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8 Ways in Which Book Blogging is like Grad School

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8 Ways in Which Book Blogging is like Grad School

Since the end of the semester is fast approaching and this month has been crazy, I’ve been thinking a lot about grad school and less about interesting book discussion topics ;-). My second year of graduate school is also quickly coming to a close (plus or minus a summer, pfft), so I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I won’t lie: this semester has had some low points for me. For a bit I was seriously trying to figure out if grad school was the right choice and stressing a rather unhealthy amount. However, I decided in the end that it is and that some of my stress was coming from the freaky similarities between my hobby and my career. Therefore, I present the eight ways that blogging is scary-similar to grad school, perhaps in an attempt to be self-aware about both major aspects of my life!

1. You are never done, there is always more to do

  • Grad school: Grad school is notorious for driving some people nuts because it is kind of impossible to ever be done with something. Even when you finish a project and publish a paper on it, there are lots of extensions and more projects.
  • Book blogging: Similarly, you will never be able to read every single book that gets published and once ARCs start coming in, it can get difficult to keep up. Now that I’m behind on my ARCs, they are starting to feel a lot like my never-ending research ;-).

2. You’re supposed to love it, but sometimes you just can’t

  • Grad school: This is one of the biggest things that irks me when it comes to grad school. People always talk about how much you have to love your research so it should feel like play and it just isn’t always true. That sentiment was really what was causing me problems earlier this month since I was worrying that something was wrong with me when I didn’t want to get up and go to work. But when you’re working on the final finicky details of three papers that you’ve had going for over a year each, things aren’t always exciting.
  • Book blogging: The dark side of book blogging is that it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. We talk about reading and blogging slumps and they are really just a fact of this hobby every once and a while. There are going to be books that bomb and reviews that don’t write themselves. Since book blogging is a hobby, you fortunately can avoid this a bit more than with some grad school activities, woot!

3. It’s ridiculously easy to overcommit

  • Grad school: I’m a naturally helpful person. I really love being able to say yes to someone’s reasonable request and feeling like I have been instrumental in their success. I’m mentoring an undergraduate currently and planning on taking on two more over the summer if they are interested. I’m funded on three projects for the coming year because they all sounded awesome and I had the skills to make them succeed.  I’m co-organizing a week-long high school summer workshop because I am passionate about promoting real science to high-schoolers and because I was asked to help. It is entirely possible that this is a horrible plan! But I’ve been saying no to things too! And this really is known as a perennial problem with grad school and academia in general since everyone has so many good ideas.
  • Book blogging: Once those review requests start flowing in, they are really hard to ignore. There are just so many cool books to review and it is so flattering to specifically be asked to review them; how can you say no?? I’m getting much much better at choosing my review books wisely, but I’m still completely overcommitted for April and May because I agreed to a few too many things on a whim >.>. I will keep practicing restraint ;-).

4. It’s all on you to keep making progress

  • Grad school: This can depend on your adviser, but many of them are so busy that they just don’t have time to micro-manage their students and who would want that anyway? Therefore, it is really on you as a grad student to set yourself tasks to do and then do them. If I suddenly stopped working, it would probably be a week before anyone noticed and that is only because I send weekly progress reports. I could easily make up an excuse and get by for several weeks before my adviser became concerned. This is why people end up taking so much longer than the estimated time to graduation sometimes, must resist!
  • Book blogging: While publishers might stop sending you ARCs eventually if you completely stopped reading, book blogging is marvelously a “go at your own pace” sort of hobby. This is great generally, but it also means that sometimes you can look back on the month and wonder what the heck you did the whole time since you obviously weren’t reading D:

5. You’re tempted to always compare yourself to others but you really shouldn’t

  • Grad school: I’m fortunate to be in a very supportive lab, so we aren’t encouraged to be competitive with each other. However, there aren’t many academic jobs available and way too many people getting PhD’s, which we are all constantly reminded. Therefore, sometimes it is hard when you and a fellow lab mate are both going for the same grant or publication venue and one of you doesn’t get it but the other does. I really hope it isn’t just me who struggles with this… >.>
  • Book blogging: Haha, do I even need to explain? How many posts go up monthly about ARC envy and stats competitions. I know that when I do forget about feeling competitive, I’m a happier blogger, but it is really hard sometimes as I’m sure many of you know.

6. Explaining what you do to outsiders is always a bit awkward

  • Grad school: I work in a very small subfield of computer science that combines evolutionary biology and computational skills. I love it, but most people in computer science don’t know what I do or don’t think that it is valid and most biologists are the same from the other direction. Therefore, there is no hope for explaining my work accurately to people outside of those two disciplines, though I do try :D.
  • Book blogging: When I tell muggles that I read 100+ books a year, they generally look at me funny. It’s only recently that I’ve been all that comfortable telling my lab mates and some of them read the blog now :D *waves to lurking lab mates*. But I’m sure we’ve all had those awkward moments where people don’t understand why we like to read so much and definitely don’t get what this whole blogging thing is about.

