In his little book, The Sage’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life, William Martin offers a description that suits me well: “that quiet older gentleman who sits and drinks his coffee as he writes at the corner table by the window.” Again, in Martin’s words: “That is fine with me” (p. 108).
The purpose of this report written on a cold, windy New Year’s Eve afternoon is to highlight the reading I’ve been doing this year during these long hours sitting by my window. A report on my writing during 2019 may come sometime after the new year begins.
Despite my aging eyes, I still can read extensively and write about what I read. Occasionally the books are on the history, theology, and practice of Christian worship, which was the focus of my academic career, but these books no longer hold my attention as they once did. Instead, I am drawn to books dealing with the intersection of religious practice and public affairs, and to others focused upon the environment, cycling, and biographical studies.
In order to remember and reckon with what I’m reading, I have to take notes, and the more challenging the book, the more important it is to write a careful response. Sometimes these reviews summarize a book’s thesis and plot line as they are colored by how the writer has affected me. Often, these summaries are written as blog posts, about 750 words in length, and sometimes as review essays ranging in length from three or four pages to ten to twelve pages.
I began my blog—keithwatkinshistorian.wordpress.com—in 2010 and one of its primary functions has been the dissemination of these occasional writings. Now and then, one of my review essays appears in Encounter, the theological journal published by Christian Theological Seminary. Although I have been busy enough throughout 2019, this year’s list of reviews is not very long. The yearly average of blog posts since 2010, many of them literature reviews, is 47. In 2018, I posted 19 times, but in the year now closing, the number is down to 11, fewer than one a month. My original plan was to post two 750-word essays per week. Just when I think that it’s time to discontinue the blog, someone writes a response like one I received this week.
A woman who had been one of my fellow travelers on a two-week bicycle trip from Albuquerque to the Grand Canyon and Return in 2010 wrote a comment about one of this year’s blogs in which I posted a summary of a solo cross-country bike ride I had taken in 1999. Read more. . . .Reading and Writing During 2019