Episode 6: Behind the Scenes

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(Edited Transcript of Podcast)
 
What is Reading and Readers? How did it come about? What goes into making a podcast? Where is this podcast going? All these questions and more answered in today’s special episode.
 
Hi, my name is Terence and I’m your host for Reading and Readers podcast where I review Christian books for you. Except I’m not reviewing any books today. One of my favorite things to do in terms of the movie experience is to watch the Behind The Scenes feature where the director shows you what goes on behind the camera. So today we’re just gonna do a bit of that.
 
First up let me explain something odd about this book review podcast and that would be the cover art. The cover art does not have any books or bookshelves or persons reading books on it. Instead what you get is a desert, a river and leaves. So what’s up with that?
 

Desert Alive And No Books In Sight

The reason behind that just to give you the behind the scenes look at what goes on here. I hired a graphic designer, Hanna, to do the cover art. And that process of me getting the graphic designer and also choosing the song for this podcast is an episode by itself. But anyways, I was trying to describe to her what I intended for this podcast.
 
In my first draft to her, I explained that the way I see it, many people, their lives are like a disaster zone. It’s like an earthquake or tsunami and people are struggling in their lives. So I see my role as bringing some aid, some encouragement, some light into their darkness and struggle because I think a good book can do that.
 
A good book can shed some light into many things whether it’s suffering or God’s sovereignty or temptation and so on. A good book can explain many things because many writers spend time to think about those things. A good book can do good. And I was describing these things to Hanna. And I wondered whether there was a biblical metaphor to describe what I just said. What came to mind was Isaiah 35.
 
Let me just read from Isaiah 35. It’s a familiar one. I read from verse 1 to 2 and later verse 5 to 7.
 
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
 
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
 
If you can just imagine, if someone was to draw it out or animate it or make a movie out of it. It’s such a glorious thing when the God comes and out of the desert there is life. So to me it’s such an inspiration for what God can do in people’s lives. And I find that my role, if I can put it that way, is maybe my one small role is to share what I read in the hopes that it can bring life into your desert and barren thoughts or struggles.
 
behind the scenes reading and readers
 

There Is A Book For That

Before I started this podcast journey, I was already sharing book reviews. For example, once there was a young lady who asked about what I think about emotions in the worship service. Because you have people arguing. On one side, they say that an emotion-led service is a problem. The problem being that truth may or may not be told. Your emotions go wild and once the emotion subsides, what do you have left? Then you have the other group who says that an emotionless service is a problem because there is no feeling, there is no heart, there is no joy, there is no zeal. And so they say that services with no emotions is a dead service. So this young lady asked me what are my thoughts and I directed her to Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards because I read that book and to me he just conclusively, he just made it very clear the role of emotions and religious affections in the Christian life. So I directed that book to her, she went to buy it and she read halfway. She hasn’t finished it yet but she found it useful.
 
Then on another day a young man asked me for book recommendations. At that time Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency was available for free. So I asked him to read it. He finished it and liked it. We had a couple of conversations about how to apply what we have read and he asked for more book recommendations. I gave him a few books from my library.
I mentioned young man and young woman because it’s part of my ministry. I look after youth ministry in my church and later on these youths become young adults. And I continue to mentor them and one of the ways I mentor them is by recommending books.
We have this chat group where we ask questions and one young lady was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship. She posted screenshots, parts of pages, where she doesn’t understand and the people in the chat group then discuss about what Bonhoeffer meant. So we have a conversation around that book.
If you think that I’m surrounded by readers, it’s not really true because by far these are a minority in my circle, but I do encourage those around me.
 
If given a chance I would share, I’ll share about the books that I’m reading, I’ll share about how this particular book can help you. And I just want to extend that love of reading good books to the people around me.
 
Now, just because I enjoy reading books doesn’t necessarily mean that a person would enjoy reading reviews. Now for that I have to thank Tim Challies. I got introduced to challies.com many years back and I read his book reviews. It struck me that I enjoyed reading his book reviews. It was a very interesting thing for me that I learned from the book review without reading the book. And he made me interested to get those books and to read them. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Tim Challies for his book reviews over the years and the many books he recommended has indeed helped me.
 

Free Book? Good!

As you have heard, I help young people and one of the things I try to get them to do is read books. One of the reasons why they tell me they don’t read is because good books are expensive. Sometimes I would put to them and say that well, it seems that you guys can afford games and movies and expensive coffee. But yes, good books are expensive.
That’s why I chose to review Faithlife’s free book of the month. In the first place, I’m already buying and downloading their books every month. I was thinking that if I reviewed these books then they can hear me share about why this book is worth reading and maybe it would just compel them and also you dear listener to download a free book. Did I mention, it was free? So that’s why I do what I’m doing over here in the hope that more people will read.
 

Books Are Harder To Review Than Movies

Sometimes the book reviews is for a buying decision. But now because it’s free, there is no buying decision. The other decision is whether do you want to commit a portion of your life to reading this book. Is this book worth reading? So that’s my role as well.
 
