Bob on Books is two years old! The picture above is the one that adorned my very first post. Since then, I’ve read most of those books but some never managed to work their way to the top of the TBR pile, for reasons known only to my subconcious, if that. Looking back on that first post, I had no idea where this blog was going to lead! The one thing that has been true is lots of conversation on books, reading, and life.
Bob on Books by the numbers. This is my 689th post. One or another page on the blog has been viewed just under 100,000 times (I expect to hit this milestone later this week). The growth of the readership has been slow and steady–I write for a bit of a quirky audience–booklovers, university geeks, people of faith, and surprisingly, a loyal audience of people from my home town of Youngstown. In 2013, I averaged 23 views a day on the blog. Last year, this went up to 124, and this year so far, I’ve been averaging 227. Currently 2,229 “follow” the blog in some form, but the viewership is far wider because of posting in a number of groups and re-posting on other blogs. WordPress tells me that people have visited from 150 countries, the top five outside the U.S. being Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil (!), and India. Altogether, I don’t think this is too bad for a “toddler”!
Bob on Books — the conversation. I wrote early on that my hope for this blog was that it would be “a meeting place for anyone who cares about good literature, who loves books and reading, and wants to talk about ideas that matter.” It has been that and so much more. We’ve talked about what we liked and disliked about books, about what makes for a good society and a good life, and even a good pizza! We’ve explored this activity so many of us love and take for granted, the act of reading and what makes for good reading. We’ve talked about what we do with all those books once we’ve read them, and what we do about the ones we haven’t read.
A big surprise has been the continuing conversation with the unique tribe of people who, like me, grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. What began as a few posts to answer the question of what it was like to grow up in working class Youngstown has become a rich conversation about what made this such a good place. I’ll never forget a post from last fall in which I posted a picture of a cigar box, which many of us used for pencil boxes, only to get a flood of comments from others who did the same, and who, in some cases still had them. I’ve come to understand something I’d only dimly intuited–that growing up working class was an incredibly rich experience that has shaped my life more than I knew.
Bob on Books — On reviewing. I don’t think I anticipated when I started this blog that I would become far more reflective on the art and ethics of reviewing. One of the things I’ve discovered is that authors are engaging us in a conversation, and reviewing and discussing books via social media can be a wonderful way of turning monologue into real conversation, mostly with other readers, but sometimes with the authors. We don’t always agree, but what I hope for is that they can say, “you understood what I wrote and were fair in representing the book.”
I’ve come to realize that reviewers, and not just the ones in the New York Times, play an important role in connecting authors to readers and promoting a literate society. Fundamentally, we help people answer the basic question of “why should (or shouldn’t) I read this book when there are so many others?”
Bob on Books — The Vision. Years ago, a leader I respected said, “you may be a reading Christian without growing, but you cannot be a growing Christian without reading.” In an age of busyness and visual media saturation, I hope to encourage the rediscovery of ways the reading of good works may nourish our souls, deepen our intellects, and elevate our aspirations. There is more to life than reading, but I am firmly convinced that the best books point us to that “something more” and that the richest conversations in life are about that “something more.” I look forward to more of those as long as God grants me to write!