7. The community makes or breaks the experience

  • Grad school: The biggest piece of advice I give everyone applying to graduate school in the sciences is to pick an adviser, not a school. The atmosphere of your lab and your adviser’s personality and expectations are second only to the subfield in terms of defining how grad school will go for you (in my opinion!). My adviser and lab mates are awesome, therefore I feel completely capable of making it through. I’ve heard lots of horror stories of bad advisers and destructive lab atmospheres.
  • Book blogging: This is my requisite yey community moment :D. Making bloggy friends to talk to and connecting to the community at large really change the blogging experience in my opinion. Sure, you can blog without interacting much with the community, but then it is much more like a personal reading journal than the full blogging experience to me.

8. It’s really awesome in the end

  • Grad school: While the day-to-day has gotten a bit emotionally challenging for me this month, when I step back from that I know that there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. I love being able to combine my two favorite fields in a way that allows me to use my strengths from both effectively. I really hope that I get to keep doing this research, mentoring students, and volunteering for outreach as my career *fingers crossed*.
  • Book blogging: There might be a point in the coming years that I need to cut back on my post content and reading speed, but there is no other hobby I’d rather have. I love reading, I love talking about books and book related things with all of you, I love the privilege of getting to read books early from publishers. I suspect I’ll be blogging here for a long time, even if I need to take a break to write a dissertation ;-).

Now that you’ve gotten a peek into my brain for the last few months, do you agree? Fellow grad students: did I miss anything :D. Do you ever find yourself drawing comparisons between your “real life” and your hobby?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings -Anya

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Great post. I nodded along :)
    Jodie @ Words Read & Written recently posted…My Favourite Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015My Profile

  2. whooo that lab life. I know this is an old post but this is just so perfect I can’t help but comment on it! I love how you compared research and being overcommitted to the book blogging world too :)
    Kritika recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday 56: 2015 New releasesMy Profile

    • Hehe, totally fine, it’s really fun when people find old posts :D I think I’m finally reaching a point with both research and book blogging where I’m focusing on what I enjoy and finding better balance fortunately!

  3. Ah-ha! This is so perfect. I’m currently doing an Honours year and everything you said is so right.
    Except that for me, blogging is definitely the thing I’d rather be doing. And I should love my research but I don’t and that scared and stresses me at the same time.
    Hopefully we can both get over our research slump soon!
    Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted…Simply Sunday (#45)My Profile

    • I’m so glad that blogging is still a safe haven :D I need to figure out how to get back to that place and it definitely involves not requesting so many ARCs >.>

  4. Wow, I love this. I’m just in university right now but can definitely relate to most of these. Well, actually all of them. I’m in a pretty laid back major now but I used to be a bio major so I can’t even imagine what you are going through but I remember how competitive it was. Sucks to be reminded of those slim numbers constantly.
    Alise recently posted…Merchant’s Ransom: Thief’s CovenantMy Profile

    • Ugh right?? Though having computer science knowledge helps since I know I’ll always be able to find a job, even if it is a job I don’t particularly like D:

  5. PreachPreachPreachPreachPreachPreachPreach. Omg this list is so true it makes me shake my head and smile. I agree with every single one of these. I’m super envious that you’re in a supportive lab though, because my group, no, no, no, they are far from that. Can’t ask anyone for help, you know, because that’s a weakness and then the lions will descend.

    • I’m glad it didn’t make you cry at least! Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that, are there other students outside of your lab that can be your support group??

  6. Yes, yes, and yes. I’m in my second year and I had a rough semester last semester with the “loving it” part. Though I really do love my work. And I love my blog! Your #6 is such a daily issue for me. I can’t talk about my work with many people because explaining it can get too intense for casual conversation. Ditto for my blog — sharing that with my classmates (and my advisor!) was a huge decision. I sometimes worry that my advisor thinks I could be doing more if I didn’t spend so many hours each week blogging (even though my research is on YA Lit, so it’s clearly related). Yay for for all the grad school bloggers pushing through the semesters while also maintaining awesome blogs!
    Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! recently posted…Week in Review [3]My Profile

    • I hear ya. I got so sick of the day to day things I needed to do even though the ideas in general still make me happy.

      Now I’m intrigued about what your work is on >.> But yes, I agree about the worry with the adviser, but really, this time in the evening is time I’d be staring at a TV otherwise since there is only so much time I can think about research! I also think that writing blog posts has made it easier for me to write research papers, at least the first drafts!

  7. Fantastic post! Obviously, as a grad student and book blogger, it’s pretty much tailor made for me :) I definitely feel overwhelmed by the fact that there’s always more to do, in both research and with my blog. I do also put this ridiculous pressure on myself to always love my work, like that’s a requirement for being a good grad student, so I’m constantly having to remind myself that’s called work because it isn’t always fun. I’m really happy you posted this because one of the things that always makes me feel better about the tough bits of grad school is knowing that other grad students feel the same way.
    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted…All You Need Is Kill Read-AlongMy Profile

    • I was very much thinking of you when writing it :D Such a good point about the work thing, I gotta remember that. We gotta stick together <3

  8. I absolutely adore this. I just finished my master’s program in December. It was such an emotional and stressful time, but I would definitely do it again. I’m glad you are feeling less stress, and you are right that it is absolutely worth it in the end. Good luck with the rest of your program and awesome post!
    Natalie @Natflix&Books recently posted…Discussion Post: A Look at Chick-LitMy Profile

  9. AHHHH, this post makes me nervous about attending grad school now, especially the “you are never done” point. -shudders and weeps at all the work-
    I’m an overachiever too, so…. :X
    Kelly L. recently posted…Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly – Sharon Biggs WallerMy Profile

    • Hehe, I’m definitely an overachiever too, but you just come to a point where you know that you can’t do literally everything so you have to prioritize what is important to you. I also highly recommend trying to stick to a set schedule of hours. Even though sometimes I don’t get home until 8pm, once I’m home, there is no more working!

