As I mentioned when compiling last year’s top ten, the list made me realise that what is wanted is actually a top ten that was published in 2019 – otherwise it is dominated by well established posts from earlier years. None of the post that I actually wrote in 2019 made it to the overall top ten.
So here comes the genuine 2019 Top Ten (based on number of views):
The Moorish king continues to ride up and down through Granada’s royal town – its popularity explained by the fact that it has now been put on the reading list of two universities (one American, one Australian, IIRC). Every September, the views soar. I’ve written more and better informed posts about Spanish historical ballads since; I’m still waiting for the university lecturers to notice them. 🙂
Apart from the very personal thoughts of the Bear with Very Little Brain, the top ten continues to be dominated by Herodotus (numbers 2, 4 and 5) and, increasingly, by poetry (1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). Baffling, because I don’t think I write an awful lot of posts about poetry… but what I do write is evidently popular!
I notice that actually none of the top ten overall have been written this year, which – while perhaps understandable – makes the top ten list a bit repetitive each year. So I think we will actually need a new kind of list. Like :
Suddenly it dawned on me: it’s that time of the year again. Four years ago to the day I wrote my first blog post although I didn’t know it at the time. (I didn’t know what a blog was, either.) Four years and I’m still at it; four years and I’m still full of ideas. The difficulty, in fact, lies in finding the time and energy to turn those ideas into posts. At the moment, I’m in no danger of running out of topics.
In the past four years I came to read a lot of great books and I wrote a lot of posts that were great fun to write. Here comes my entirely self-pleasing highlights for each period of twelve months (excluding books that I was re-reading):
19 July 2015 – 19 July 2016
Best Book: El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel) by Gabriel García Márquez
Runner Up: Moscow Stations by Venedikt Yerofeev
Two very short books about life not being funny at all – full of dark humour. Beg, borrow or steal, but read these two books before you die.
A post that brings together Austrian author Stephan Zweig, the English poet John Keats and a great moment in history. I only wish my writing was up to the quality of the topic.
20 July 2016 – 19 July 2017
Best Book: The Bible in Spain by George Borrow
Runner Up: Anabasis (The Persian Expedition) by Xenophon
Two first hand accounts: two quests for salvation, two journeys full of adventure, landscape and human interaction. Borrow travelled a civil warn torn Spain peddling a forbidden edition of the Bible to the locals; Xenophon led an army of Greek mercenaries across hostile territory from the heart of Mesopotamia back to Greece. Both are unforgettable.
I probably wrote better posts in this twelve month period; I definitely wrote more informative ones. But with this one, I was just having a bit of shameless fun.
20 July 2017-19 July 2018:
Best Book: The Samurai by Shusaku Endo
Runner Up: Vida de este capitán (The Life of This Captain) by Alonso de Contreras
Two books treating real events in the beginning of the 17th century. The first one is a novel about a Japanese embassy to Spain and to the Vatican in the 17th century; a wonderful travel story and an amazing culture clash. The second one is autobiography of Spanish desperado, who lived at the turn of the 16th-17th century. You couldn’t make the stories up if you tried.
This period was quite rich in posts that I really enjoyed writing: The Master of Cold Mountain for example, or An Evening with Matsuo Basho are such examples. In the end, Implacabile won it because of the research that went into it and because – believe me – you won’t find a word about this topic in English anywhere else on the web. Unique. 🙂
20 July 2018-19 July 2019:
Best Book: The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam
Runner Up: Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra
I discovered Omar Khayyam, this 11th century Persian fatalist, a lover of wine, women, good books and gardens (probably in that order). And I rediscovered Don Quijote in the recent edition of the Spanish Royal Academy – which I can only recommend, if you can read Spanish.
I didn’t have a particularly difficult time to choose this one: in the last twelve months unfortunately I had struggled to keep the blog going at all and I wrote much fewer posts than previously. It came down to a relatively simple choice, with The Dark Side of Life (In Nine Haikus) being a strong runner up. In the end Burns vs Petőfi won because of the outrageousness of the idea to rubbish two national poets. Boy, did I enjoy slagging them off (well, they deserve it). 🙂
The quote – whoever it was who first came up with it – says it all: you should take statistics with a pinch of salt. (Even better, understand what they truly mean.) Nevertheless, if you’re a blogger, it’s rather difficult to ignore the statistics; and the other day I took a look at what posts were the most popular – that means most visited – in the past few years.
I’m an accidental blogger: I started blogging when I got bored with my family pulling faces at me at the dinner table as I mentioned Herodotus… Tolstoy… Xenophon… Arturo Pérez-Reverte… Herodotus… (You can’t mention Herodotus often enough.)
So I decided to type my clever thoughts into Mr Anglo-Saxonist’s website editor instead until one day he enquired in passing as to what exactly I imagined I was doing on his work computer? “I’ve started a blog,” I replied loftily and he went away.
A week later, in search of something to test his new server with, he uploaded my ‘blog’ – until then only existing on my own desktop – and made it public for the world. After I finished having hysterics at the idea that the whole world now could read my unpolished thoughts, he said he thought it was a blog and blogs, by definition, were meant to be published. He pointed out that blog was short for weblog and as such it was meant to be on the web. Finally, he comforted me with the comment that it was all right because nobody was going to read it anyway.
On this happy note, we left the blog on the server; and it was only a month later that he started to complain about the unfathomable rise of traffic. I realised I made it as a blogger: I had hundreds of readers.
