Statistics that matter only to me

In 2018 I finished reading 143 books, bringing my yearly average for the last eighteen years up to 121.

During the twentieth century, I pretty much read what I wanted when I wanted (aside for school assignments, of course) without operating from lists or keeping any permanent records. In 2001 I decided to keep a list of what I was reading and what I wanted to read, and that action set a pattern that I continue to follow today. Typically I am reading selections from four or five different books every day, not including the Bible which I read through once a year. But I read through sets of similar books: fiction, philosophy, history, science fiction, or the like. Last year I read through the Christian medieval writers, from Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy through the anonymous The Cloud of Unknowing. I finished a series of science fiction/fantasy and then turned to ancient philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. I finished a series of books related to the Nixon administration and Watergate. I also read novels written by Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Portis, Chaim Potok, Marcel Proust, and Thomas Pynchon.

In addition to reading, I also wrote and published. In 2018 I published a study of the parables of Jesus, a collection of essays (most of which appeared first on this blog) called My Best Friend’s Rotten Wife, a study of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, and a collection of short stories.

And, of course, I wrote for this blog. In 2018 I received 7,805 views from 5,223 visitors. I realize that many of my readers have considerably more views and visitors, but I aim for quality rather than quantity. (Who else recently said the same thing?) During the past year my most popular post was “23 Odd Facts about Man in the Moon,” which I suspect must be featured on some Andy Kaufman fan web site. The runner-up was “Hello, my name is Joe,” which I know is featured on a web site about robocalls. Next came “Did Jesus ever have a panic attack?” an essay which I included in My Best Friend’s Rotten Wife. In fourth place was “Four Heavens,” explaining the uses of the word “heaven” in the Bible, including what it means in Genesis that “God created the heavens and the earth” and Paul’s reference in II Corinthians to the third heaven. Finally, a post that I wrote during the 2016 presidential campaign—one which received more than a thousand visits that year—is still performing well. Evidently Google and other search engines consider me a reliable source to answer the question, “Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?

I hope to continue to be a prolific reader and writer in 2019. I have already finished three books which I started last month, and I have several writing projects in store as well. May all of you enjoy your reading and your writing this year. J.

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Of writing many books there is no end

A merry Second Day of Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, and Boxing Day to all!

This morning I updated my page “Books written by Salvageable” to add two books that came out late this year. The first is “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism with additional commentary,” which began as a series of posts on this blog in October 2017 and ran well into 2018, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The other is “Salvageable: A Collection of Short Stories,” which also includes material that has appeared on this blog, generally under the category of “First Friday Fiction.”

In the new year I hope to pick up two projects that I began this year and set aside for a time. One is “Revelation Unveiled,” a study (but not a commentary) on the last book of the Bible. This book will show an understanding of Revelation as a guide for Christians living in the present age, not a countdown of future events that are yet to be fulfilled. It will connect Revelation to the other sixty-five books of the Bible, using them to interpret Revelation rather than the other way around. It will also demonstrate how the Day of the Lord is approached seven times from different directions in the book of Revelation, with a rewind into present times the first six occurrences and a jump into the future new creation only after the seventh view of the Day of the Lord.

The second book I began and hope to complete is a study of how Christians worship. It will look at the traditional form of worship that has been used by Christians over the centuries, the Biblical roots of each part of that service, and some other Christian traditions associated with worship, including the Church calendar of seasons and holidays, architecture, church furniture, and clothing.

Next November I expect to publish the recently completed “Advent thoughts,” with a slight rearrangement to wind up with Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6, rather than having them appear around the middle of the season.

I have several other books written long before I began blogging, and I might select one of them to round out my pattern of four new books a year. But one other book I hope to outline and perhaps begin writing (especially if Revelation or Christian Worship get mired again) is tentatively titled “Embracing the Dark Side.” This book would reflect the mistake many Christians make, thinking that their lives in this sinful world must be marked always with joy and peace, that any episodes of anxiety and depression are sinful and are not part of the Christian life. In part, I plan to refer to Christian works from other times, such as The Dark Night of the Soul, to show that every day in the life of a Christian isn’t required to be sunlight and flowers, and that Christians often grow spiritually during the dark times of their walk more than during the joyful and happy times.

