The Cigarette of Publishing

[caption id="attachment_1449" align="alignleft" width="220"][/caption] If you follow my blog, you might have noticed that I regularly review or reflect on books from Cruciform Press. This is a fairly new publisher, offering a subscription to their now bimonthly release of books. With each book usually finishing under 100 pages, they share a common theme of gospel-centered succinctness. You can also buy them separately for a few extra bucks. I subscribed for our church, thinking this would be a great gateway into our library. I can’t tell you how many people share their wish to be better readers, but their busy lifestyle keeps them from settling into a book. These mini-books, as I call them, are less intimidating. I can easily get someone to cross the threshold of the library door as I dangle the topics they cover such as the backsliding Christian, the struggle with pornography, serving the poor, identity in Christ, and apologetics for the layperson, in such a short, concise format. Hooray for that. This week I received the latest copy in the mail titled, Modest. Stay tuned for the review. What I wanted to share today are some reflections about this whole mini-book thing. My husband is a fourth grade teacher. One day he was talking to me about how they teach good reading habits in the classroom. They actually teach that it is good to have several things going at once. The strategy is to have a chapter book going, as well as a magazine they like, and what is called an “any day read.” The “any day read” is like a shorter, easy book that can basically be read in a day. As it turns out, we actually read more when we have this kind of setup. I remember when Matt was sharing this with me, I was thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s similar to what I do.” I usually have something substantial that I am plodding through, along with a book that I'd like to finish within a week, a couple of magazines to frolic in, and countless articles to devour. These Cruciform mini-books kind of add to the “any day read” element. You might not actually read them in a day, but you very well could. As I began to read their latest book, I found myself reflecting on the pluses and minuses of this short format. I’ve written earlier about how technology has been changing the way that people read nowadays. The internet has encouraged scanners for information, rather than deep reflection in a book. These Cruciform minis can also serve as a gateway for the scanner to crossover into the fountain of reading again. I find this format to be both informative and a bit of a tease. Don’t get me wrong, I recommend the books. They take the reader on a short journey through some pretty heavy topics. There is a lot of benefit to this. One of the biggest is what I have mentioned above. This less intimidating read exposes more people to important doctrines and gospel-thinking on relevant topics in the Christian life. I’ve also been pleased to be introduced to some new authors, while they also pepper in some goodies from the likes of Jerry Bridges and Joel Beeke. Some of these books have really impressed me with packing in solid teaching in so few pages. But that’s also where I feel a loss of flavor. The minibooks are edited so well, that I feel we lose a bit of the author’s voice. Sometimes this is just as important to me as the information conveyed. Occasionally it seems like I’m reading a glorified outline rather than an actual book. But perhaps this is just a matter of taste; and I may be in the minority. Many today prefer this approach of consuming the information they want and moving on. And here’s the gateway value. Perhaps you have a small interest in learning about the whole fear of God thing. It isn’t too risky an investment of your time to pick up Chris Poblete’s, The Two Fears. You may read this good book and feel satisfied. Or, it may just be the beginning for you. Now you’ve had a taste and want to go deeper into this theology. Poblete may have enticed you with his reference from R.C. Sproul’s, The Holiness of God, and now you’re going for the chapter-book level of our reading strategy above.  Or maybe you want to delve straight into the plodding of another reference he teases you with, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Go ahead, I dare ya. But don’t get me wrong. These gateway books are also good for every-dayers, even if you’re already into the heavy stuff. You cigar-smoking theologians out there can still add them to your arsenal. They are much easier to fetch while you’re waiting for your oil to be changed than lugging The Works of Jonathon Edwards along. And sometimes we all just need to lighten up a bit. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.