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Blogging highlights for 2020

January 3, 2021

Finally, the last of my traditional and very self-indulgent year-end trifecta (which includes my Australian Women Writers’ Challenge wrap-up and Reading highlights posts).

But, before I launch into my usual analysis, I must send a huge shout-out to Bill (The Australian Legend) for the astonishing effort he put in this year to help me keep my blog going during the sad months of my mother’s late-diagnosed illness and death. He coordinated four Monday Musings guest posts (from Lisa, Kate and Michelle, as well as himself, even proposing topics in case they needed inspiration). And, inspired by Karen’s (BookerTalk) post on reblogging, he curated a series of reblogged posts from my early days, which we titled Bill curates. It was a stellar effort and I’m immensely grateful to him (and to Lisa, Michelle and Kate) for helping me out during those times. It may sound silly but it significantly helped my well-being to have these posts lined up to keep my beloved blog ticking along. Thanks Bill.

Top posts for 2020

Until last year, my top posts have changed minimally, but last year’s little shift has held – a little! However, there is still a set of “usual suspects” posts reappearing year after year, and it’s still true that most of the posts are over 5 years old. Whatever these top posts are, though, I always wonder why them? Some are probably set school texts, but the rest?

Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universe

Here’s my 2020 Top Ten, ordered by number of hits:

None of these were actually published in 2020, which is the norm except for last year’s little aberration when Trent Dalton hit the top spot. What other observations can I make?

  • Red Dog has slipped out of the Top Ten (into the Top Twenty) for the first time since it was published in 2011.
  • Last year’s record of six Australian posts in the Top Ten did not last, but Australians still make a showing!
  • Barbara Baynton continues to be an established Top Ten regular.
  • Why is ABR’s Top Twenty list here? Were locked-down readers looking for reading recommendations? And, old Stegner and Greene posts are new here. Why them? Good lockdown reading?
  • Mark Twain’s “A presidential candidate”, which popped into the Top Ten in 2018 and remained there in 2019, appears again, but has risen to 2nd spot! I wonder why?!
  • Short stories and essays still feature strongly, with four again this year.

Four Australian posts appear in the next ten, as in 2019, but they are all different. Barbara Baynton remains, just with a different story, “A dreamer”! The others are Shaun Tan’s Eric, the slowly-slipping Red dog, and, out-of-the-blue it seems to me, a 2014 Delicious descriptions: Clare Wright’s sources on the Australian landscape.

Book cover

But what about posts actually written in 2020? How did they fare? After last year’s little aberration, this year returned to normal (whatever that is) with my top-ranked 2020-written post coming quite down the list. Here are the Top Ten 2020-published posts (excluding Monday Musings) – an eclectic bunch that tells us, what?:

My most popular Monday Musings posts were:

My New Releases posts seem popular, having featured the last two years. Australian Gothic has also featured in the top three for a few years. But, I’m surprised to see Allen & Unwin’s House of Books, which was only published in July, appearing as the third most popular Monday Musings this year.

Random blogging stats

The searches

One of my favourite parts of this highlights post is sharing some of the search terms used to reach my blog, but this year that aspect of the end-of-year stats has been flakey. However, I did glean a few that might interest – and hopefully, entertain – you.

Book Cover
  • several searches seemed to be for a school or college assignment about Sherwood Anderson’s short story “Adventure”. The searches included: who should be blame for alice’s tragedy; alice is the one to be blamed for her tragedy. do you agree?; explain. adventure sherwood anderson; and explain the significance of the title ‘adventure’ by anderson. Don’t you love how some have just typed in the whole question?
  • I have reviewed an essay by Sebastian Smee but I don’t think that will have helped this searcher: does wellesley have a non-credit on-line course taught by sebastian smee
  • relevant to this year’s second top post, here is one search: what type of satire is mark twain’s a presidential candidates 
  • and, my favourite: word association. what comes into your mind about australian literature? You know what I’m going to ask: What words come to your mind when you think about Aussie lit?