I hope and pray that everyone had a good First Day of Christmas and that all are now enjoying the following days of the Christmas season. J.

Can you judge a book without a cover?

My writing has reached an impasse—a block I cannot surmount—and I hold amazon’s CreateSpace largely to blame for the problem.

Since I was a boy I wanted to write. I loved to read, but some of the books I wanted to read did not exist. My goal was to write them. Over the years I have had various pieces published in a variety of places (receiving little to no payment for them, but at least I am published). Much of what I wrote met other people’s guidelines; what I wanted most to share with the world remained unpublished.

My counselor urged me to believe in my abilities as a writer. She urged me to try self-publishing, telling me about another writer she knows who used CreateSpace to publish a book. For months I smiled and nodded and left the office without any real plan to self-publish. Eventually I decided there was no harm in trying. I found my way to CreateSpace, created an account, and began producing books, just as I had dreamed for so many years.

This summer I returned to CreateSpace with the next book I wanted to publish. All was going well at first; the text was submitted and approved, and the next step was to create a cover. For all my previous books, I was able to create covers through the CreateSpace programming. This time, all the software told me to do was to submit my cover. It offered no help in creating a cover for my book.

A bit of online research revealed that this problem is not a temporary glitch. Amazon is saving money by reducing its services to authors. One of those missing services is the creation of a book cover. They simply don’t do that anymore.

I looked for a template in Word to create a book cover, but the closest I could find is a cover page for a student report. Then I sought online help to make a cover. Adobe Spark looked as if it would be helpful, but once I signed in, I was lost in their programming. The actual creation of a cover with front, back, and spine, does not appear to be one of their services. I tried another service, but when I downloaded their template I received only a template for a front cover, not the entire template for a book cover.

Now I am stymied. My frustration with the current book—so close to being published, and yet so far—has bled over to other writing. It just is not happening this summer. I have two book ideas ready to flow: one on the book of Revelation, and the other about traditional Christian worship. I also have plans to pull together my commentary on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism to publish in the fall. Even shorter works for other projects have been a struggle. I was asked to write short pieces on historic members of a congregation which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. August’s assignment was barely completed on schedule. I have also been assigned a task to write encyclopedia entries on major highways in the state. I finally managed to churn one of those out yesterday, but only with great effort.

I am also studying the theology of chastisement as presented in Hebrews 12. That writing has also proved to be more complicated than expected. It requires careful hermeneutic work, including a study of the key word in question, a sense of the context of the verses in Hebrews that speak of chastisement, and links to other Bible passages that discuss punishment, forgiveness, suffering, and related ideas. Hermeneutics is no stranger to me—I wrote and published a textbook on the subject. But for some reason this particular subject is proving difficult to research and discuss.

If anyone can recommend a way to create a book cover using Word, I will be very grateful. Has anyone out there done this kind of work before? J.

 

Three unrelated thoughts

Much of my spare time this week has been spent proof-reading (or “copy-editing,” as they say in The Biz) my book about the parables Jesus told. I am hoping for a March 1 publication deadline. Because I have updated to Word 2016 since my last big project, I am receiving more editing suggestions from Word. Some of them meet with my approval; in other cases I disagree with Word.

Word does not like the phrase “whether or not.” After further review, I agree with Word that “whether” is sufficient in most cases.

Word suggests a comma after introductory words or phrases such as “therefore,” “of course,” and “so.” Those pauses seem unnatural to me, so I am largely ignoring those suggestions. I find it helpful, though, that Word is underlining them for me; it helps me to see where I have used such phrases too frequently and should remove them or rephrase sentences to make them unnecessary.

As in previous editions, Word 2016 dislikes the passive voice and suggests shifting to an active voice. While this shift might be appropriate in most literature, it can be very inappropriate in theology. A redeemed sinner is entirely passive when it comes to salvation; a sinner’s actions contribute nothing to salvation before being saved, or while being saved, or after being saved. God does all the work to rescue sinners. Until Word produces an edition that is free from heretical tendencies, I plan to continue ignoring its suggestions about eliminating the passive voice.