Mostly in the form of spam bots.
The following posts constitute a useful blogging manual for aspiring amateurs. Enjoy this collection of the ups and downs of the accidental blogger (and may you do better):
It’s hard to believe – especially given how small the readership is – but the blog is actually turning 3 years old this month. This prompted me to look back on the early days and I have to admit: I was the typical swaggering, pretentious, self-important blogger who thinks that her opinion matters.
Africa has a lot going for it as a continent – like elephants – but somehow it doesn’t often feature among my readings. (That could be because I don’t keep re-reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.)
I read Red Strangers for a reading challenge a couple of years ago and boy, was it a challenge!… But the last paragraph made up for it all.
In the past week I’ve been engaged in looking at my statistics… And since the blog moved from being self-hosted to wordpress.com during the year, I had to collate the statistics manually, a task during which I found myself evaluating the pros and cons of…
Minus 55 degrees, zero visibility and a raging snowstorm. Nobody at Halley Station should be outside under these circumstances but the station doctor has just discovered that the cold weather gear of one of the scientists is missing from the boot room and according to the sign-in board he has gone to the met tower. Only a hundred metres’ walk but in this weather that’s a lot – and nobody has seen the man all afternoon. Besides, he’s not the meteorologist, so what was he doing there? Perhaps it’s time to get worried!
Stuck indoors with Young Friend of the Elephants, who is engaged in the fifth labour of Hercules (cleaning the Augean Stables, aka her bedroom) so I thought I’ll take a look at the results of the Mediterranean Mondays vote: it was dismal. (Scroll down to see the results.) Political apathy I could understand but this apolitical apathy?
Much as I love the Mediterranean, in the past few months I found that I could do better things with my Sunday than writing blog posts. 🙂 This morning’s sunshine finally gave me the push to make up my mind that Sunday’s Miscellany will be moved to Mondays, when regardless of the weather, I’ll be stuck in an office all day anyhow and will want to cheer myself up with thoughts of sea and sun…
So I suppose we herewith rename the miscellany, to mark the change.
And while I’m making changes, I thought I’d invite your thoughts on what would you like to see more of in this feature about the Mediterranean? As it’s the only feature of the blog in which I’m committed to a publishing schedule, I still intend to keep it reasonably short but I think I might as well do away with the self-imposed 300 word limit (which I often failed to stay within anyhow).
You’re invited to vote on which of the topics we had in the last year you’d like to have more of – or let me know if there’s something new you’d like me to include – Spanish pop songs anybody? 🙂
In the meantime I’m off to enjoy the weather; you’ll get a dose of Mediterranean sunshine tomorrow. 🙂
I’m only an accidental blogger: when I started, I didn’t even know that blog was short for web log or what a blog is actually for.
It all started during the summer holidays in 2015 when I had nothing better to do. Exactly one year ago today, in fact. Fed up with the way my family pulled faces at the dinner table whenever I tried to share my clever thoughts about books with them, I typed my latest earth-shattering insight into my husband’s website editor instead…
Pride and Prejudice… manages to be witty about something utterly mundane. Jane Austen is all about character observation and style. The plot is not important.
The other day I carelessly volunteered for a guest post on Bloggers’ World and feeling that I ought to write something that might actually interests people there instead of boring them with my pet obsessions (such as Herodotus or the continuing Brexit wars), I hit upon the subject of blogging advice: How To Be A Successful Blogger. Between you and me (don’t whisper it outside these walls), I’m not qualified to give such advice; nevertheless, after a year of blogging I’m not entirely without expertise…
Herodotus wrote because he wanted to record the events of the recent past so that great deeds would not be forgotten. The Spanish conquistador, Bernal Díaz del Castillo wrote because he was annoyed by what somebody else wrote about men he knew and fought with. García Lorca wrote because poetry bubbled up and out of him, like water from a fountain on some sun-drenched Plaza Mayor… and Hemingway, you suspect, wrote at least in part because through writing he could live the lives of men whose manliness, courage or sheer bloody-mindedness he admired.
I decided to take myself seriously as a blogger from now on. (Well, somebody has to.) So I signed up for a basic photography course with the so-called Blogging University – those of you who live your lives on WordPress.com you know what I’m talking about, the rest of you, don’t waste your time looking it up.
…nor am I like to, is Gambling: A Story of Triumph and Disaster by the former England captain of cricket, Mike Atherton. I feel slightly ashamed about not having read it because he scrawled a personal message inside for me: he said he was “really, really sorry” for what he’d done to me. Which was very handsome of him and I do appreciate it but as I have absolutely zero interest in the history of gambling, this is not going to make me read his book.
For years I’ve been suffering from rubbish memory: I forget the details of the books I’ve read, the places I visited, the faces of people I met, what we had for dinner yesterday (I remember it was tasty), what the boy my daughter fancies is called. (This last is particularly galling as it took months to worm it out of her.) At some point I got worried that I’m suffering from dementia already, a gloomy thought. But against this was set the fact that I remember all the deadlines at work (there’re galore), don’t need reminders to pay for the children’s school trips in time and just managed to learn a foreign language. Minus the foreign language though this means I’m forgetting everything I actually would like to remember – very annoying. In fact, to top it all, I even forget foreign languages I spent years acquiring as soon as I stop using them. Continue reading “How Not to Forget Books You Read”→