074: Authors & Publishers ask: What are YOU reading?

o have hope that I really can do better, live better, be better is not just a choice; it’s a leap of faith. And I call that a miracle, too.”
(from poet Dinah Berland’s new Web page, Miracle Update)

    On a Monday morning in the bleak mid-winter, crawling out of bed, facing another stressful week and then, beyond that bare minimum, actually setting out to “do better, live better” and “be better” — well that certainly is a leap of faith.
    Dinah calls it a miracle.
    I agree.
    She takes the name of her new Web site from a comment by Albert Einstein: “There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
    The idea behind the new site is quite simple, yet powerful. And, I believe, it’s part of the cutting edge of a whole lot of spiritually themed writing these days. Poet Dinah Berland is published in books and other venues, but via the Web she is offering a means to connect her “voice” directly with a community of readers. This is very close to our own founding principles at ReadTheSpirit.
    It’s also precisely what writer Frederick Buechner has been talking about for many years: the idea that it is essential for us to share our stories with other people, because the truth is that, in a fundamental way, we all share a collective, spiritual story.
    We’re adding Dinah’s site to our permanent Recommended Sites list today — and we’re suggesting that you follow her work, over time.

    THE TRUTH IS that a whole lot of authors and publishers are eager to interact directly with readers via the Internet these days.
    Popular author Phyllis Tickle is just about to publish a new book for the Lenten season, “All the Words of Jesus.” Her publisher for the book, Jossey-Bass, is developing a Web site in which various people will be invited to file daily stories and reflections about the ideas raised in Phyllis’ book.
    Of course, this is similar to some of the projects we are unfolding at ReadTheSpirit, like our new Interfaith Heroes Month landing page. Click Here, if you want a glimpse of Phyllis’ page-in-progress. Come back to ReadTheSpirit on the last Wednesday of this month, just prior to the release of Phyllis’ new book and the opening of her new Web site, to enjoy an extended Conversation With Phyllis Tickle. In addition, if you’re following Phyllis’ work closely, here’s a link directly to Phyllis’ personal Web page.

    THROUGHOUT THESE NEW PAGES by Dinah and Phyllis, it’s obvious that authors and publishers are eager to establish direct links with readers.
    Among the most ambitious in this new-style approach to creating these direct links is the venerable publishing house Beacon Press. This is one of the great, historic houses in American religious publishing, established a little more than 150 years ago with longstanding ties to what is now known as the Unitarian Universalist Association.
    The non-profit and inclusive mission of this publishing house led to some of the most important publishing milestones in U.S. history. At various times, Beacon published James Baldwin, Cornel West, Mary Daly — and the hugely important “people’s historian” Howard Zinn. Among its landmarks, Beacon also counts Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” (If you’re a fan of Frankl’s work, come back to ReadTheSpirit later this month for a special piece by poet Judith Valente on “10 Books That Changed My Life,” where you’ll read more about Frankl’s book in particular.)
    This is the kind of publishing house that inspires you to buy their books simply as a vocational mission to encourage important new voices to emerge in our culture. Buying a Beacon book is a good deed in anyone’s week!

     (We’ve already been recommending one of the popular Beacon titles, Eboo Patel’s “Acts of Faith. Click on the cover of his book to jump to our ReadTheSpirit-recommended Bookstore.)
    Well, Beacon finally ventured into this new-style online approach to speaking directly with readers in September. Their new site is called The Beacon Broadside — and we’re also adding that to our Recommended Sites list.
    I spoke via email last week with Editor Jessica Bennett, who runs the site now. Jessica is a veteran of innovative literary ventures. For a while, she was an assistant editor over at Rain Taxi, another noble name among readers of independent presses and fans of fresh approaches to literary criticism.
    Here’s part of what she said in her email to me: “I’m honored to be working for a press that publishes such consistently courageous, thoughtful work.” And about the new Broadside project? She said, the “project is such a wonderful experiment in how we can translate some of our dedication to issues of social justice, religious tolerance, and our other missions to the web.”

    To all of these ventures, we say: Blessings upon you all in the New Year!

PLEASE TELL US: “What are YOU reading?” Or, “What
are you seeing that inspires you?” We always welcome your suggestions
of books, films, even TV shows or other media that move you spiritually.

THINK ABOUT FORMING a ReadTheSpirit discussion circle in the new year! Click Here to read our earlier “how-to-form-a-circle” story.

CLICK on the Comment link at the bottom of our online story to leave a Comment for all of our readers. Or, Click Here to email me, ReadTheSpirit Founding Editor David Crumm.

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