A Break From Blogging

Over the last six months, I believe I have not missed a day posting on “Bob on Books“. During that time, it has been delightful to interact with people around the world and in the blog’s first eight months, I’ve had over 7,000 visits.  Thank you!

Due to upcoming work and other responsibilities, and perhaps to re-charge the writing batteries, I will be taking a break from the blog for the next week. If time, and a compelling idea arise, you may see a post, but I plan to be back on Thursday April 17.

In the meanwhile, check out past blogs for what I hope you will find to be good ideas about books, reading, and life!


Forgetting Your First Love

At a luncheon yesterday, I was reminded by a speaker of the pitfall of forgetting our first love. In his case, he was talking about the life of research faculty, most of whom began their work out of curiosity to understand the way the world worked and their love of study. Along the way, there are many aspects of their lives that easily can supplant that first love–tenure and promotion, seeking grants and funding, awards and recognitions, and citations of one’s work.

It seems that there is a temptation to this in just about any pursuit. I’ve discovered that is even true of blogging! I got into this about six months ago at the encouragement of a few friends who appreciated some of the reviews of books and other writing I had posted on other sites. And I’ve discovered in the process a love for writing and expression in this form that I don’t think I had been fully aware of. Part of this comes back to why I am such a bookish person–I love living at the intersection of the love of God and love of learning and encouraging others in the discovery of the intersection of these two. And I love sharing my own reflections, however poorly crafted, on books, reading and life.

Along the way, I’ve discovered that there are temptations in the blog world to stray from this first love, just as there are in other pursuits. Some of these for me:

1. The dangers of paying too much attention to your stats. It is fascinating to watch how many views a post gets, how many are following your blog, which posts attract the most attention, get re-blogged or receive “pingbacks”.

2. That leads to the temptation of writing your post thinking more about attracting “views” than for what you really want to say. I’ve found myself saying, I wonder if it is a good idea to write about… because it probably won’t get many views.

3. It also means thinking about what citizenship in the blogging community looks like. I’ve heard it said that you should comment on other blogs to build following. I’d hope people comment on my blog because something I’ve written genuinely engages them. It only seems just that I do the same.

4. It is really tempting to get into “platform building” even if you aren’t trying to publish a book. For this blog, one of the temptations is getting free books for review. After all, who doesn’t love free books! The crazy part of this is that pretty soon, this thing can move from simply talking about what I love about books, reading, and life to obsessing how to get, and then how to find time to read and review those books.

The speaker I heard talked about the idea that the best place is probably one of tension. And I suspect this makes sense here as well. No one pursues any artistic endeavor simply to stick it in a drawer, a closet or to conceal it in your own studio. We blog not only as self-expression but to engage a wider community around the things we love which means both focusing on our love, and thinking about the world we want to engage. But it seems vital to do so in a way where we never compromise the love that got us into this in the first place.

One thought I’ve had is that perhaps my Lenten fast this year might be a fast from looking at my stats. I wonder how those of you who have done this longer than I deal with the things that can distract from your first love.


Bob on Books in 2014

IMG_1933We changed the calendar on our refrigerator last night before turning in. For many it seems January 1 is the day for New Year’s Resolutions (and from the viewer response, it appears a number of you are including “read more” among those resolutions!). Personally, I’m not one for resolutions but I thought I might share some thoughts I’ve had about the blog in the coming year.

1. I hope my son and I can do another conversation on our blogs. No guarantees here but we’ll see what comes out of our Tuesday nights at Chubby’s!

2. The question of how new technologies will impact reading, discourse, learning and the world of higher ed is one I hope to continue exploring. I think we are in a new Gutenberg revolution and I’m alternately intrigued and disturbed as I think about how this might affect literacy and thoughtful engagement with the books we read (or even the prevalence of reading).

3. I’m also intrigued by the intersection of reading, which is often a solitary activity, and social media and its potential to create new forms of learning communities, ranging from virtual book groups to online engagement among those sharing a professional interest.

4. I will be reading more books in the area of higher education because of a project I am working on related to my work in campus ministry.  Look for topical posts in this area as well as reviews of individual books, and a cumulative review post at some time in the first part of the year.

