An Experiment as We Approach the Holidays

Okay, shoppers! Only 67 shopping days until Christmas!

I admit, I’m as caught in the net of consumerism as much as anyone else. Christmas (or, if your faith prefers, the solstice or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) is a time for gift giving. But even though George W. Bush might think it is our patriotic duty in tough times to buy an HDTV or an American-made car, I’d like to spend the next 9 weeks promoting a different kind of gift: books.

I love reviewing books, and I’ve posted a number of reviews on this site (you can see a list of them all here). Normally I like to write an in-depth review, getting into not only what the book is about, but why I value it and consider it relevant for today’s Christians, contemplatives, and other spiritual seekers.

But as we approach the 2009 holidays, much of my time is invested in writing my own book, which is why this blog has been a bit neglected as of late. Frankly, taking an hour to write a detailed book review seems like a luxury right now. So I’m going to try something new, which was actually recommended to me by my good friend (and postmodern Christian prankster) Mike Morrell, who wrote to me in a recent email:

Book-blogging does not have to be book-reviewing every time! You don’t have to rival the New York Times Book Review on every post . . . Depending on the particular book and how it engages you, your post can be as little as a mention, a few sentences, or a paragraph. You can keep it short & sweet … Book-blogging can be a thought sparked by the title, an impression, or your review of a particular chapter (or even paragraph) of the book.

So now I have a new distinction: book-blogging as opposed to book-reviewing. I guess it’s kind of like the difference between posting a long detailed entry to my blog, versus a quick little Twitter or Facebook status update (although I can’t/won’t get that brief when writing about books).

So here’s my experiment: I’m going to try over the next few weeks to post mini-reviews of as many books as possible (hopefully one a day). I’ll mix books new and old, books that I strongly recommend with those that I simply think are interesting, books that are explicitly contemplative/mystical with those that have a more general Christian focus, books that are aimed at a popular audience and books that are more academic in tone. The only boundaries is that all of these books will have at least some sort of a spiritual focus, no book will be mentioned that I actively dislike, and I’ll be trying to keep the reviews short and sweet (let’s see how good I am at that). So stay tuned: the first mini-review posts in a few minutes, with more to come!

Seven Essential Thomas Merton Books
Sister Joan Chittister and the Way of Paradox
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
Busting the "Goody Two Shoes" Stereotype of Saints
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Beth

    Love the idea!
    And even though I hadn’t read this post as of yesterday when I posted this on the Virtual Tea House, it may be sort of what you’re thinking?
    I just put the quote in, a picture to go with the title, an Amazon picture/link of the book and one line of my attempt to understand and live the concept. Pretty easy? Took 10 minutes…

  • zoecarnate

    Beautiful, Carl. I hope this catches on more, as I’d in general like to read some blogging about books from my favorite bloggers, but don’t necessarily have the time to read a lengthy review.

    And of course it goes without saying that I’d just love to see some of your thoughts about books I’ve passed your way these past few months. :)

  • Carl McColman

    Oh, don’t worry, Mike. You’ll see some familiar titles. One of the reasons I’m doing this is to lighten my backlog of books-I’d-like-to-review … a backlog that you have contributed to mightily! :-)

  • Sarah

    Carl, Carl, Carl! As though my life weren’t complicated enough already! I’m all for giving books — do it all the time — but I like to read them before I give them. You’ve already added several books I’d like to give (and read) to my list, and there just aren’t enough days before Christmas to get it done. I’m still making my way through your book, Spirituality, for heaven’s sake!

    By the way, take a peek at Jeff Gerke, who taught an outstanding class for fiction writers at this year’s Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, launched Marcher Lord Press, specializing in speculative fiction written from a Christian world view, on October 1st and recouped 25% of his investment on the first day. I have one of the launch books, Summa Elvetica, sitting on my desk right now, and it’s calling my name. Tell Jeff Sarah sent you. He might remember the good natured crone who amused his class of plot-driven writers by saying she stole her plot out the Bible because she was more interested in the characters.