Starting to Read

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.

The First-Book Syndrome

The other day one of our editors, Dave Zimmerman, came to me with a proposal from a prospective author for a book. It was on prayer, mission, evangelism, the history of global Christianity, the future of Christianity, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God and justice.

I looked at Dave and said, “First-Book Syndrome.” He grimly nodded in agreement.

What is First-Book Syndrome?
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The Serial Comma and the Plagues of Egypt

In another blog I promised to wrestle the serial comma into abject submission. Watch and be amazed.

Many writers and grammarians and punctuationists have traditionally preferred adding a comma before the word and in a list. So, for example, they would write, “I had bananas, blueberries, and strawberries on my corn flakes this morning.” (This, of course, is not to be confused with the cereal comma.)

At InterVarsity Press, we have a general policy of not using a serial comma. Many are horrified, disgusted, shocked, dismayed, repulsed and find themselves on antidepressants as a result of this. Why have we done so?
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Market Research by Publishing Books

One of the dirty little secrets of publishing is that publishers often do market research by publishing books.

If a publisher wants to know what customers are interested in reading or buying, doing full-blown market research can be expensive. You probably need to get professionals involved with focus groups or surveys with all manner of scientific, sociological number crunching. It can easily cost $20,000, $30,000 or $100,000 for even a modest project. Because of this, often publishers will cooperate through a trade association or other umbrella group and buy in to a project.
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Honoring the Past to Reach the Future

For most people, no matter how exciting the change is, the big meaning of change is loss. I once heard a pastor tell how he implemented needed changes. His church had become calcified and stuck in its ways. It needed to break out of its doldrums. But there was resistance, of course. How did he move forward?
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