Armchair BEA ~ Ethics & Non-Fiction

Armchair BEA ~ Ethics & Non-Fiction

For the first time since Monday when I began my foray into blogging about the two daily designated Armchair BEA topics, I won’t be separating the posts. Why? Well, for one, when it comes to the non-fiction genre, I have never been a big fan so have little to say. As for the topic of ethics in blogging, I probably have too much to say and would thus launch into another rant, not so mini this time! LOL! So I’ll cover both subjects within this one post.

Before I do that, here are the relevant links to what has been happening with Armchair BEA, both on their blog with the links to the hundreds who are participating, and on my blog.

My blog post telling all about it: Armchair BEA Begins!

My 5 Question Introduction

Discussion of “classic” literature

Discussion of “genre fiction” with my list of favs

Blogger Development discussion

Discussion of Literary Fiction with list of favs


Ethics in Blogging

Really, this should be simple: Be honest, be kind, be respectful, and be lawful. Or, to place it into even more basic terms, follow the Biblical Golden Rule–

Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Matthew 7:12

I can’t separate being a blogger from being an author because primarily anything I post on my blog has to do with presenting my product in a positive light. Fortunately I am a naturally “nice” person who truly doesn’t ever want to hurt a fellow human being’s feelings. We all know there are those times when “keeping it real” or “tough love” or whatever cliche you like in that vein is necessary, and actually for the best. Yet that still doesn’t require being mean or purposefully hurtful. There are ways to soften the blow.

Perhaps the above paragraph would translate to some as more to do with morality or human decency rather than true ethics in the sense of legalities and the like. To me it all goes hand in hand. If each person approached every situation in their life with the concept of simple kindness – the Golden Rule – as their guide, our world would be a much happier place. Call me Pollyanna, but I truly do believe that.

As for book blogs, where I see this concept of simple kindness too often lacking is in two prime areas:

One is the desire of the blogger to be witty or edgy, which leads to writing a blog post – no matter what the topic – that can have a cynical bent. It may be accidental, but if not careful in word choice and “tone,” people will be hurt. Sadly it is too often not accidental, some bloggers proudly wearing their “snark” or “bitchy” badge and going out of their way to blast someone, either personally and blatant, or indirectly through a book review.

And that leads me to the second area – Honesty, kindness, integrity, and, yes, ethics, in rendering a book review. Does this mean a reviewer can never write a review of a book they disliked? Of course not! But it does mean, IMO, that an ethical reviewer should,
a) point out why the book was disliked in a thoughtful manner that is actually helpful to the person trying to decide whether to buy that book,
b) should place the emphasis on it being the reviewer’s opinion, and not a universal absolute that the novel is the worst thing ever written since the dawn of time,
c) should give specific reasons that are honest, clear, and not lies or exaggerations for effect,
d) keep in mind that the author of that book is a fellow human being with feelings who, regardless of whether you liked the book, actually WROTE one and deserves at least a modicum of respect.

Those are my big issues in regards to blogging ethics. There are many, many others, of course, and I have no doubt the discussions on this topic will be VERY interesting!



I am a HUGE fan of history and that includes learning about real people as well as places, fashion, geography, politics, etc. Even in school I adored writing research papers on a historical figure. Crazy, I know! I remember when my daughter was assigned to write a paper on Mary Queen of Scots, and I was over the moon excited to help her with the research, all while she looked at me as if I was off my rocker. LOL!

It is rather surprising, then, that reading a whole biography or a book covering the dry details of a time in history are really not my thing. I would much rather learn about the Civil War by reading Gone With the Wind!

That being said, I have read a few in my lifetime that I have greatly enjoyed for various reasons.


nocompromiseNo Compromise – The Life Story of Christian singer/songwriter Keith Green

He was only twenty-eight when he died in a plane crash with two of his small children, but singer/songwriter Keith Green had already created a legacy of music and inspiration that would outlive him. A spiritual revolutionary, he found freedom through Jesus, not religion, and spent his last years convincing others to refuse to accept the status quo and instead to bring compassion and honesty back to the church. He touched people through vibrant lyrics in songs, and Last Days Ministries, which he and his wife Melody founded, went on to challenge thousands of people to take to the mission fields of the world.


Billy Graham – Just as I Ambillygraham

Hailed as “the world’s preacher,” Billy Graham has enjoyed a career that has spanned six decades and his ministry of faith has touched the hearts and souls of millions. In Just As I Am Graham reveals his life story in what the Chicago Tribune calls “a disarmingly honest autobiography.” Now, in this revised and updated edition, we hear from this “lion in winter” (Time) on his role over the past ten years as America’s pastor during our national crisis of the Oklahoma bombing and 9/11; his knighthood; his passing of the torch to his son, Franklin, to head the organization that bears his name; and his commitment to do the Lord’s work in the years of his and his wife Ruth’s physical decline.


wingseaglesOn Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett

Number-one bestselling author Ken Follett tells the inspiring, true story of the Middle East hostage crisis that began in 1979, and of the unconventional means Ross Perot used to save his countrymen.