I only recently became aware of the grammatical suggestion that strings of prepositional phrases be avoided. (The amusing wording of this rule is to ignore them except when one is being led “through the valley of the shadow of death.”) Word 2016 underlines cases where it thinks prepositions are too close together. Unfortunately, this tendency singles out entirely appropriate phrases including “in spite of.”

 

I used some Christmas gift money to buy a DVD of the movie 500 Days of Summer. I did so for two reasons: I enjoy Zooey Deschanel in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and thought I would like to see her star in a romantic comedy; and IMDB recommended 500 Days of Summer to people who liked Ruby Sparks. The movie is enjoyable as it covers a relationship between a young man and a young woman in a nonlinear fashion, more the way he might remember the episodes from a distance rather than experiencing them in order. As a narrator intones at the very beginning of the movie, it is “not a love story.” In fact, it is far more realistic than most love stories. Unfortunately, both 500 Days of Summer and Ruby Sparks seem incapable of depicting a romance without suggesting physical intimacy beginning very early in the relationship. I’d like to see a romantic comedy in which the main characters do not go beyond holding hands and an occasional brief kiss. Maybe Hollywood writers believe that such romances no longer happen in the twenty-first century. (If so, they’re wrong.) Maybe Hollywood writers are engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to undermine marriage and family. (It seems that way sometimes, but I suspect their motivations are more financial than centered on social engineering.) I hesitate to recommend any movie that I would be reluctant to show to my parents or my children, but I confess to enjoying 500 Days of Summer and expect to watch it again soon, to catch the details I missed at the first viewing.

 

This morning while I was driving to work, I saw a delivery truck (painted with the 7-UP logo) in the left lane of the street, signaling an attempt to merge into the right lane. Traffic was tight and other drivers were ignoring the truck driver’s signal, but I held back and made a space for the truck to change lanes. As a result, I missed out on a green light and had to wait through the entire cycle of lights at a busy intersection. Later, I left room for a car to enter the street from a side street. It seems as though such courtesies toward other drivers ought to be rewarded with an extra green light or two, but I guess things like that happen only in the karmic pages.

Writing about writing

I was hoping to publish a new story a week ago for First Friday Fiction, but the writing is not going well. This short story is meant to accompany Alibi or Lie, Tom Haven Takes a Leap, and The Mystery of the Yellow MustangIt takes place during the holiday season of Thanksgiving through Christmas. So far, though, I have not been able to develop the dramatic tension that the other three stories possess. I hoped that, once I started writing, additional ideas would occur to me. So far that has not happened.

On the other hand, I have managed to publish my novella through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace. I will leave it available for free on this site for another week or two before withdrawing it; for those who are interested, the book will sell for six dollars. I had one disappointment while creating the book: none of the stock images available for the cover match the story. I ended up using an image of theatrical masks, which can loosely be associated with the story. I would have preferred either a single rose or a romantic couple in silhouette, but neither of those images was offered. (By the way, more than two hundred people have clicked on my novella page and presumably read at least some of it; two have indicated that they like it.)

Last month I took part in a book signing and sale. Forty self-published authors paid for the privilege of spending four hours in a room at the public library with copies of their books to sign and sell. More than half the people who came to the event had a single author to visit, went straight to that author, and left without interacting with the other thirty-nine. I cannot complain: five of the six books I sold were to one person who came only to see me. Other people cruised the room to see what was available. Two of those visitors made a deliberate effort to visit with each author and to ask questions about our books. Other people were interested only in certain topics, not in everything available. As I mentioned to another author near me after the first hour, “They look at my table and see ‘Jesus’ and ‘Bible,’ and they look away as fast as they can. Then they look at your table and see ‘God’s plan,’ and again they look away as fast as they can.” In the future I think I will aim to have shorter book signings with more targeted audiences, but it was interested to try the library’s event one time.

My family has not sent Christmas cards for several years, but I thought we would send cards this year to the cousins and college friends who have kept in touch in this way. In shameless self-promotion, I will include a note telling what each member of the household is doing and mentioning the books I have published this year. I also have a canvas bag in my car with several copies of each of those books, but I never have the courage to tell people that I have books for sale. The fun is in the writing, not in the advertising and promotion. So far I’ve given away more copies of my books than I’ve sold. But at least I’ve achieved my life-long dream to be an author. J.

