament of Youth | Vera Brittain – was one of those memoirs that moved me beyond words. If anyone were ever to ask me to name my all-time favourite memoir/autobiography, this is the one I would pick.
  8. The Fortunes of Richard Mahony | Henry Handel Richardson – the only regret I have about reading this three volume Australian classic, is that I read it in just over a month. It deserves a #slowread. I have also since spotted an annotated edition…although at nearly $200 for the set, it may be a while before I commit to such a thing!
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God | Zora Neale Hurston – came to me thanks to The Classics Club. It’s a character driven story that gets under your skin. It’s nearly ten years since I read this book, but I still find myself thinking about it (& wishing that I had made more time to read some of Zora Neale Hurston’ s other stories).
  10. The Plains | Gerald Murnane – many people believe that it is criminal that Murnane has not won the Miles Franklin award or the Nobel Prize for fiction. I am now one of those people. My one and only foray into his world was intoxicating, stupefying and startling from beginning to end. I had no idea what I was reading, but I wanted more of it!
  11. 1Q84 | Haruki Murakami – I chose to start my Murakami journey with 1Q84 back in 2013. And what a journey it was! I loved the intermingling of fantastical with the real world, the magic with the mundane. But the most important thing is that since then, I have read several more Murakami’s. His world is endlessly weird and wonderful; one that I love to return to whenever I can.
  12. Maigret & Rowland Sinclair – This one is a bit of a cheat, but it’s the genre that appeals to me here. Over the years I’ve been partial to what I call #cosycrime series. Maybe it’s a hangover from all those Enid Blyton adventure and secret stories of my childhood. And those Trixie Belden’s from my teens. And the Arthur Upfield/Bony novels from my uni years…I don’t like bloody gore or forensic detail. I prefer my crime to be historical, humorous and humane. I like my detectives to show character development over time and I love it when the environment/era in which they work is part of the story. I could have very easily added Phyrne Fisher and Maisie Dobbs to this point (however I read most of the Phyrne books in the period when this blog was mostly about teen and children’s books).
  13. The Monkey’s Mask | Dorothy Porter – For a long time I felt very nervous about bringing poetry into my life. For so many reasons. But around about 2014/2015 I discovered verse novels. A few teen/YA authors got me started (Steven Herrick, Emma Cameron, Sarah Crossan) but then I stumbled upon Dorothy Porter. She is gritty, exciting and passionate. And thanks to these novels, I started to read more poetry when I realised I liked my poetry to be contemporary, spirited and topical.

It was much easier to pull out thirteen posts than I thought it would be.

I spent some time on the weekend scrolling back over my old posts. It was lovely to be reminded of so many wonderful reads. The final list included another dozen or so books that were influential and memorable, but I didn’t obsess about them the way I did (& continue to do) about the ones above.

For the record: the top thirteen posts from Brona’s Book (Blogger) include an assortment of master posts for AusReadingMonth and my Hobbit/Lord of the Rings readalong from a few years ago plus:

The top thirteen from This Reading Life (which only came into being in the dying days of 2020 when I switched from Blogger to WordPress) include…a surprising number of poems! I suspect this list has been heavily influenced by highschool text study searches:

  1. Honeybee | Craig Silvey
  2. Midnight | Sappho (poem)
  3. Some People | Wislawa Szymborska (poem)
  4. The Labyrinth | Amanda Lohrey
  5. The Best Short Stories | Guy de Maupassant
  6. Fictionalised Biography
  7. Master and Commander | Patrick O’Brian
  8. Committed Writings | Albert Camus
  9. Robert Frost (poetry)
  10. Love and Virtue | Diana Reid
  11. The Song of Achilles (poem)
  12. First Person Singular | Haruki Murakami
  13. The Gods of Greece | Friedrich von Schiller (poem)

Thirteen is NOT an unlucky number!

Despite some blogging and reading slumps along the way, the past thirteen years on here have been enlivened by the constantly growing and wonderfully constant blogger friends I’ve made over this time. Without you all, this journey would be meaningless; I’d be writing into a void!

Your feedback, comments and friendly support have been invaluable. You’ve helped me through good times and bad…and a pandemic that none of us saw coming. You’ve inspired me try new books, new authors, to think more deeply and widely around certain topics and you remind me to also have fun.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

55 thoughts on “13 Years of Blogging

  1. Congratulations! It’s a joy to have your blog, I also merged to WordPress from blogger many years ago. I love the wordpress app and reader, it’s so convenient. WordPress was a learning curve initially but it is easy now.
    You have definitely inspired me with your posts and reviews, and I empathize with your struggles but I am very happy to see you stay, no matter how many up and downs we have lived and will live. This pandemic wasn’t easy. As my husband always observed by other pandemics, 2-3 years they have to become just endemic or whatever we call that which still is but not at that level of harm and urgency. Things are evolving.
    I see so many old friends in your list, Moby Dick in particular! Cheers to at least another 13 years.

