Book Review: "Ultimate Blogs - Materworks from the wild web"

Being a member of the community known as bloggers - a term I absolutely detest with every muscle, nerve and fibre of my being - I felt particularly inclined to crack open a book professing to be the "ultimate" book on blogs. Especially when said book came as part of a swag bag I happend to get. Of course, being part of a giveaway bag of goodies should have tipped me off to the overall quality of the book in general.

The book is basically a collection of blogs, collected by a former web critic of the New York Times. One only has to turn to the first page of the introduction to find out that Sarah Boxer is not a blogger. "I am not an exhibitionist," she says. "I do not crave friends I've never met. I hate Gossip. The ding of new e-mail hitting my in-box fills me with dread. Instant messaging makes me feel like I've been cornered at a party with no drink. Yet here I am."

Yes, here she is... in a sense. Because the contents of the book are not hers. Out of 343 pages, only the 12 page introduction and the four page acknowledgements are her own writing. The rest are the postings from the 27 blogs boxer has collected to comprise this book.

So it's a book about blogs, most of which (save for maybe a couple) you probably have never heard of. So what is the point of this book in the first place? I guess it's to show the collected wit and random wisdom of the other writers, most of which are not particularly noteworthy nor memorable. There are a few exceptions that show some of the creativity of the writers behind them. "Under Odysseus," for example is a blog written in the perspective of Eurylochus, a solder serving under the general during the Trojan war. Boxer also included the much more popular "The Smoking Gun" apparently as a way to show off the variety of things people tend to write about. Other than that, there really is no ryme or reason to the collection.

However, a book about blogs that contains only 27 out of the 80 million plus blogs in existance would seem to leave quite a lot of well-written stuff off the list. Boxer is the first to admit that this is not meant as an all-encompassing compendium of the best writing out on the internet and is rather a curious look at a tiny, microscopic sliver of the creative talent that exists out there pouring their hearts and souls (or just rantings and ravings) into their electronic journals.

However, as Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times put it, "In 2008, are blogs really so foreign that they need explanation?" "I'm not sure to whom -- perhaps those who choose to go to Bayreuth for the Ring Cycle rather than surf the Web or people who simply haven't noticed that they are reading blogs already."

So what this book basically boils down to is one person's opinion of what she thinks are interesting, engaging or funny blogs. A written version of someone's "favorites" list: a blogroll in published form that attempts to explain to people what blogs are, show a few half-way decent examples of a few good blogs and not much more.

In short, "Ultimate Blogs" really isnt the "ultimate" collection of blogs. To truly be the ultimate collection of blogs requires an active part by each reader on their own to seek out their own pearls amid the oysters.

The only real ultimate list of blogs is created by yourself. Not handed to you in printed form.

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