All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith

With a suitcase full of Jane Austen novels en español, Amy Elizabeth Smith set off on a yearlong Latin American adventure: a traveling book club with Jane. In six unique, unforgettable countries, she gathered book-loving new friends— taxi drivers and teachers, poets and politicians— to read Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

Whether sharing rooster beer with Guatemalans, joining the crowd at a Mexican boxing match, feeding a horde of tame iguanas with Ecuadorean children, or tangling with argumentative booksellers in Argentina, Amy came to learn what Austen knew all along: that we’re not always speaking the same language— even when we’re speaking the same language. But with true Austen instinct, she could recognize when, unexpectedly, she’d found her own Señor Darcy.

**This book is special to me, not only because it is wonderful, but because I am a friend of Amy’s, so I know how truly incredible her adventure.


wjaa-and-cdk-daniel-poolWhat Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

This fascinating, lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules, regulations, and customs that governed everyday life in Victorian England. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the “plums” in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life — both “upstairs” and “downstairs.”


Nicholas and Alexandra and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert MassieNicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives: Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia. Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.


Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison
Mimosa by Amy Carmichael
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
The Diary of Anne Frank
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

And now it is time for you to share a non-fiction favorite.




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Kriss @ Cabin Goddess

😀 OMG I keep forgetting about “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew”! thanks for reminding me. And I love your post! All of your recommendations are great! I agree with Six Wives, it is wonderful. People forget that cookbooks are non-fiction. I read mine, and I love cookbooks with stories in them. Women used to use them as diaries because men would not read them, there are tales to be found! Thanks!

my rant on ethics

Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

Thanks for the non-fiction recommendations. I have been enjoying more nonfiction lately, most recently The Geography of Bliss: one grump’s search for the happiest places in the world on audiobook. I couldn’t agree more with you on writing tactful and thoughtful reviews.

Katie @ Doing Dewey

The book on the Romanov’s looks fascinating! If you like historical fiction, I would also recommend Six Wives, about Henry the VIII’s wives. It looks like a big book, but was a very quick read it was so much fun 🙂


Since you like history, check out The Widow Clicquot – a business biography on the founder of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Also, the History of the Restaurant is a great book! Both read like historical fiction.

Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

I agree…too often we see people in general wear their snark as a badge and are really quick to jump on the bus about tearing others down. Not cool!

Sarah Reads Too Much

I think negative reviews are the most difficult to write. I always try to be respectful, not only to the author but to the readers out there who may like something which I didn’t. I mean, who am I to think that everyone out there is absolutely going to agree with me? I always try to find good things about whatever I read, because there is always something good about it. I think some reviewers go for the cheap laughs and forget about how others may be affected.


“keep in mind that the author of that book is a fellow human being with feelings who, irregardless of whether you liked the book, actually WROTE one and deserves at least a modicum of respect.”

I agree and disagree with this. I was just saying to an author that sent me a review copy that I hated to be negative in a review about a book since *I* certainly can’t write a book. Seems a bit hypocritical. The flip side of that is that anyone can write a book and all themselves an author but that doesn’t mean that the words they wrote are even worth the paper they are printed on. And authors can be just as nasty about bloggers as bloggers can be about authors. Unfortunately, putting a book out into the world opens it to criticism. Doesn’t matter if it is “snarky” or “nice” it is still criticism.

That said, you are completely correct that if EVERYONE would just treat others like they themselves would like to be treated, much of the bad side of blogging – the drama, the plagiarism, the negativity for negativity’s sake, etc. – could be largely avoided.

Wonderful post…very thoughtful!

a barmy bookworm

Great use of the Golden Rule. Should guide us in everything. Works here too. And luuurve Kloester’s “Georgette Heyer’s Regency World”. The last chapter on the Romanovs sounds good. Might give that a go. Thanks! :0)

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

Great post Sharon. I agree with you, tone matters. I think some people forget that there is a person behind that book, and while they might not be insulting the author directly it still affects them. Your stories are a part of you, it’s your time and effort and most of all it’s your heart. So I think it’s important to try and respect that no matter what rating is given.


There are two of your non-fiction books I own, too.
Billy Graham “Just as I am” and “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew”. And now I think that I should read “All Roads lead toAusten” as well.
It is ever good to read your blogs, they are honest and interessting.



Michelle, I totally agree with you. There is nothing I could add.


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