December 10, 2015
On November 3, I was honored at the annual InterVarsity Fall Leadership Meetings in recognition of my 42 years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and my upcoming retirement in February. About seventy key people from across the country in InterVarsity attended. After hearing some generous comments from Interim President Jim Lundgren and IVP Publisher Bob Fryling, they let me offer a few words. Here is what I said.
October 27, 2015
Once again another survey has emerged noting the decline of book reading among Americans across all formats--print, digital or audio. The new Pew Research Center Survey confirms a long-term trend. As more forms of entertainment arise and as education levels decline, reading goes down.Continue reading "Lighting a Candle Instead of Cursing the Lack of Reading"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:45 AM
September 11, 2013
What books have shaped me the most? Taking IVP books out of consideration (to keep bias to a minimum), the books below have formed my thought life, my spiritual life, my sense of aesthetics, and how I view and interact with the world.
After making the list I noticed that I read most of them before I was twenty-five. And I suppose that's to be expected. In midlife and beyond, most people have already been shaped, and it's harder for any one book to have a significant impact. The last book in my list (presented here roughly in the order in which I read them) is the exception.Continue reading "Six Influential Books"
August 18, 2011
My first exposure to InterVarsity Press came when a friend, George, handed me a copy of Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer over forty years ago. It was the original edition imported to the U.S. from Britain. I was in high school at the time and had heard of some of the philosophers and theologians and artists he mentioned. (Being raised Catholic, Aquinas was at least familiar.) Many were completely new, however. Even though I only had a vague sense of what he was writing about, I devoured the book.Continue reading "Schaeffer's Gift"
May 10, 2011
“Corbin and Eric want you to read to them, Mimi.” It’s not unusual for our son, Philip, to let us know that his sons want their grandmother to read to them. So this last Sunday Phyllis pulled out The Magic Bicycle by John Bibee. And as they sat quietly and attentive, she read to them—via Skype.Continue reading "Lighting a Candle of Technology"
December 28, 2010
Maybe you've noticed the "What I'm Reading" list on the right-hand column of the Andy Unedited homepage. Of those books I finished this year, by the numbers they represent fourteen novels, seventeen nonfiction books, eleven audio books, six books purchased, one given to me as a gift, seventeen from the library, one borrowed, five read for our neighborhood book club, four I blogged about and five published by InterVarsity Press (books I read off the clock after publication).
Here's the full list for the year:Continue reading "What I Read in 2010"
November 23, 2010
While sitting in a limo in Manhattan wondering if she is overdressed for the party, Jeannette Walls looks out the window and spots her homeless mom rummaging through garbage in an alley.
Walls’ astonishing memoir, The Glass Castle, begins here and then chronicles a childhood in which alcohol, dysfunction and bad choices conspired to keep her whole family destitute. After she and her siblings moved to New York City and clawed their way out, her well-educated parents continued to live in poverty. And when the pair moved to New York to join their children, ultimately the two of them were without a home.
The book contains one incredible episode after another of pain, hardship and disappointment. Yet one that struck me the most took place after Jeannette had scraped together enough funds to go to college. There she took a course from a professor she enjoyed who began teaching about the effects of economic and social forces on people.Continue reading "No Ordinary People"
September 22, 2010
It’s the smell I remember.
When my older sister was in high school she got a summer job at the local bookstore in the center of our town. It was only about a mile from home, so I would sometimes walk or ride my bike there to visit her. I tried not to interrupt her professional duties too much. It was there that I first learned to browse.Continue reading "It's the Smell I Remember"
September 8, 2010
The book, as Nicholas Carr notes in The Shallows, has so far proven extraordinarily resistant to computers and the Net. While book sales and book reading have plateaued, this “long sequence of printed pages assembled between a pair of stiff covers has proven to be a remarkably robust technology for more than half a millennium” (p. 99). But what about now?Continue reading "The Shallows 8: The Future of the Book"
August 31, 2010
Something’s gained: Everything is on the web. It’s an external hard drive for the brain, relieving us of the responsibility to remember mindless lists of facts or extended passages of literature. We free up our brain power so we can do other, more important things.
Something’s lost: Because of the way the brain works, when we cease exercising our memory, we don’t merely lose isolated bits of information. We actually lose the ability to gain insight and understanding.Continue reading "The Shallows 6: Try to Remember"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM
August 25, 2010
The Net distracts. But not all distractions are bad. As I’ve written here before, taking a break from a problem and letting your brain do something totally different can provide an opportunity for fresh ideas to emerge. The problem is that the constantly distracting state of the Net, contends Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, changes the way we read and think. (You can find the first in my series on this book here.)Continue reading "The Shallows 4: The Net Effect"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:52 AM
August 20, 2010
In Phaedrus, Socrates muses on the merits of writing. Surprisingly to our minds, he is skeptical. Why? It is a recipe for forgetfulness. We won’t have to exercise our memories anymore. Knowledge of a subject, after all, is much more valuable than a written account of the same thing. The only virtue of writing was as a guard against the forgetfulness of old age.
So Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, introduces us to the first Luddite in his book on how the Internet changes our brains. (See part one of my review here.) In chapter four he offers a fascinating overview of the history of the written word and how each change created changes in us and in society.Continue reading "The Shallows 2: A Brief History of Reading"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:29 AM
August 16, 2010
Recently, readers of Andy Unedited have let me know about a number of pieces of interest related to stuff I've posted. I'm happy to pass them along to you as well.
IVP Fan Mark Denning read "Will Digital Outstrip Print by 2015?" and suggested two articles to me. The first is a Smithsonian magazine piece, "Reading in a Whole New Way" by tech-guru Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine. There he mirrors some ideas found in Nicholas Carr's The Shallows (which I'll be reviewing here shortly) and goes beyond, suggesting how the very meaning of reading is changing.
The second, "Quick Change in Strategy for a Bookseller," is from the New York Times. This piece looks at how e-books are making huge changes not just for publishers but in the retail book business as well.
In a different vein, Dietrich Gruen alerted me to "Reading May Save Your Life" by Bill Ellis, following up my blog "Who Do Books Make Us?" There's still a human side to reading, not just technology and fads. Here's a good reminder of that.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:33 AM
July 29, 2010
Maybe I'm old fashioned. Maybe I'm out of style. Maybe I'm the hipster culture's worst nightmare. But I still think books make a difference.
David Brooks's piece in the New York Times cites another study that shows the power of print. When students take books home for the summer, the impact is as great as attending summer school--aligning with the 27-country study I mentioned here previously.
Brooks makes the interesting point though, that books not only improve our thinking or reading abilities, books make us into different people. They shape not only how we see the world but how we see ourselves. We gain an identity as a learner or science fiction fan or lover of history or maybe just as a reader.
Books help make us who we are. And I think that's a good thing.
June 24, 2010
Want your children to go further in their education---high school, college, maybe more? Want them to earn more as adults? Here's one key predictor of educational attainment and earning power. Is it IQ? Is it economic status?Continue reading "Increase the Earning Power of Your Children"
April 12, 2010
In the postscript (titled "Farewell!") Stott offers a last bit of encouragement and exhortation, one that I resonate with myself after a lifetime of loving books:
As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight, I venture to send this valedictory message to my readers. I am grateful for your encouragement, for many of you have written to me.
Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be. But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced. For there is something unique about books. Our favorite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from any book unless I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace. . . .
Once again, farewell!
April 6, 2010
All writing is autobiography.
Fiction. Non-fiction. Quasifictional-semirealistic-self-congratualtory historical narrative. It's all autobiography.
Obviously memoir, journals, travelogues and a lot of bad poetry are autobiographical.
But what about auto-repair manuals?Continue reading "All Writing Is Autobiography"
February 19, 2010
I encourage reading. I've tried to do it here and there and elsewhere, noting a variety of excellent reasons to do so. I tend to think that reading in general and thoughtful reading in particular need all the support they can get. My suspicion is that if people are reading, books will get their fair share of attention.
But some people just really love books. And who am I to stand in their way? It's delightful when someone exposes such passion in unfettered terms. That's what James Emery White has done on his Serious Times website.
He even makes an ardent case for not just reading books but for buying them, marking them and keeping them.
May his tribe increase.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:13 AM
January 19, 2010
I'm a very slow reader. Always have been. And yet when people hear of the books I've read over the course of a year, they tell me they wish they could read more. I've found several reading strategies to be very helpful. Even if you employ just one of the ideas below, you can read a half dozen or more books in a year:Continue reading "How to Read More"
January 5, 2010
December 29, 2009
I continue my annual tradition of listing the books I've read in the past year, in the order I read them. Reading is part of my job, but I enjoy the busman's holiday of reading on my own time. Some of the books I borrowed, some I bought, some were given to me and some I got from the library. Several I listened to while riding around town on errands and commuting to work. In those cases, I've linked to the audio version.
So here are the books of 2009:Continue reading "What I Read in 2009"
December 13, 2009
Regular Andy Unedited reader Jadell alerted me to this item from Jeffrey Brown. Where is the book going? Where is reading going? That's the question Brown wants to tackle in an occasional series for PBS.Continue reading "The Next Chapter of Reading"
September 16, 2009
In today's job market, everyone wants that little edge that will set them apart from other applicants. And on the job, everyone wants to make themselves as valuable and indispensable as possible. What can you do?Continue reading "Want an Edge in the Job Market?"
January 5, 2009
You saw what I read in 2008. Which books are awarded the 2009 Andys from this list? The winners are:
Books I Most Enjoyed Reading a Second Time
Best Portrait of the United States in Microcosm
Most Underlined and Marked Up
Best Book About Chicago
Book That Best Fulfilled an Unintended Purpose
Most Unexpectedly Melancholic Book
Most Sensational Title That Actually Fulfilled Its Hype
Most Flippant Book About a Serious Topic
Most of my reading, of course, comes at the recommendation of others. If you'd like to suggest books for consideration for the 2010 Andys, I'd be glad to hear of them.
December 29, 2008
Reading is part of my job. But I enjoy the so-called busman's holiday of reading on my own time. As I did at the end of 2007, I am listing the books I finished on my own time (in the order I read them) during the past twelve months.
