Bookshelf Hoppers and Literary Globetrotters
Bookworms are happy to take advice when it comes to picking their next read – more and more of them following recommendations in literary blogs like the ones presented in this article.
The relationship between literary bloggers and feuilleton journalists is anything but straightforward. And the debate flares up time and time again. Literary bloggers often have the impression that critics in print media feel superior to them and – having bigger and more powerful publications behind them – do all they can to keep bloggers in their place. By contrast, some bloggers despise feuilleton writers, regarding them as a bunch of fusty old duffers with outdated world views and believing themselves to be the future of journalism. It is well-nigh impossible to say who is right. One thing is certain, however: literary bloggers are becoming increasingly popular in Germany, and their verdicts are becoming more and more important.
One literary blogger with considerable influence is Katharina Herrmann, who launched her Kulturgeschwätz blog in August 2013. Katharina Herrmann explains that she has two objectives: to put the ‘bookshelves in her head’ in order, and to read her way around as many countries as possible. She has documented her progress on a reading map of the world. In addition, her website includes a list of her reviews, which are stylistically diverse and outspoken in their opinions.
In the spring of 2017, Katharina Herrmann’s Kulturgeschwätz was incorporated into Tilman Winterling’s blog 54 Books. Winterling is a lawyer who works in publishing, copyright and media law at a Hamburg law firm, where he provides legal advice to publishing houses and authors. It therefore comes as no surprise that 54 Books is more than just a literary review website and also contains many informative articles about literary culture and copyright law. 54 Books is also linked to the platform 54 Stories, a collection of prose and poetry texts.
Long-distance runners and literature expertsGérard Otremba also follows an interdisciplinary approach in his Sounds & Books blog. A bookseller by trade who lives in Hamburg, Otremba was one of six bloggers chosen by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in 2016 to write regular pieces tracking the German Book Prize long and short listing process. Otremba is not only an enthusiastic long-distance runner (another topic he blogs about on Sounds & Books) but also a renowned music and literature expert, which is why his site features numerous discussions of music albums and concerts alongside his literary recommendations, and why he delights his friends on Facebook each day with a carefully selected song of the day. The literary part of his blog contains extremely knowledgeable and well-written reviews of new publications of fiction and crime novels, a series of “insiders’ tips“ and a collection of Otremba’s interviews with musicians and writers.
28-year-old blogger Sophie Weigand has managed to attract a considerable following in the blogosphere. She likewise trained as a bookseller and is now taking a degree in cultural studies, specializing in literary studies. She is frequently invited to take part in discussions about literary culture in the new media. In her Literaturen blog, Sophie Weigand addresses all literary genres: novels, stories and poetry, as well as graphic novels and non-fiction. The “Buchkultur” section of her blog features comments and reports about literary events.
Book recommendations, casually presentedHerbert Grieshop presents a cross-media blog entitled Herbert liest. A literary scholar with a PhD, Grieshop worked as a lecturer in German in London, founded the Geschlossene Gesellschaft literary salon in the Roter Salon at Berlin’s Volksbühne theatre and now spends his time “bookshelf hopping” – as he puts it – in the flats of his friends. In a different apartment each time, Grieshop appears on camera at regular intervals to recommend books. He does so in the same casual way one might chat to friends about books over a meal; at the same time, the recommendations are incredibly precise, intelligently conceived and professionally presented.
One thing is clear at least: German literary bloggers are definitely a match for established feuilleton writers in terms of the diversity of their approaches.