MarkReads (and reads, and reads, and reads)

Only four posts in, and the time has come already – blogception. This post will be a blog about a blog, specifically MarkReads.net. I discovered MarkReads the fall before last, during my time in Istanbul. While some days I loved wandering through the city in its perpetual autumn drizzle, sometimes it was just as satisfying to spend the day curled up in my dorm with a cup of apple tea and my laptop. I’d been trying to decide between the two Harry Potter conventions happening in the summer of 2012, Ascendio and LeakyCon. I saw Mark Oshiro of MarkReads listed as a special guest for Ascendio. Interest piqued, I innocently clicked the link to his website. I then proceeded to work my way through the entirety of his “Mark Reads Harry Potter” posts in only a few days

He’s even edited and compiled his posts into e-books, available at markdoesstuff.com

MarkReads provides some of the most in-depth book reviews I’ve ever come across. Mark Oshiro does chapter-by-chapter reviews of popular books and series. His whole enterprise started in 2009, when he undertook someone’s challenge for him to read and review the entire Twilight series (which he ended up hating). He later took on the Harry Potter series, writing reviews for each and every chapter of all seven Harry Potter books (which he ended up loving). I cannot even begin to fathom writing that many blog posts. Although he doesn’t review exclusively Young Adult books, many of the books he has reviewed in the past have been YA – Looking for Alaska, The Book Thief, His Dark Materials, The Hunger Games. For those of you less interested in reading, he also has sister sites called MarkWatches and MarkPlays, where he does similar-style reviews for television shows and video games.

On the surface, reading a review for every chapter of a book or series of books might not sound that enticing. This is where Oshiro’s writing comes into play. His writing tends to be full of humor, honesty, and enthusiasm. He sometimes includes details from his own life to explain why he connects especially strongly to a certain scene or chapter in a book. His posts contain unconcealed glee for well-developed characters and expertly executed plot twists. It’s not the kind of book review that gets printed in the New York Times but maybe it should be.

One of the best parts of MarkReads is that Oshiro knows little or nothing about each book he reads, which keeps the element of surprise almost completely intact for him. This leads to much ironic humor, as sometimes he’ll make joking speculations about future events in the story that turn out to be completely correct, or he’ll be totally off base with his predictions. If you’ve read the books Oshiro’s reviewing, reading his posts is the same kind of fun found in soap operas or books with third-person omniscient narrators; you know the endings, the character motives, the future betrayals, while he gets to be the hapless character, bumbling blindly through the book.

I suppose I should reveal my own secret bias. Right now, he’s reviewing all of Tamora Pierce’s books. He’s finished the first quartet (The Song of the Lioness) and is halfway through the second (The Immortals), and has already become a Tamora Pierce fan of my own magnitude. I sometimes think that the key to my heart is Tamora Pierce; every person I’ve ever met who enjoys her books turns out to be someone awesome (my former roommate, a friend from Germany, my little sister, etc). So nothing makes me happier than watching someone else fall in love with her work.

I’ll just wrap up by mentioning that Mark Oshiro is going on tour soon. For those of you who are also in the Central New York area, he is having an event in Syracuse on March 27th. At 6:30 p.m., he’ll be giving a talk at Le Moyne College called “Mark Reads & So Do You: Literacy Development Through Online Communities.” In his own words, it’ll be about “how Mark Reads started, why [he’s] so interested in promoting literacy and being a bookworm online, and how educators in the future need to consider things like online communities, identity politics, and the power of being a nerd when teaching English and literature.” I’d really encourage any local English and Creative Writing majors to attend; it’ll be a chance to get some insight from an extremely successful blogger, and any talk he gives is bound to be a lot of fun.

MarkReads
Facebook Page for Syracuse MarkReads Event

Edit: His reviews do tend to contain a lot of spoilers, so my advice is to either only read reviews for books you’ve already read, or read along with him. Much thanks to Carol for suggesting I add this disclaimer.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “MarkReads (and reads, and reads, and reads)

  1. Donna Steiner

    If you want to announce the LeMoyne talk in class, please go ahead. It could be a fun road trip for some of the bloggers.

  2. So, your first line caught my attention thoroughly, and made me laugh quite a bit. I wasn’t sure how the blogception would work, but given the amount he has written, I really appreciate the post. I find often that I get stuck in the same old reading ruts that I always do, and rarely venture out into the internet. He seems to capture what we all love about reading, but incorporates it into the newer world of media and storytelling (something I’m reluctant to do).
    Overall, an awesome post that varies from the norm, provides provocative questions, and incorporates some of your personal perspectives and stories. I’d like to see another post like this sometime in the future. Other than that, there is just one small typo in paragraph 4, “to” instead of “too”.
    It seems that he reveals quite a few spoilers. Should I stick to books I’ve already read?

    • I fixed the typo and added a disclaimer about the spoilers… thanks for pointing that out. I usually read ones for books I’ve already read, but it’s also fun to read new books along with him.

  3. Gabi

    I stumbled here because I check Mark’s tags on tumblr and found your post! Wonderful summary of Mark’s efforts! :) I thought I’d share another thing that folks may want to know about Mark’s event at LeMoyne College: Tamora Pierce herself has RSVPed on Facebook as well! So those event-goers will really have a special experience if they’re Tortall fans :) Otherwise, I’m excited to see Mark when he stops in NYC and possibly again at one of the DC dates!

    • Thanks for the comment! I have to admit, I’ve been in a tizzy ever since I saw Tamora Pierce had RSVP’d to it. Hope you have a great time at your MarkReads events, too. :)

  4. What a great way to make YA literature appealing to all. I haven’t heard of him prior to reading this, but now I’ll be sure to check him out.
    Also, as a fellow İstanbul’lu, I’d be even more interested in hearing of your time over there. Apple tea does go great with a book.

  5. Casey Croucher

    Definitely interested in checking out his reviews. I feel like accurate reviews are hard to do and he does three different types of reviews which, in my opinion, is very impressive. Great review of a reviewer!

  6. I really loved the blogception line. A blog about a blog about a blog. WE NEED TO GO DEEPER. WE NEED TO BLOG DEEPER. I think you’re doing a good job of keeping the reader informed and making a relatively specific topic seem interesting to all parties involved. I’m glad you did a review of a reviewer so I know who I can trust.

  7. iannead

    This was a very interesting post. MarkReads sounds and looks like a fantastic website for people looking for common book reviews. And I don’t mean that demeaningly.
    When I read a book review, many critics express their interests in the symbolisms and deeper meanings. But, when I’m reading for enjoyment, I don’t think of that stuff immediately, so to have a first-time reader of these books who can be humorous and more personalized, his website makes a great addition to my web interests. (I over used the word ‘interest’, no reason)

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