Bob on Books in 2017

happy-new-yearIt is always perilous to make New Year’s resolutions. Many don’t last past January 2. So, you might consider some of my thoughts on the direction of this blog in 2017 to be aspirations rather than resolutions. There are a few things I can clearly say I will keep doing:

  • I will keep reviewing both new and classic works on subjects of faith as well as fiction and literature, history, biography, science, as well as a few good baseball books–and an occasional book off the beaten path of my usual reading. I would contend that any of us who want to keep growing intellectually and in our awareness of the world throughout life, read deeply in the area of our vocational life and widely to see how our work and life fits into the bigger picture of God’s incredibly beautiful, diverse, and complex world.
  • I will keep posting about the world of books and reading. When I get the chance, I will write about bookstores I visit, resources for readers, and more. I did not get to do this beyond a review of a book on debates among librarians, but this year I want to explore more of the changes in technology shaping libraries and how libraries continue to promote literacy as well as serving other information and media needs for patrons.
  • I will keep writing about Youngstown as long as I keep coming up with ideas and memories about my hometown. I’m open to ideas from my Youngstown friends as well.
  • A continuing concern for me is how, in our divided society, we foster better conversations, and relations. The alternative is not pretty! I also am concerned with how our faith perspectives, which are important in so many of our lives, can be part of those conversations rather than being relegated to private life, or dismissed or discounted. I do believe those of faith need to speak with conviction, cogency, and charity, hopefully in a context that welcomes, if not always agrees with that kind of discourse.

And some aspirations for 2017

  • I want to explore the idea of what Peter Berger has called “mediating structures” which stand between individuals and political structure. It seems to me that in our mass media age, we focus so much on “big government” that we overlook the importance of mediating structures–everything from churches, neighborhood associations, leagues, and hobbyist groups to advocacy groups.
  • Inspired by C. Christopher Smith’s Reading for the Common Good, I want to explore how books and shared reading might strengthen mediating structures, the real communities many of us are a part of.
  • I want to explore some of the places beyond books where we go to read, on and off the net. Related to this, I am particularly interested in how we find reliable information sources and how we sustain them. Two of my favorite journals, Conversations Journal and Books and Culture ceased publishing at the end of the past year. Thankfully others, like The New York Times, have seen a growth in their subscriber base as people realize we need reliable news sources in this “post-truth” era.

The demise of Books and Culture leaves, it seems to me, a great void in connecting Christians (and other literate fellow travelers!) with great writing on books and culture informed by a faith perspective. At the same time, I’ve wondered about whether some form of curated platform for blogs that are attempting to do this kind of work might go a significant way toward filling this void. While none of us has the expertise or bandwidth to fill that void on our own, might there be a way that in the aggregate we could, giving our work a wider audience, and serving a wider network of “mediating structures” by connecting them with the best that is being thought and written? It’s an idea I want to explore–for all I know someone else is already doing this somewhere!

I so appreciate all who follow this blog, and all the comments you share that help me grow in the writing of it. Bob on Books is now in its fourth year, having launched in August 2013. I hope you will keep pressing me to be a better writer and I would love to hear your ideas about what I’m doing here.

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