Ruby Sparks (movie review)

Five years ago the movie Ruby Sparks appeared briefly in theaters. Reading the newspaper reviews intrigued me and I wanted to view the movie, but it was gone again before I had a chance to see it. This summer, using birthday gift money, I was able to buy a DVD of the movie. It arrived in yesterday’s mail. I watched it last night, and I am pleased to report that it met and exceeded my expectations.

The central premise of the plot is that a novelist creates a character—the title character of the film—and then she suddenly becomes a real person. This story retells the Greek myth Pygmalion, in which a sculptor falls in love with a statue he has carved and a goddess transforms the statue into a living woman. Of course this story has been retold many times in a variety of settings. Ruby Sparks does a better than average job of making the main characters believable, set in a twenty-first century California city.

Paul Dano plays the writer, Calvin, and Zoe Kazan plays the title character. (Kazan also wrote the script for the movie.) Brief appearances by Elliott Gould, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas add texture to the film. Calvin is approaching his thirtieth birthday, having written the Great American Novel while still a teenager. Like many prodigies, Calvin struggles to meet the high expectations triggered by his early success. Early in the movie he is shown in a counseling session in which his self-doubt and fear of failure are clearly revealed. A girl he first meets in two separate dreams, coupled with a suggestion by his counselor, ignites Calvin’s imagination and sends him into a writing frenzy, creating a romantic novel starring his dream girl, Ruby Sparks.

The character of Calvin is well established when the appearance of the real Ruby Sparks begins to be foreshadowed. Her sudden manifestation in his kitchen causes Calvin to doubt his sanity, a verdict in which his brother concurs. Two revelations follow: other people can see Ruby and interact with her, and Calvin can cause Ruby to speak fluent French by adding a sentence to his novel. Calvin soberly locks the text of the novel in a desk drawer, and then he and Ruby establish a beautiful romance.

Of course the magic relationship does not last forever. Ruby wants more excitement than Calvin’s reclusive life offers. She increases her independence until Calvin begins trying to manipulate her through his writing. His own emotional problems are magnified in her behavior, until an ugly and inevitable confrontation between author and character occurs, vividly depicted by Dano and Kazan.

The pace of the movie follows the inner life of the author. His emotional disorders are subtly portrayed in a variety of ways without becoming distracting or insulting. His eccentricities—such as using an obsolete typewriter for his work—are important to the story. Yet many of the reviews I have read this morning miss the point, treating the pace, the actor’s work, and the details—such as the typewriter—as flaws.

Ruby Sparks covers far more than emotional disorders. It delves into the relationship between artists and the products of their art. A creator wants to be in control, yet the creator must also allow the art to develop in its own way. Characters find their own voice, begin to make their own decisions, and even force changes in the plot of the work. I am sure that painters, sculptors, and composers of music can share similar stories of the ways their creations overpowered them and forced them to change the work they were doing.

That said, Ruby Sparks is not a flawless movie. The characters are foul-mouthed and have no respect for the marriage bed (although fornication is not depicted on-screen). The ending tries to be both charming and ambiguous and instead is unsatisfying. One cannot be certain whether Calvin has learned from his experiences or if he is doomed to repeat his mistakes again. Like many good movies, though, Ruby Sparks manages the little nuances which carry the story of the movie without relying solely on dialogue and action. It is more than a romantic comedy; it is a thoughtful approach to creativity and the loneliness of the artist. For that reason alone, I recommend it. J.

Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”. Or so I’m told. The awesome, amazing, astounding, and always adorable “Authentically Aurora” nominated me for this award a few days ago, and I am pleased to accept. Thank you, Aurora, from the bottom of my heart.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same number of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

 

Having already thanked AA, I will now comply with rule number two. The final three steps will have to wait until the end of the week, but I am working on it, I promise.

And, by the way, this happens to be post number 300 on Salvageable.

