Happy New Year to all of you who follow Bob on Books! I not only love writing about books, reading, life, and Youngstown, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the interactions I have had with many of you, and how much I learn from your comments. You are the “social” in social media. This has been a year where various social media outlets have come under criticism for everything from enabling “echo chambers” to more nefarious invasions of privacy. What I have appreciated in at least this small space of the internet is that we have been able to talk about things of substance–things we love and care about, and learn from and respect each other.
Looking back over the year, here are a few highlights that come to mind:
- Somehow, I managed to review 177 books, a number of which I thought quite extraordinary.
- I enjoyed the fun we had together at times. One post that particularly comes to mind is “The Literary Confessional,” where a number of people, particularly on Facebook, posted their literary confessions, the things as bibliophiles they were ashamed to admit, like the books everyone likes that they couldn’t stand.
- I was moved both as I read the story of Pete Frates, The Ice Bucket Challenge, and then received appreciative notes from Pete’s family for my review and the help that it was in getting his story out.
- I had the privilege of telling the stories of people. When I wrote about my childhood pediatrician, I discovered scores of others who had been treated by him, and even heard from a couple of his grandchildren. The daughter of a local deejay contributed memories and pictures of her dad, and even sent me a t-shirt with his image and trademark saying on it. A profile on the professor who inspired a love of history led to a phone call from him and a delightful time of talking about the 40 years since I had been in his classes. Perhaps what meant the most was the chance to pay tribute to James Sire, a writer and editor whose work influenced me over forty years, who in later years became a friend and encourager. Jim went to be with the Lord at the beginning of this year.
- I had the chance to interview a theologian after having reviewed three of his works. It was one of those “moments of wonder” as he spoke of his own thoughts on the glories of God and the majesty of Christ.
- When Facebook no longer allowed automatic sharing of blog posts to profiles, I set up the Bob on Books Facebook page, which allows for more interactivity than the blog. I’ve learned about what others are reading, and this has suggested new ideas for posts, and for books to review.
- Despite an unhappy experience with erroneous (and I think malicious) “blacklisting” that took several months to remedy, this was a record year on the blog with view totals up over 20 percent from the previous year.
So what’s ahead for Bob on Books in 2019?
- In the next few days, someone will make the 500,000th view of a post at Bob on Books.
- I expect to review a number of both current and classic works. Look for me to post reviews of at least one or two of the books I want to read before I die.
- I want to explore the possibility of launching a podcast. I know a number of friends who love to listen to podcasts. I’d love to hear what you think of this idea.
- I’ve also wondered about creating an online book group. I’d love to figure out a way to bring together people from my “tribe,” those who identify as “Christian,” and those who hold other views to talk about books we all consider important.
- I can’t read everything. I am interested in talking with readers who write reviews on Goodreads who might like to contribute guest reviews. This is not an invitation for those who want to promote a book, but for readers who want to try their hand at reviewing. Who knows, it could be the first step to launching your own blog! Also, I’d love to post more bookstore reviews but can’t travel to them all. Do you have a great bookstore that you want others to know about? Let’s talk.
We’ll see which of these I get to this year. One thing I can say, is that I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and especially our interactions. I hope for more of that as we talk together about books, reading, and life and about the good, the true, and the beautiful. Best wishes as you begin a new year!