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    1. Yes, the WP app is what I love too. It means I can add notes to posts if I’m out & about and respond to comments in a more timely fashion. I’m still exploring how best to use the WP blocks, some look & work better than others.

      The first 7 or 8 books on my list came to mind without even checking back through the blogroll, that’s how much they are still front and centre in my mind. Moby-Dick is certainly one of those forever books.

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    1. Thanks Lisa. I hope to have a post for your reading week in the next few days too, but my reading time has plummeted after going back to work after Covid. Just too tired most nights to do anything that requires brain activity!

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      1. Oh, I know, the tiredness (over four weeks since diagnosis for me now) is really a problem. It must be really hard managing work, I hope you can just let everything go until you’re fully recovered.

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  2. Congratulations Brona! Here’s to many more years 🙂 I’m really interested in what you say about slow reads, I tend to whizz through things (when not in a slump) and I’ve recently been thinking that I need to consciously slow down with some books.

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    1. I usually read like that too, although non-fiction books often take me a while as I tend to read them in between my fiction. But a few years back I was struggling to get into some of my classics, so I started with a slow (re)read of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which worked so well, that it has now spawned a whole stack of slow reads (Moby-Dick, Les Mis, The Count of Monte Cristo, War and Peace, The Pea Pickers, a reread of the Wolf Hall Trilogy and now my leisurely read of the Edith Trilogy). I can highly recommend it.

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  3. Interesting how many of us started around then. I think Lisa was the second half of 2008, and I was early May 2009. I seem to remember a few others starting around then but can’t recollect which ones they are now.

    Anyhow congratulations. Of course I love that MP is up there among your favourites. I agree with you about its quality even if they aren’t her most sparkling couple. They are not meant to be! I think people who complain that they are not perhaps miss the point that Austen’s target is bigger than simple romance. Some think she should have said yes to Henry because he’s more exciting!

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    1. I agree. Romance, passion, lust are fleeting, heat of the moment pleasures. Henry may have been the exciting option for a while, but he wasn’t planning on loving her for all time. In my post, I refer to conversation with his sister, Mary, where she said, “I know that a wife you loved would be the happiest of women, and that even when you ceased to love, she would find in you the liberality and goodness of a gentleman.”

      CEASED to love!!!! That won’t do for an Austen heroine! Edmund may have been slow to realise Fanny’s potential as a partner, but I believe their love would have grown and matured as time went by and that they would have worked and loved well together as a family.

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  4. Congratulations Brona and this is such a lovely way to celebrate your blogging anniversary! I am so glad you started this journey in 2009….thank to book blogging I have found book recommender, life coach and a friend all across the Indian Ocean! Here’s to many more milestones in your journey!

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    1. Thank you Jayanti, meeting you on our blogs, and now on IG, has been one of the highlights of this blogging life so far. The way you have turned your cancer journey into a forum for sharing scientific health information is inspiring to all of us ❤

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  5. Congratulations Brona and wishing you many more wonderful blogging years ahead. I’m so pleased to see Mansfield Park made it to your favourites. I haven’t read it in ages but I remember liking it very much when I did. I dug out my copy of a revisit last year but it still hasn’t happened.

    Blyton and Trixie Belden were very much a part of my childhood too, Blyton especially, but I don’t know Arthur Upfield. Must look him up.

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    1. I now have an annotated edition of MP that I hope to read one Austen in August soon.

      Arthur Upfield was an English-Australian writer. One of the ‘remitttance men’ in our early history. A young man who for whatever reason hadn’t done well at home (failed school, drank too much, disgraced the family somehow) who get sent to Australia on the understanding that as long as they got sent a regular payment they would stay away! After fighting in WWI and travelling extensively around Australia, he started writing a crime series about Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, Bony, an Indigenous character who solved difficult cases that no one else could solve. He wrote 29 stories between 1929 – 1966.

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  6. Congratulations! It will be thirteen years for me too in October. Of your thirteen favourite books, I love Les Miserables, Testament of Youth and Mansfield Park – I didn’t get very far with Germinal, but I’m encouraged by your comments about just needing to find the right translation.

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    1. Thanks Helen I hope you give Germinal another try. I also enjoyed my recent reread of War & Peace thanks to sourcing a better translation than the one I read in my twenties. It can make a HUGE difference.

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    1. Thanks Jean, I’m big in honouring the moments in life that show growth or change (& just realising now as I type this that it is one of the reasons I respond to Edith so strongly in the trilogy I’m reading atm. She likes to honour special occasions too).

