This week’s LitBlog Spotlight ventures outside the great GTA (gasp!) and makes its way down the QEW to influential book blog, Serendipitous Readings. Written by Marci Catania (and occasionally her son, Nick), this full-time Niagara Region mom makes time to write one of the frankest, most thoughtful book blogs out there. Serendipitous Readings can probably be considered a “general interest” book blog, but Marci serves up an eclectic mix. If you’ve ever wanted to follow a review of a self-help book (The Superstress Solution by Dr. Roberta Lee) with words on a gardening guide (Cooks Herb Garden by Jeff Cox and Marie Pierre Moine) you’ve come to the right place.
Torontoist: Why did you decide to start Serendipitous Readings and how has it evolved since then?
Marci Catania: It started almost two years ago. I had another blog on Blogger called Travels of a Bookworm and decided that I wanted a change of scenery, so I moved the blog and changed its name. Everything else is history so to speak. It has evolved by leaps and bounds. Being involved with social media has made it even more global. You are interacting with people from around the world with the same interests, but have different viewpoints which are always good when talking about books. You may come across something that you never thought about before that someone else thought of.
TO: You write about a wide variety of books. Why the more general focus?
MC: I like to think of the choices as eclectic. Sure the genres of the books may be the same, but there is something about reading that you may not have known or heard about before–that intrigues me. The more general focus, well, I am not sure. I get pitches for books that are just as different as the last one I received, or a totally different view.
TO: You do, however, do a lot of horror and suspense coverage. What attracted you to this genre? Why do you blog about it?
MC: I think it is all about, at least for me, to be able to escape from the everyday sort of stuff. If you are having a slow kind of day, these book tend to take your mind off whatever it is that you are dealing with at the time. It gets your blood and your mind pumping waiting for what will happen on the next page. The imagination is a beautiful thing when you are reading. It would be the same as going to a movie or watching something at home.
TO: What makes a book worthy enough to write about?
MC: For me, there are times where the information just jumps off the pitch email, other times it is something that I may not know anything about, something that I have been meaning to learn about, but haven’t had the opportunity to do so before.
TO: Your son, Nick, does reviews for your site as well. How did that come about? What sort of books does he review? How does he feel about the review process?
MC: Nick sees me reading all of the time. He was somewhat of a reluctant reader. He came to me one day after looking through an upcoming book catalogue saying how much he would like to read certain books. I contacted someone that gave him that opportunity, which is wonderful. It has opened his horizons where he is able to learn about the things that interest him. I recently received a reader as part of a contest, less than 24 hours after I received it, he was using it engrossed in The Tales of Huckleberry Finn.
TO:What are some of your favourite books and authors?
MC: I really like the content of Canadian books. There is a different edge and feel to them from say from the larger market of the United States. But the book market is just as eclectic as all of the people I come in contact with. You may have an idea of what is coming up next in terms of genres, but once you open that book and start reading, you don’t really know–do you? My favourite books change all of the time, depending on what mood I am in. Do I feel like thrillers or women’s fiction? Do I want to learn about a different part of the world, or subject? When I am finished a book and am looking for another to read, I am thinking about what I am in the mood for, what would be a good pick me up, what would calm me down after having a stressful day, week. It is different for everyone.
TO:You actually live outside Toronto. Has your geographical location affected your relationship with the book business?
MC: I don’t think that it has really, except for the need to travel for events. Everyone commutes; we are all or just about connected to email, internet, etc. As long as the lines of communication and access are open, I don’t see it as a problem. It is quite exciting to finally meet the person you have connected with over email or other forms of communication face to face. It is a common love or desire for us that eventually brought us together where we are all working as a team to get whatever message it is out, that we want to convey in the way we want to convey it.
TO:What role do you see book bloggers having in the greater book community? How has that changed since you started blogging? How do you think it will continue to change?
MC: I think the role has changed dramatically in the last few years. I believe people want something different, something that they can relate to depending on their level of understanding. The book industry is changing all the time. I think bloggers will have more of an impact in the future than we have now. Media or how we receive it is changing it as well. Five years ago, I don’t think anyone imagined that we would have so many different types of choices of e-readers that we have now. There isn’t a clear winner or loser in that battle but like everything else, things change, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Before, it was just the Sony Reader for example, now we have the Kobo, Kindle, Noob, Irex, iPad to name a few. Electronics are just as mainstream as the old-fashioned book used to be. We are more concerned about the environment, trying to find different alternatives to what we have now–faster, easier, more updated, more accessible, and interactive. Bloggers will change and have been changing, adapting to new ways of delivering what content people want whether it is by a blog, newspaper, computer, videos on YouTube, or websites. I think we will have to change with the times; otherwise we will become just another dormant type of communication.