5. GoodReads and my shelving choices also make it possible to identify other categories where I’ve read a number of books on the same general theme. I’ll probably figure out a few other cumulative review posts–perhaps on biographies, American history, sports, books on Christianity and culture, mysteries or sci-fi. And I’ll probably save some for future years!

6. The posts “on life” are the least planned part of this whole thing. They arise out of something I’ve read, some personal life experience, or something that is happening in the world that I feel I have something I want to say about it. This is totally unpredictable.

7. I will continue to post writing on reading in general. I assume that many of those who consistently view or follow this blog love reading and are as interested as I am on how books may not only enrich our interior lives but how we might be enabled to live well through the books we read.

8. There will be those reviews! Generally those aren’t the most popular posts and not all the reviews will be of interest to all who follow me. I review a number of books that represent “a thoughtful approach to Christian faith” that reflects the university world I work in and my own passion for a seamless connection between our love for God, for his world, and our closer and more distant “neighbors”. Even if you don’t share my beliefs, I hope you will find some books that touch on interests that are common to us. I’ll be reading other things as well–history, biography, and fiction (some literary, sci-fi, and mystery especially), and a good baseball book here and there and an occasional science work.

9. At some point in the year look for a Teddy Roosevelt marathon! I have a couple volumes of Edmund Morris’s biography of Roosevelt on the stack and received The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin for Christmas. I’ve always loved reading about Roosevelt and love anything I’ve read by Doris Kearns Goodwin so this will be a marathon I look forward to!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on reading this year, and on anything you’d like to see me explore in the blog. I’m still learning about this stuff and those who view and comment are my best teachers!

Your Favorite Posts of 2013

I thought it would be fun (and an interesting learning exercise for me) to share my top ten posts in terms of views from this past year. They are listed in order of the number of views:

1. Ten Things Columbus People Do When Snow is Forecast. People in Columbus go bonkers when it snows. Apparently a number of you love to read about our fears of “snowmageddon”.

2. Writing on Reading. This was my very first post written back on August 13 with a photo of a stack of books. Since then, I’ve read a few of them!

3. 3 Steps to Reading Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. This was a re-post of a BookRiot post with some additional thoughts from me posted just the other day!

4. Best Reads of 2013. And this was just posted yesterday and consists of all my 5 star GoodReads reviews.

5. Mr Rogers Was Right. I reflect here on recent neuroscience research and how Mr Rogers approach to TV was good for the emotional and cognitive development of children.

6. Review: Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. This is the only one of my book reviews to make the top 10! I suspect the title attracted at least a few views, and maybe a few others from people who needed a summary of the book for education classes.

7. You Lost Me, The Conversation about Creation Care. One of a series of blogs my son and I did on David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me. Fascinating that the issue of creation care was of such interest.

8. How I Review a Book. This is a surprise to me. My guess is that students writing book reports reference this!

9. Confession. My reflections on ways the church leadership of my generation has failed Millenials that sparked the idea of the blog interchange with my son.

10. The Strange Act of Forgiveness. Ironic that this follows the previous blog. It actually was some reflections on forgiveness in the light of the death of Nelson Mandela.

“Bob on Books” has been an interesting venture into the world of blogging since I began last August. I’ve learned quite a bit from other bloggers, including my son. I’ve been able to post most every day (this is post 136) and as of today posts on the blog have been viewed over 3200 times since the blog’s inception. Yesterday was my best day ever for views! Thanks to all of you who have read and especially those of you who have commented. Blogging is one form of online learning community that brings together for me my loves of the world of education and of forming communities. Writing helps me think more clearly about the things that are the theme of this blog: books, reading, and life, and a good part of that is interacting with my readers! So thanks to all of you who have joined me on the blogging journey! I look forward to our conversations in 2014!

[Your Idea Here]

I’ve been at this for a couple months and would love some feedback. So far I haven’t run dry on ideas and certainly haven’t run out of books to review! But it would be great to know if there are any things related to this blog’s theme of “reflections on books, reading, and life” that you’d like to see me write about. Or, are there any posts from the past that left you saying, “I’d like some more of that, please?” [You can also tell me about the things you’d like to hear less of–that’s helpful feedback as well!] Thanks for reading and thanks to all those who have commented!