Thoughts on future book events

I think our book event over Carter’s Race has gone well. There were lulls in the conversation, but overall it broke with our past pattern where discussion basically collapsed at the end of the book event. Pacing does not seem to have much to do with it — we’ve had fast and slow book events in the past, and the result is the same in that regard. I think the key difference this time was not only Jay’s own contribution, but the presence of a couple of his students (Brandy and Tim McGee) who consistently kept things going.

Looking back over past book events, I’ve been trying to come up with a new approach that will still give us the kind of thoroughness that have characterized our book events while still making the best use of our contributors’ time. In specific, I would like to move away from the chapter-by-chapter summaries and propose a format more like a conference session.

My ideal would be a group of four or five posts of about 500-1000 words addressing a predetermined topic. The organizers could propose certain basic topics (for Jay’s book, something like “what do you think of the link he draws between modern racism and Christian supercessionism” or “what do you think of his use of slave narratives,” etc.) and open the floor for contributors to suggest their own topic as well. Then we would run the book event when we had all posts, including possibly a response from the author, such that it would occupy a week total.

In the lead-up to the event, we would first have an announcement approximately two months before we were set to begin. Then we could have evenly paced open threads to get some warm-up discussion going and also provide some kind of external “deadlines” for those who want to read the book and participate.

So in summary, my vision here consists of several weeks of unobtrusive warm-up/reminders, followed by a week of focused, topical discussions. Does this seem like a workable format?

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on future book events

  1. I think this is a great idea. Replacing the chapter summary/commentary with more thematic pieces is especially helpful. For example, I had already read Race more than a year ago, so the specific nature of the weekly posts were sometimes hard to follow given the time elapsed since, while posts engaging the work’s ideas and arguments as a whole have the potential to be more engaging for people who aren’t reading the book concurrently with the event.

    I also like the idea of welcoming contributions that have the potential to be broader, more diverse, and cross-disciplinary — more than the usual suspects, as long as the proposal is a worthy idea and the engagement is valuable.

    My only suggestion would be not to do the entire event packed into one week. One of the difficulties with the Barth blog conference last year was the incredible time commitment it involved to keep up with the contributions and subsequent comments, whereas spreading it out over more time offers a little bit more room to “keep up.”

  2. FWIW, as an interested onlooker who would be keen to participate if the book was right, yet often struggles for time to follow up on posts and comments let alone this sort of thing, this sort of format that spread things out in the lead up would work well.

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