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
After the new year, I'll offer some general comments on the list and which were the best.
December 11, 2008
Would you pay $250 a year to hire the services of a book-group facilitator? Apparently that's just what some New Yorkers are doing. A New York Times article chronicles the troubles many book groups have--mostly with members who monopolize conversation or selecting books the whole group can agree to.
My wife and I have been part of a book group for over a year now. It was inspired by some friends who saw The Jane Austen Book Club and thought it would be fun. Five couples, mostly neighbors, meet five times a year. For each meeting a different couple selects the book we discuss, hosts the group and leads the discussion.
In addition, it costs us nothing. Our local library gets ten copies of each book on loan from other libraries.
In the course of our first year we read
It's been a good mix of fiction and nonfiction with a nice dose of Chicago-themed books. Interestingly, while each couple can choose one book a year, members have not taken this an an opportunity to impose their book taste on the group. Actually, the tendency has been to think quite hard about what books most everyone in the group would appreciate.
Sure, we could probably have more balanced discussions with quieter ones speaking up more and those of use happy to hear our own voices backing off more. (OK, I confess.) Maybe a facilitator could help us with that. But for $250 a year? As my colleague Gary Deddo said, "Only in New York City! Groups that are willing to pay for one and probably couldn't function without it. Do facilitators have to be psychiatrists as well?"
August 22, 2008
I have always been a slow reader. I've written here before about the anguish of trying to read a book in elementary school for a book report. Winnie-the-Pooh was simply beyond my capability. I tried to fake a report based on having read only one chapter. But I turned into an avid reader. Why?Continue reading ""Scram, Kid. I'm Reading a Book.""
April 1, 2008
I met a pastor recently who introduced himself this way: “Hi, I’m John.” (Not his real name.)
“Hi, John,” I said.
“I buy books,” he replied. It was the beginning of a sad tale that sounds like fiction, except that it is true. John confessed that he didn’t just buy books. He was addicted to book buying. In fact, he had already bought over 850 of IVP's 1200 books in print and was closing in on the rest. That doesn't include Bible study guides or booklets, though he's sorely tempted to pick those up as well. "Just to complete the set, you know," he said. "Like Pokemon. Gotta catch 'em all."Continue reading "A Gentle Madness"
March 3, 2008
When I first entered publishing, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the folks at InterVarsity Press had a slogan for a reading program they were promoting: "Fifteen Minutes a Day Is Fifteen Books a Year." The idea was that if you could give on average fifteen minutes a day to reading, over the course of a year you could read fifteen books.Continue reading "Fifteen Minutes a Day"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:24 AM
January 14, 2008
"Never apologize for your reading tastes." My local library uses that quote from Betsy Rosenberg as a motto. There's a lot of wisdom there.Continue reading "Never Apologize for Your Reading Tastes"
December 28, 2007
September 4, 2007
True confession. Last week I threw away a book. I hesitated a moment before I did so. Could I sell it online? Should I try to give it away? Was it somehow immoral to throw away a book? It sure didn't feel right. But I did it anyway. In fact, I threw away eight or ten.Continue reading "Trashing a Book"
July 16, 2007
Much has been made of the massive effort Scholastic, Harry Potter's publisher in the United States, has made to keep the final book secret till it is revealed (and sold!) to all on July 21. Scholastic says it is to keep the plot from becoming known and spoiling it for all those Potter fans out there. (The cynic in me wonders if it isn't to create more hype and sell more books. After all, on July 22, anyone can be a spoiler by putting key plot points on the web.)
Nonetheless, Time magazine's article on Scholastic's efforts concludes with an interesting reflection on what in fact does make reading enjoyable.Continue reading "The Joy of Reading"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:53 AM
July 12, 2007
My recent blog on the need to encourage reading among youth got me thinking about my own early experience with reading. I clearly remember growing up with two older siblings who, to my mind, were book hounds. They belonged to kids' book clubs and seemed to read all the time. Not me. I was (my coworkers and friends will no doubt find this hard to believe) as social as Paris Hilton at a party in, well, Paris.
With people I was great. Reading on my own was hard. I struggled from word to word. I would much rather be entertaining a crowd. Reading aloud was torture. I remember painfully having to give an oral book report in third grade and only being able to make it through one or two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh and being mortified at the horribly incomplete job I did in front of the class and the teacher, hoping no one would notice I said nothing about 90 percent of the book. I'm amazed I ever picked up another book again.
But I did, and another, and another. Maybe it was the example of my brother and sister, or not wanting to be left behind. Or maybe it was the membership to that kids' book club that seemed so cool. But by the summer after my eighth-grade year I set myself the goal of reading Moby Dick. And I did.
So when my kids were young, I had a policy. I will buy you any book you want me to buy. I don't care if it is Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side. You want it. You get it. And sometimes they did. We weren't awash in money. But we made it a priority.
Now my kids are adults, and they are recommending books to me. I borrow their books. And their taste is great--from fiction to history to social commentary.
I believe in reading. It changes lives. It did mine.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 6:00 PM