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Here Before Blogs

I have old blogs scattered around the internet like shipwrecks on a rocky shoal. What doomed most of them was hubris. In the first post of a new blog I like to lay out an ambitious agenda. I declare how often I will publish (15 times a week) and preview the regular features my three readers (mom, wife, best friend) can expect, all the while casting a vision for how my little corner of the web is going to change civilization as we know it. My blogs turn into marathon manifestos. Capitalist manifestos, because from the beginning I scheme up ways to monetize everything.

I’ve hesitated to write the overconfident agenda-setting post for this site. Partly, this is because I have wanted to start a books blog for a while now, and I don’t want to jinx it. Mostly, though, it’s because my expectations for this site are relatively modest – at least by my standards, which usually culminate in a radical re-orientation of modern life. My hopes for the blog are the same hopes I have for the Besides the Bible book: that it will encourage followers of Jesus to talk about books, especially the really good books. I’d like this blog to host a conversation about reading and the power of language to surprise, delight, and challenge us. (I had a mentor back in Nebraska who talked about this all the time. “John, words have meaning,” he would say. “In the beginning was the Meaning.”) I’m realistic that this conversation may not extend much further than the blog’s four main contributors, but obviously I would love it to expand beyond us.

All that being said, Jordan, Dan, Dave, and I have brainstormed a bit about what we want to include on this blog. We want to commit to certain things. And so I can tell you that we plan to post interviews with our guest contributors, with authors whose books are featured on our list, and with other writers whose books are impacting us in our daily reading lives. We’re going to write new essays about other books we think every Christian should read. We’ll talk about book news from around the web. We’re going to figure out a system to accept essay submissions from you, too. We’ve even talked about doing some sort of book-in-common club. But what it all comes down to is we want to write about the books we love, and we want to hear about the books you love.

We’ll keep our anti-Kindle screeds to a minimum, but to a lesser extent I also want this site to celebrate the sensuous pleasures of the printed word. We’re going to write about the bookstores we love, and about the people who are keeping alive the noble and not-at-all-endangered vocations of book writing, book making, and book selling. This site won’t change everything. It might not change anything. And that will be okay. The experts declared books dead a long time ago – that’s how I know they’re still alive, along with the other things the experts once pronounced dead: paper, poetry, democracy, and the Republican party. Books are anchors. They are among the few truly essential things. Books were here before blogs and they will be here after. Which sounds to me like the first line of a manifesto.

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