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to be a successful writer. By successful, I do not mean rich and famous. I want the things I write to be meaningful and helpful to readers. I would like to believe that at least one thing I have written will have enduring value—that it will be meaningful and helpful even after I have long shuffled off this mortal coil.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

My first inclination is to say that I would like to return to my childhood home. Readers of last week’s posts will know that such a visit is no longer possible. I have no burning desire to visit any one place, but I would like some day to see the major sites of Europe, west Asia, and Egypt. On the other hand, China and Japan also interest me. And India….

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

Undoubtedly an introvert. On a scale of one to ten, where one is totally introverted, ten is totally extraverted, and five is purely ambiverted, I would probably score a two. Maybe one and three quarters.

Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?

“Always” is a big word. As a boy, I dreamed of being an astronaut, a preacher, a police officer, a professional baseball player, and an author. As I grew older, author became the main dream. Then I realized that, whatever I did, I wanted to do for Christ and the Church. I received a proper education and began full-time work in the church. After two moves, I realized that what I was doing was not what I really wanted to do. Mid-life crisis? Near nervous breakdown? I’m not entirely sure. I found a different full-time job in the secular world, one that sometimes involves writing but is not focused on writing. I also have two part-time jobs, which keeps me busy. Having the opportunity to write, to teach, and to share the Word of God, I think I am doing what I was meant to do, and that’s good enough for me.

Do you usually follow your heart or your head?

My head. I am Mr. Spock in human flesh. Even my career change, mentioned above, was carefully calculated, not an impulse or a whim.

What are you most thankful for? 

I am most thankful for redemption through Jesus Christ. Without his saving work, nothing I have and nothing I do would have any value.

What’s on your bucket list this year?

I am not a bucket-list kind of person. I tend to live more I the moment, one day at a time. That said, I will have the chance next summer to see something I have always wanted to see—a total eclipse of the sun. Missing that would be an enormous disappointment, so I hope the sky is clear that day.

What’s your favorite food ever?

That depends upon a great many things. At this moment, I am going to say a traditional German dinner of sauerbraten and several sides. The best German food I’ve ever eaten was in the Amana Colonies in Iowa, not far from Iowa City. Over the years, I have learned how to make a respectable sauerbraten in my slow-cooker. In fact, I made some last Sunday.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

When I was preparing to go to college, heading towards a career in the Church, my father said, “J., don’t go to a Christian college. Go to a school where you will learn about the world and about how people think in the world outside the Church.” I took his advice. In religion classes I learned about the historical-critical method of studying the Bible, and in other classes I was exposed to a wide variety of thoughts and attitudes. I also learned how to defend the Christian faith in a hostile environment. As a result, when I began graduate school, I knew what the professors were talking about when they warned us against those things. And I have known how to discuss these things with more light and less heat than happens among many Christian apologists.

Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?

When I was in high school, my grandparents gave money at Christmas to my parents so the three of us could have a nice vacation in the summer. We went twice to the Grand Tetons near Yellowstone National Park and twice to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, staying on guest ranches each vacation. Being up in those mountains was truly inspiring, and I have enduring memories of those trips.

 

My job is not complete until I have nominated other bloggers for this award, but I am done writing for today. More will come later in the week. J.

sunshine-blogger-award

Guest post–Carl’s reply

Once again, I have taken the liberty of correcting some grammar, punctuation, and spelling. J.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to last Friday’s brotherly admonition, although I must say that I hoped for something more from Salvageable. He is the author who invented me, and I expected some sort of defense on his part, rather than leaving it to me to explain myself. Whether he means me to be an object lesson of some kind or he has a different purpose in mind, I’d like him to take the trouble to take my side, at least, if people are going to be expressing their opinions about me as a person.

Be that as it may, I cannot deny that time spent with Number Seven is my most treasured part of every day. Do you know that she has dimples when she smiles? and her eyes twinkle with joy, and she has warmth in her voice that soothes my troubled heart. But if she were to express any concern to me that I am giving her too much attention, I would do three things. I would apologize at the start. Then I would assure her that I am too fond of her to want to harm or threaten her marriage. After that, I would ask her to tell me my limits and to feel free to send me on my way when she feels uncomfortable with my presence. I don’t see how anyone could ask any more of me.

