Bob on Books Best of the Rest


The front page of one of the hometown newspapers I delivered.

Each year I post summaries of my best books of the year and my best Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts. Here is a list of the “best of the rest,” posts on reading, current events or observations about life. Hope you enjoy this sampler from Bob on Books.

  1. The Death of my Hometown Paper. On August 31, 2019, The Vindicator, under the ownership of the Maag and Brown families, ceased publication. Since then, the Warren Tribune Chronicle has picked up publication under The Vindicator name, but something died that day for me.
  2. It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books. This received a good deal of reaction. Secretly, many of us bibliophiles use this rationalization, but I suspect we still feel uneasy about the amount of books around us.
  3. What Happens to Unsold Books? This arose out of some idle curiosity, but it appears that many worry about the fate of the unsold!
  4. Why I’ll be in Church This Sunday. Attendance at Sunday worship services has been dropping. I don’t try to answer why this is, but rather why I keep showing up.
  5. Getting Impeachment Right. Before impeachment proceedings began, I outlined the conditions I thought necessary for this to be done properly. I don’t think Congress has paid any attention! I wrote at the end of my post, “While we have survived past crises, that does not mean we will this one. All I can do is hope. And pray.” If anything I feel this more than when I wrote the post.
  6. Counterfeit Books on Amazon. A good friend’s book was counterfeited by third-party sellers using Amazon’s platform. In my outrage, I looked into this and wrote about it.
  7. Why Are Prisons Banning Used Book Donations? I learned that my own state, along with others to ban the donation of used books to prisons. When I looked into this, I became even more disturbed as I realized the commercial interests and the state’s financial interests involved in this decision, and the deleterious impact on those in our state’s prison system.
  8. Toxic Masculinity? Following a controversial commercial by Gillette last January, I wrote about my own reactions to this commercial. This was one I received a fair amount of pushback on as well.
  9. Do You Own Your E-books? Many people were surprised to discover that they do not and why this is.
  10. Memo: To the New CEO of Barnes & Noble. When James Daunt became the new CEO of Barnes & Noble, I asked those on my Bob on Books Facebook page what advice they would have for him. This post summarized their responses.

For my most faithful followers, this list will be a visit with old friends. For others, it might be an interesting read to discover what you might have missed on the blog in 2019. I so appreciate all of you who follow, read, and comment on the blog. Over 100,000 people (for the first time) visited the blog this year and made nearly 160,000 visits (so far). I appreciate all the interactions–not only those who agree but those who write with everything from grammar corrections to disagreements with what I’ve written. You force me to be a better and more accurate writer and thinker, and hopefully a better person. I hope what I write has some of that effect on others as well!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Top Ten of 2018

Salt springs

Salt Springs, from a painting by Joseph N. Higley, from a photograph taken in 1903, just prior to the springs being covered by railroad fill.

I always find it interesting what other people find interesting. For those who follow my Youngstown posts, three of the top four posts in terms of views were about places and place names around Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. Two were about catastrophic weather events in Youngstown history and three about people. While I thought a number of you would be interested in some of these posts, the top post, in terms of number of views was a total surprise to me. Rather than keep you in suspense, the top ten Youngstown posts of this year were:

  1. Salt Springs. Most of us think of the road running from the West side up to just south of Warren. But these are real springs that played an important part in the early history of the area.
  2. Brownlee Woods. I trace the history of this neighborhood, where my wife grew up and the farmer and livestock owner after whom it is named.
  3. Great Flood of 1913. Four days of rain left much of downtown and the mills flooded. I describe the damage, and the changes to which this led.
  4. Brier Hill. Before it was a pizza, it was a place, rich in steel-making and ethnic history.
  5. Sandra Lee Scheuer. I remember the young woman from Boardman who was walking to class at Kent State when a National Guardsman’s bullet ended a promising life.
  6. Boots Bell. The iconic voice of rock ‘n roll in the Mahoning Valley died twenty-five years ago but his memory lives on. This was posted just a week ago and probably would have placed higher were it earlier in the year.
  7. Forty Years Ago. You joined my wife and me in celebrating our fortieth anniversary this past June.
  8. N. H. Chaney. My high school bears his name. He was the superintendent of Youngstown schools during booming enrollments and laid the plans for the expansion of the city’s school system.
  9. Where We Came From. This was another “personal” post in which I shared some of the things our family has been learning about how we ended up in Youngstown.
  10. The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950. We’re talking about 29 inches of snow! Learn about the storm, and the impact it had in Youngstown and all over the region.

It’s hard to believe we have been having this conversation for over four years and approximately 225 posts on nearly every aspect of Youngstown life. While these were the top ten posts written in the past year, a number of the top posts in terms of views on the blog were actually Youngstown posts from prior years (by the way, the all time top post was an early one on “Cookie Tables“–no surprise!). Thanks for stopping by each week, and adding your own memories and insights. I have loved learning not only through my own research, but through all you share.

Top Ten “General” Posts of 2016


I was trying to think of what to call this post. A number of my posts are reviews (143 of them this year). And then there are my Saturday “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts, which once again were very popular. This list covers the posts that fall into neither category.

A couple are book lists. Several dealt with current issues in American cultural and political life (who can forget 2016 in that regard, much as perhaps we would like to). One that I enjoyed writing and was glad to see well received had to do with sleep and the resources found in Christian faith that help us sleep. For this one, a countdown may be fun, so here is the list. The titles of the post link back to the full post.