Other stats

I wrote thirteen (nearly 8%) fewer posts in 2020 than in 2019, averaging under 13 posts per month. This resulted in a small drop in my blog traffic.

Merlinda Bobis Fish-hair woman

Australia, the USA, Britain, in that order, continue to be the top three countries visiting my blog. The next three slots went, respectively, to India, the Philippines and Canada. India has been fourth for two of the last three years but, this year, the Philippines jumped from its usual 6th place to 5th, edging out Canada. This is largely due to Philippine-born Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-hair woman.

I’d like to thank all of you who commented on my blog this year. I’m thrilled that, although my blog traffic dropped a little this year, my comments count increased by 12%, which is heart-warming because the conversations have to be one of blogging’s biggest delights. The friendly but fearless sharing of sometimes opposing ideas – you know who you are! – demonstrates that social media can be positive and respectful.

Challenges, memes and other things

I only do one challenge, the AWW Challenge, which I wrapped up last week, and one regular meme, #sixdegreesofseparation run by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). I occasionally do others, which you can find on my “memes” category link.

I also took part in Lisa’s (ANZLitLovers) Indigenous Literature and Thea Astley weeks, Bill’s (The Australian Legend) AWW Gen 3 Week, and, more casually, in Nonfiction November, because all these align with my reading practice.

Each year, I like to host some guest posts but I have already mentioned these in my opening paragraph. You can find them at this link.

Being blogging mentor for the New Territory  program has been a major highlight over recent years. It was set to continue, until you-know-what. I don’t know whether it will return next year. Meanwhile, I have enjoyed following the writings of several “alumni” who are continuing their literary reviewing and criticism journeys. Rosalind Moran’s well-timed Overland post on the value (or not) of lists, caught the eye of several bloggers over the last month! Amy Walters has revamped her website to include links to her other writings, and Angharad has continued to be an active blogger as well as occasionally writing other articles. Shelley Burr, on the other hand, won a Debut Dagger for her Aussie noir unpublished manuscript, Wake. How lucky am I to know these great young women.

And so, 2021 …

As I say every year, a big thanks to everyone who read, commented on and/or “liked” my blog last year – and to all you other wonderful bloggers out there. I’m really sorry that I don’t always manage to visit everyone as much as I’d like. I wish you all good reading in 2021, and look forward to discussing books with you at your place or mine!

Finally, huge thanks to the authors, publishers and booksellers who make it all possible (and who have put up with my extreme tardiness this year). Let’s hope 2021 will be better for us all.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2021 22:18

    You’ve done well, Sue. It’s been a hard year for everyone, but the crisis with your beloved mother has made it a really awful year for you. And yet you’re still here, still bringing pleasure to your readers, still making your way round our blogs and chatting away.
    Your blood’s worth bottling!
    Lisa x

    • January 3, 2021 22:28

      And so’s yours Lisa. I didn’t mention here all the behind-the-scenes TLC you provided over me last several months, because it was more personal than blog-specific, but it’s been hugely appreciated, on top of the great guest post. I have felt understood and cared about, and both those are special. x

  2. January 3, 2021 23:32

    I always love your annual blog stats post. Thanks for writing it up again!

    • January 4, 2021 07:36

      Thanks Theresa. I keep wanting to mix it up a bit but when I get to it, I run out of puff. Maybe next year!

  3. January 4, 2021 00:07

    Glad I could help. Thank you for the mention. I have been a Jack London fan since my school days, though it’s a long time since I did anything about it. He was a seaman, a gold digger, a socialist and, until he was a young man, illiterate. Did you mention ‘War’ last year? Anyway this year I read it and of course enjoyed it. This year I really must write up my favourite London, The Iron Heel, and also a little about the time he sailed to Australia.