  10. The difference with book blogging is you can always walk away. I’m not paying to blog or getting payed to blog so ultimately it is just a hobby. I can quit whenever I like. Whereas with college I’m paying to be there and I need to continue on this path towards my dream career.
    Rachael @ Rachael Turns Pages recently posted…Library Books Readathon Anouncement and Sign UpMy Profile

    • Definitely true, though I also don’t want to quit either fortunately :D But I have been keeping in the back of my mind that I can magically create extra hours in the day by quitting or breaking from blogging, which is reassuring I think ;-)

  11. Fascinating comparison! I’m tired just reading about your commitments, so impressed by your organizational skills! Glad to hear you’re not stressing so much about school, as I’ve heard a few people have dropped out because it was too much for them, then regretted it later. Very cool that you have supportive people around you, which must make things easier. Good luck! :)
    Terri @ Alexia’s Books and Such… recently posted…Social media is sucking me dry….My Profile

    • Sometimes I feel less than organized, but there are lots of lists involved! Supportive people is definitely the key

  12. Anya, I wonder sometimes how you make time for grad school and blogging! You’re the ultimate role model for being able to do so, I swear. I plan on going to grad school here in a couple years and the prospect of it is kind of scary, but it’s the only way to really be able to do much in psychology. >_<

    • *takes a bow* ;-) Really it just comes down to not really doing much else I think, which is good and bad… If you love psychology, I say go for it!

  13. I’m glad you’re feeling less stressed! Are you really supposed to love school of any sort? The way I heard it, college/grad school isn’t about learning or having fun; it’s about working the system and getting a degree. ;) Not that I want to go back to school if I can help it, but we’ll see. The job market is not being kind at present.

    There really are a lot of similarities between book blogging and grad school! Or else we’re just so entrenched in book blogging that we draw similarities between it and everything else- like that “book blogging is like online dating” post from a while back on Artsy Reader Girl.

    Good luck with your summer! It sounds like you may have bitten off just a touch too much, but we all need a challenge every once in a while, right?
    Kel recently posted…Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton (3 stars)My Profile

    • HAHA, within the kool-aid group, everyone always talks about how you have to love it in order to make it through since it is such back breaking drudgery at times. If you don’t love the questions, you just won’t be able to force your way through ;-)

      That’s a good point, maybe it is that I just only know about two things in life these days so they seem so similar, hehe.

      I definitely like to challenge myself >.>

  14. Haha! What a fun comparison. I just have a BS, but I did have to do this summer-long project with a dissertation paper – that’s what they called it. I think this was because the Env. Bio. department (and degree) were brand new so they didn’t really know what to do with the 3 people who were in the program. And my adviser was totally busy with other things. He asked me to make some changes to my final paper, which I did, and turned it back in and he said he had already marked me down as an A. He didn’t even look at the changes!

    OK, back to you. I think it is great that you a living life to the fullest. And once it is all said and done, I think you will look back and be glad you did the whole shebang instead of just half-assed your way through to a PhD. :)

    • Haha, that’s awesome! I definitely just ignore my adviser’s “suggestions” at times since I know he’ll just forget about them ;-)

  15. Oh sure. Arc envy, stat envy, and NOW education envy (stopped at the B.A. myself) =)
    Nathan (@reviewbarn) recently posted…US/Canada Giveaway: ‘Unwrapped Sky’ by Rjurik DavidsonMy Profile

    • Oh no! If I didn’t want to be a professor, it really wouldn’t make sense for me to be going for the PhD, it’s all about having the piece of paper that lets you do what you want in life ;-)

  16. These really do sound similar after reading your list! And I can totally agree with a lot of the blogging portions on here, even though I’m not in school anymore. I get looks too when I comment on how much I read or that I blog lol.

    • Haha, it’s even more amusing in grad school to tell people you read 100+ books a year since they really do think that I don’t sleep or something

  17. You know at 5 almost 6 years there really has only been 2 moments that I wanted to quit. I will say this–just like grad school, vacations and time away are the key LOL
    Felicia the Geeky Blogger recently posted…Read It File It: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuireMy Profile


  1. Monthly Review – April 2014 | Broc's Bookcase says:

    […] Yeah, so I may have got 50/50. Everyone says I am Running Away – This is definitely me. 8 ways blogging is like Grad School – So true 5 reasons why book lovers love Goodreads – Yes yes yes yes yes . ONE […]

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