10. The Challenge of the Third WayI’ve often contended that in our polarized cultural environment that the call of Christians is to be “third way” people. In this post, I consider the life of Erasmus as illustrative of some of the challenges of living as “third way” people.

9. Sleep Resources for ChristiansI had just reviewed Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution and observed the lack of resources in her book from a Christian perspective for sleep. I explored why that might be and some of the resources I’ve found to be of help.

8. Endorsers Repent! A follow-up to the next post on the list that had mentioned Wayne Grudem’s endorsement during the campaign of our president elect. This post was about his withdrawal of that endorsement and my contention that Christian leaders need to get out of the endorsement game altogether.

7. The Endorsement GameThis preceded the post above and explored the attraction of and problems resulting from evangelical leaders endorsing political candidates and my ideas of what is appropriate.

6. The Humanities, STEM, and Post-Secondary EducationI reflected on a conversation with a hospital orderly going back to school for a radiology degree, and how advocates for the humanities fail to speak to the situation of people like my 40 year old orderly and how we often create false hierarchies of more or less noble work.

5. Dialogue Within The University: A Reading ListThis post was a follow-up to an online symposium that I helped host on how people of faith might better enter into university conversations. The list includes recommendations on dialogue skills, the university, and thinking Christianly.

4. Is It Time for the ‘Benedict Option’? This post responds to a discussion I was in where someone else proposed affirmatively that it was indeed time for the ‘Benedict Option,’ a phrase coined by Rod Dreher that draws on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, that the church, to preserve both its identity and the good, the true, and the beautiful, needs to withdraw into the equivalent of Benedictine monastic communities.

3. Best Books of 2016I was pleased that there was sufficient interest in my “best books” choices to make this the third most viewed post of the year.

2. Some Thoughts on the Attack at Ohio StateOn November 28, I received the text alert I hoped I would never receive, as a Somali student drove a car into a crowd of students and faculty, injuring several, and then followed up by attacking others, some trying to help him, with a knife, until killed by a campus police officer. Written that evening, you read some of my first reactions, and my plea that we not give way to fear but keep campuses open places where people can meet across their differences.

1. Really? In 2016? My response to threats against two black women with whom I am acquainted, one involving a police stop while a colleague was watering a neighbor’s lawn where she turned to find herself staring down the barrel of an officer’s drawn gun, the other a hate-filled threat against a black Christian professor.

I’m heartened that these posts made the “Top Ten” list. I leave to others to judge the quality of the writing found here, but I was struck that these were serious posts on important questions, that did represent careful thought on my part. While I do like to write something light-hearted from time to time, I do like the opportunity to think and write seriously, and to try to articulate as best as I can, what it means to live as People of the (Third) Way. Thank you for reading, commenting, and following!

My other “Top Ten” Posts:

Most Viewed Reviews of 2016

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Top Ten of 2016

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Top Ten of 2016

haluskiIt has been so much fun to interact with so many friends from Youngstown over the past several years through these posts and so I was thinking as I was planning to write a post for Christmas eve, what could I share with you all? I decided that a list of the top ten posts, decided by you, might be the best thing I could share. So without further ado, since I know you all have much to do for Christmas, here is the list. I will just give you the topic of each post, which will be linked back to the post, so you can read it if you wish:

10. My Bucket ListThis was my list of all the places I want to visit when I get time to hang out in Youngstown. Because of foot problems this year, I didn’t get to do that, so it’s still my bucket list!

9. Midway MemoriesThinking back on all the great memories of times at the Canfield Fair.

8. Holy Name Church and SchoolThis fall was the 100th Anniversary of Holy Name Church near where I grew up on the West Side. Shared about the history, some of my own memories, anniversary details and some great pictures courtesy of Tom Balog.

7. Hot Summer NightsWritten last summer, this post evoked for many of us the memories of hot summer nights (usually without A/C) in our growing up years in Youngstown.

6. Shopping PlazasI recall memories of the great shopping plazas around the city, some no longer in existence, including Liberty Plaza, for which I found a great picture, courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

5. Spinning Bowl SaladsMemories of the 20th Century Restaurant and their famous salad, that led to contact with one of the former owners, Morris Levy and the inclusion of his recipe for Spinning Bowl Salads.

4. The Silver BridgeProbably one of the most famous bridges in Mill Creek Park. I write about its construction and history.

3. Snow DrivingI think most of you who have lived somewhere else besides Youngstown agreed that most people in other parts don’t know how to snow drive. I remember how we did it with rear wheel drive cars, no radials, in all kinds of conditions.

2. Wedding SoupI discussed our great love of wedding soup, pointed readers to some sources for recipes, and suggested that there ought to be (if there isn’t) a wedding soup competition! I’ve found you just can’t get good wedding soup elsewhere.

1. Haluski (as you might guess from the picture above). It is no surprise that the top two posts were on food. We love our food. I was surprised how much we love that staple dinner of good comfort food, haluski. And there are pointers to some recipes and a video of a guy making haluski that could have been from Youngstown.

I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them. For Christians of all stripes, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and for those of other faiths, Happy Holidays and wishes that you have wonderful times with those who mean the most to you.


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!