    • January 4, 2021 06:34

      Indeed you must: it sounds really interesting ! 🙂

    • January 4, 2021 07:43

      You helped immensely Bill, so you deserve a mention.

      I mentioned Jack London in 2018. He’s been in the Top 20 for years, but not often in the Top Ten. I had always thought he was ‘just’ a boys-own adventure writer but this taught be differently. It would be great if you wrote up about him.

  4. January 4, 2021 01:01

    Congratulations on your blog achievements, and happy new year!

  5. January 4, 2021 06:33

    An enjoyable ramble through stats, again, ST ! 🙂
    For a couple of friends who wailed that they need to find good books to read, I recommended your site: to my rage, neither took my advice, but merely wailed again, later, before suddenly remembering their previous complaints and my suggestion of a solution and changing the subject.
    I take this as confirmation that when people complain and appear to be seeking solutions, they’re really just liking the sound of their own voices; for nobody could mistake the fact that perusing “Whispering Gums” is the quickest way of finding interesting things to read.
    As Oprah says, “You go, girl !”. 😀

    • January 4, 2021 08:08

      Oh M-R, that’s a funny story re your friends. You can lead a horse to water… I just read your first para to Mr Gums and he said “Some people need a good wail” -and then I read your next paragraph! You’re right, I think, but I do appreciate your recommending my blog. That’s worth a lot to me.

  6. Meg permalink
    January 4, 2021 07:26

    Hi Sue, those stats just prove what a hard working person you are, especially under such difficult and sad circumstances in 2020. Your blogs are fully appreciated by me.. In all aspects I hope 2021 is easier and better for you.

    • January 4, 2021 08:10

      Thanks very much Meg. And your support and comments are fully appreciated by me in return.

      I hope 2021 Is better for us all.

  7. January 4, 2021 07:45

    As always, I am amazed at all you read and all you say. Thank you.

    • January 4, 2021 08:12

      Thanks Carmel. I really love that you read it, and that you often answer my ponderings and questions on literary matters with the wealth of your experience. It’s greatly appreciated.

  8. Moira Nolan permalink
    January 4, 2021 11:34

    Thanks Whispering Gums for the wrap up and your continued and consistent reviewing. You’ve come a long way in the past five or so years! In your ability to throw together an interesting review, in your knowledge of Australian lit and bringing it to our attention.

    • January 4, 2021 16:24

      Thanks very much Moira – that’s part of the fun isn’t it of taking something on like this, developing our knowledge and skills. I’m really glad it’s working, and I appreciate your interest and support.

  9. Sue permalink
    January 4, 2021 15:16

    I’m very appreciative of all the work you (and Lisa at ANZ Litlovers) put in to your blogs Sue, and I’ve had many a happy reading experience from books I wouldn’t have read unless I had seen them reviewed here or at Lisa’s. Also thanks to Bill – I rarely comment but regularly check there!

    I’m so glad the Walace Stegner was on your list!

    It’s been a tough year and book blogs were a great way to “keep in touch” with people and books during the lock downs…

    Looking forward to more reviews and books to read this year!

    • January 4, 2021 16:27

      Thanks very much Sue. I have loved having your join the community here, and being willing to share your ideas and perspectives about the books and issues we all talk about. It makes it all worthwhile, really.

      And yes, Stegner. Woo hoo, eh?

      As I think I’ve said before, all the best to you for this year. May it be a better one for everyone.

  10. January 4, 2021 19:51

    It’s fascinating seeing what search terms bring people to your blog isn’t it?
    I wonder if the Twain popped up so high in 2020 because it was an election year in the US?
    I thoroughly enjoyed the Bill curates posts and I hope you continue with the occasional one, just for fun.

    I have a post like this underway, but not feeling very inspired to finish it. We’ll see…
    Here’s to a better 2021.

    • January 4, 2021 20:48

      Hi Brona, I’m sure that the Twain’s popularity is related to the election.