With that said, I want to correct a misunderstanding I noticed in last Friday’s stern warning. The writer compared Rosa, my old flame, to women named Michelle, Jessica, and Crystal. Those names have no special meaning to me. I gather they are characters in some of Salvageable’s other stories. To think that Salvageable would be such a clumsy writer as to keep on telling the same story over and over again with only the names changed is offensive even to me as one of his characters. Treating fiction as thinly-disguised autobiography is a poor sort of literary criticism.

Salvageable likes to say that the first two words of every story are, “What if?” At the beginning, when the story is still developing in the author’s mind, the author might think, “This is what I would do next.” Sooner or later, though, the characters take over the story and do what is most natural for them. By the time the author is writing, the characters are no longer pictures of the author or of other people the author knows. “What if?” has taken a direction which may be very different from the way the author acts in the real world.

At any rate, an attempt to step into a world of fiction to correct a character’s mistakes seems fruitless to me. You might as well suggest to Alice that she not follow rabbits or play with mirrors. While you are at it, you might suggest to Santiago that, the next time he catches a large fish far from shore, he should carve the meat off the carcass and store it in his fishing boat. From outside the story, a reader can see how to fix all the problems facing the characters. From inside the story, life is not so easy.

I will continue visiting with Number Seven as long as she doesn’t object to my presence, no matter what real people have to say about it. While I’m at it, I’m going to become closer to the intern with the blonde hair and the bright blue eyes. She’s a friendly sort, and a man can never have too many friends. Carl.

My name is Salvageable, and I approved most of this message. J.

Seeking advice

I need advice from those of you who are writers (maybe from those of you who are readers too). I’m five thousand words into a story that’s been dwelling in my mind for months if not years. I very carefully chose names for the main characters: Frank, Laura, and Charlie. Yet as I’m pausing to think of the next line before I type it, I frequently think of Frank as Larry, and I frequently think of Laura as Carol. Should I stay with the names I chose, or should I change Frank to Larry, change Laura to Carol, and maybe change Charlie to Wally or something like that?

Your opinion matters. J.

About last weekend–reading and writing

Reading and writing were two goals I had for this long weekend. On Tuesday morning, I look back at the past three days, and I see a glass half-full and half-empty. I did some good reading and some acceptable writing, but a lot of other tasks went undone.

Over the weekend I composed a two-part essay on post-modernism and Christian faith. The second part is not finished, and the whole essay needs more polishing. I might not ever post or publish what I wrote this weekend, but at least it has helped me to focus a bit more on these issues.

Among the things I read this weekend were portions of a writer’s notebook I created when I was younger (so much younger than today…). Back then I kept track of my short story ideas by swirling them together in a longer work in which they occasionally became entangled with each other. Part of the inspiration for this style came from Arthur Hailey (Airport and Hotel) and Allen Drury (Advise and Consent and its sequels), but a stronger influence was Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions), with his minimalist approach to description. Friends who read portions of this notebook compared it favorably to Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), whose work I had not read when I started that notebook. This weekend I’m reading through this older writing to see if anything can be culled from the various plots and characters to stand alone as a short story. If I find anything I like, I will share it.

Last month I created a new WordPress blog containing a book I wrote a few years ago for a class I was teaching. The blog is not quite complete—I’ve not had time to read every post to make sure that I didn’t drop or repeat sections when uploading it, and I’ve not selected tags and categories for it yet. If you’re interested, though, you can find it here. The class was for church workers and was called Principles of Bible Interpretation. Technically, the subject was hermeneutics, but I tried to avoid technical terms in the book. (Exegesis is reading the Bible to learn its message—the “what” of Bible reading—and hermeneutics is the rules by which we read—the “how” of Bible reading.) Of the books selected by the program directors for teaching this course, one book was meant for graduate students, and the others (though more readable) disagreed with key teachings of my denomination of Christianity. Hence I wrote and used this book, trying to make it both approachable and doctrinally correct. It has since been used by another teacher of the same course. I thought I would make it available as a free online book. At first I called it “How to Read the Bible,” but the proper title of this book is “It’s All About Jesus: A Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Bible.” I hope you will take a look. J.