      It’s been a bit of a weird year or two, so taking time to show gratitude and appreciate where I am and what I’ve done felt like a good & positive thing to do.

      Thank you for being part of my journey 😊

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  7. Congratulations on becoming a teenager! Fascinating to see your list of books… I’m not a classics reader (with the exception of Thomas Hardy) so it’s interesting to see your faves. Maybe you will tempt me to give one or two a try (I do have the pea pickers on my Kindle). Congrats again! And May there be many more years of blogging ahead!

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    1. I credit the start of the classics club ten years ago to the big shift on my blog from being a blog about children’s books only to being one about grown up stories.

      I’ve read classics all my life but thought there was nothing left to say about them that hadn’t already been said! The Classics Club showed me the error of that thinking.

      It also coincided with the kids bookshop I was managing merging back in with the original parent bookshop which suddenly gave me access to lots of shiny new arc’s of contemporary Australian fiction….and here we are!

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  8. Oh my goodness, I never looked until now. My first entry was on November 5th, 2009. At the archives there’s some dated September 2008, but they are later entries that I “buried” on that date and used the link, because I didn’t want them published on real time and I didn’t want them to have a page format either.

    I will be sure to celebrate my 13th in November. I also started completely different, I had started to homeschool my two daughters and the blog was a place to record that and share ideas, etc. As I started reading more and more, I then overlapped both things until only the reading journey was left with the girls joining school in 2017.

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  9. Congratulations on thirteen years! That is truly impressive. I am going to think about what you say about slow reading. I tend to blast through books which is a holdover from my childhood when I read voraciously and indiscriminately. However, I think some books would benefit from a bit more time and attention.

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    1. I tend to to do that with most of my reads too Jennifer, so it’s interesting that so many of my #slowreads made it into my top 13. It certainly helped to make them so memorable.

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  10. What a lovely way to celebrate your blogging journey! I have found many wonderful books through your blog and always enjoy reading it. Our taste in books is often different (having read most of Murakam 1Q84 is the only one I haven’t liked) but your insights always give me new ways to think about books.

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  11. Congratulations! Here’s to many more! I’m happy to read your thoughts on Mansfield Park. It was also the JA book I was (and remain) least familiar with. I read it years ago, but it hasn’t stuck with me the way her others have. I think I’d benefit from a re-read!

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  12. Happy Blogaversary, Brona. 13 years is a long time. I hope you will continue for many, many years to come because I always enjoy your posts.

    From your list of favourites, my favourite would be “Mansfield Park” but I must admit that I didn’t read most of the books you mentioned. But you are always good for an inspiration. Thanks!

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  13. Well done Bron. I love nearly all your 13 selections (especially of course the one I recommended). I’ve been a blogger about half your 13 years and I’d like to say how much I have enjoyed participating in your ‘events’ and having you participate in mine.

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    1. Thanks Bill. I didn’t really discover the Australian blogging scene until a few years into my blogging life. It was probably the AWW challenge that really drew me in, coinciding as it did with reading more Australian fiction for work.

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  14. Happy anniversary! Did you ever read Testament of Friendship? It was not quite as good as Testament of Youth, but still very powerful. Here’s wishing you many happy years of reading and blogging ahead!

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    1. Thanks Davida. And no I didn’t/haven’t. But it IS on my TBR pile so I will get to it one day. I’d also like to read Testament to Experience….and some books by Winifred Holtby!! This is how the TBR never ever gets smaller though 😀

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  15. Congratulations! Well done. It is always a pleasure to read your posts. Of your favourites I have only read the first two; Mansfield Park and Moby Dick. I must admit that they belong to the books I don’t like. Enjoying the variety of your reading and your, always, well created posts. Good luck with the next years.

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  16. Oh, yes to 1Q84 making the list! And, I have enjoyed reading with you so much, particularly Moby Dick which I would not have read without your input. Both of us were in Blogger, now both of us are on WordPress. I feel I may have damaged my blog(s) by changing around, but it doesn’t really matter….here we are, still sharing our love of literature. You’ve held on for thirteen years; quite an accomplishment!

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    1. Thanks Meredith. To have shared this journey with so many wonderful bloggers like yourself is what has made it all so enjoyable.
      I go through phases of fixing up some of my old posts to make them look better on WP, but it’s slow work. As you say, it probably doesn’t matter as most people don’t trawl back through our old posts anyway! The main thing is keep on going forward 🙂

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  17. Congratulations Brona on sticking with it for so many years when others have fallen by the wayside. Here’s hoping you will still be here 13 years from now.

    Germinal was my first Zola too and remains my favourite of all the books by him I’ve read.

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