      And thanks re Bill curates. He did talk about doing the occasional one for specific situations, but he didn’t like the name ‘”Bill” curates’! Let’s see how he feels …

      I’d love to read your post – but I know that lack of inspiration feeling!

  11. January 5, 2021 04:30

    When you look at the top hits for the year, does it look at one year, or is it the top hits for all time on your blog? I wondered if perhaps that was why some of the stats have not changed. If one post got a big boost during a particular time, it seems that would keep it at the top for a while.

    • January 5, 2021 07:51

      Good question, Melanie. It’s the top hits for the last year Melanie, but next year I could compare the two. There was one post that got a huge hit, maybe ten years ago, and it was top of the all time list for ever, and another post that was very popular used to be there too, but I actually haven’t checked that list for a few years. Now I might!

    • January 5, 2021 08:06

      I have just looked. Interestingly, one of the two I mentioned is still there – and is right at the top, significantly ahead of number 2. It’s my The challenge of the biopic post. Most of the others in the all-time top 10 are ones that keep jostling around the top 10-15. But a couple of other outliers are Julian Barnes’ The sense of an ending, which got huge hits the year I posted it (2012), and another Australian novel that got big hits two and three years after I posted it, Hannah Kent’s Burial rites (2014). These two will probably drop out of the all-time top ten in the next 2-3 years.

  12. January 5, 2021 15:39

    Thank you, Sue, for continuing on during this extremely difficult year. And thank you as well to Bill and to Lisa for helping. I love the way that books bring us together.

    • January 5, 2021 15:42

      Thank you Jennifer … continuing was a no-brainer, though I had much help as you know, because books and book communities are so restorative (as you clearly agree). (I’m currently sitting under a tree by the Tumut River, which is restorative too!)

  13. January 6, 2021 05:47

    You did well to keep up the quality of the blog given all the stresses you encountered in your personal life. Doesn’t it show the wonderful camaraderie that exists in the booking blogosphere?

  14. buriedinprint permalink
    January 16, 2021 06:09

    LOL I love all the school-assignment search terms. What fun. Whenever I see such behind-the-scenes stat’s, i think “I should do that”, but then I forget by the time the next year rolls around. This is going to seem rather random, but at some point, years ago, would you have recommended Yoga with Adrienne’s online yoga practice? I have it in my mind that you might have and, if so, that was (perhaps literally) a life-saving measure, from the other side of the world. SOMEone recommended her, and I’m awfully grateful, even more so over the past year (which was not as stressful as yours, but still). Wishing you and yours well in 2021, WG.

    • January 16, 2021 10:38

      It could very well have been me Buried because I am a follower – in fact, a member. I’m so so glad you like her. She just has the right mix I think. Are you doing her current 30 days Breathe program. I’ve done them every year and while I don’t keep up, I do finish them. But other times I just choose some practice that I like or sounds good. I hope you are ok?

      All the best to you and yours for 2021 too.

      • buriedinprint permalink
        January 16, 2021 12:38

        It was you: thank you! I started in either 2014 or 2015, I think, and it was very erratic at first but by the time there were an increasing number of stressors in place, it was a well secured habit that I credit for having gotten our family through some tough times…in the past, not recently (my wording might have made it sound otherwise). Yes, I’ve got a membership currently too, and I hope to keep it as I enjoy her intermediate programs, and I am doing Breath, right along with you apparently. Most years I don’t keep up with her 30-days exactly, but this year I have been, because so many of them are shortish (except today!). She’s awesome.

        • January 16, 2021 13:04

          Yes, I did wonder. Glad it’s in the past and glad that she helped. She is awesome, I agree. My daughter did her for a long time too, and my yoga teacher likes her.

          I pick her programmes depending on my mood, how much time I have and how hot I want to get! For quiet days, I love her Morning Rise series. I move my mat around the house depending on the season. I have favourite outlooks but my favourite space is too hot in mid summer and too cold in mid winter.

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