The other thing I noticed is that some people don’t read reviews to make that sort of decisions. They read reviews to know what other people think about the book. So that’s what I try to do here as well. And when I say the book is good or book is bad, I try to be very conscious of the fact that these writers spend a lot of time writing. So writing is a craft and I appreciate them. The five books that I reviewed for this podcast, they’re all written by Christians by godly men (so far, it’s all men). So I when I criticise their work, it doesn’t mean that these are bad works. It just means that I personally don’t like the book. And I give reasons why.
 
Similarly some people may not like certain movies or like certain food or like certain songs. So it is a preference sort of thing. I try to be gracious and yet truthful to what I think. I reserve my harsher comments on false teachings and books that distort the faith. So far we have not reached those books yet. But maybe one day I will share a few books that I have been very critical because they distort the faith.
Now let’s talk about something else. What happens in making a podcast because some people may want to know what’s happening behind here. Well, first of all, I have to read the book and it’s not like watching a movie. I say that doing a book review podcast is a lot harder than doing a movie review podcast. Now, a movie reviewer could actually disagree. And until that day when we have a face off and maybe a bit of a debate, I think that watching a movie only takes two hours, even the tv series, which takes how many hours, it doesn’t compare with the complexity and time and effort that is needed to actually read a book. So reading a book is hard-ish compared to watching a movie.
 
And reading a book to review is a bit different from reading a book for my own self. To write the review, I have to do a bit more research. For example, for the first podcast episode, it’s Deep Church by Dr Jim Belcher. Now there were so many reviews. That book was released 10 years ago and when it was released, there was so much noise, there was so many people saying it was such a great book, so many people saying that it’s not. So 10 years later, I’m trying to make sense and adding my thoughts into that conversation. On the other hand, you have Dr Dru Johnson, which is the fifth episode. Now, he wrote the commentary on Genesis 1-11 and I think that he is not as well known as the other four authors. Dr Jim Belcher, Dr Russell Moore, David Jeremiah, or Skip Heitzig. So Dru Johnson is an author that is not very well known. So I have to research him a bit more and I hope that more people will read it, even though he may not be as well known as the other four. Okay, so that is the the reading and the review part. So I have to structure all my reviews and do a bit of research around the book and the authors and the theme.
 

Podcasting Is Technically Challenging

Then we have the technical part. The technical part is things like the recording, the uploading, the distributing and so on. So, for example, for this podcast, I had to research on microphones. I’ve never dealt with microphones other than use them. So now I have to research a bit on what is a good microphone for podcasts: the different types, different costs, different things that I need to look at. And I got a good one for this podcast.
After that we have editing software. I never use Garageband before. Then I tried it out and I tried different software and I figured out to get a good one to use for this podcast. I also have to figure out on the hosting of the podcast for the audio and hosting the podcast is different from hosting the website. I have to figure out how to make those two things happen.
 
Regarding the podcast host, I’m very happy to use a bCast. bCast is very new but they have many interesting services. One of them is transcription. So after I have the audio of the podcast, I upload it and then I can click a button and I can get the transcription. The text is not perfect, I have to edit it so that takes time as well. But it’s nice to have that service packaged in this podcast host. I will leave an affiliate link at the bottom because I think it’s quite good. So if you are interested, you can just have a look at this bCast as a podcast hosting service.
 
So the other thing which I have to do is social media. Now if you know me, I’m really not keen on the whole social media scene. I really don’t like it because I’m a bit old fashioned even though I’m in the youth ministry. Anyways for this podcast, I created a Twitter and Instagram account. I’m still not sure whether at this time whether to create a Facebook Page. But anyways I’m putting it out there. I’m not sure yet what I’m gonna do with them, but I’m hoping that I can just use it for conversation rather than just promotion and advertising. I have those social media channels if I need to and at the moment I just have to think about what am I gonna do with them. So that’s part of the learning curve I guess.
There’s a lot of learning curve in doing this podcast. More than I thought. I thought all I would do is record and share. So I wouldn’t be doing much more than what I normally do with my friends or the young people here. But in the end, I had to spend quite a bit of time on many things.
 

The Future of Reading And Readers

So let’s look into the future. I’ve told you how this podcast came about and what is required to get one episode out. Now let’s just share a bit of my vision for this Reading and Readers project.
 
I hope that in six months time I would be able to apply for the Faithlife affiliate program. I don’t know exactly all the details on what I will get or be able to benefit as an affiliate but I am a big fan and customer. I’ve got so many of their books. I’m hoping that by being an affiliate there is something that I can offer to listeners or readers, whether directly or indirectly.
 
 
In six months time. I’m also looking at Crossways Blog Review Program. They have a six months minimum for people to apply. And if I do get in, if they approve me, I will be able to access pre-release books which means that I can review some of those books earlier. If I can review earlier you can make an earlier buying decision. That could be important if you are looking to buy a book for a friend or family in time for their birthday or Christmas or a special event. So I’m looking forward to get early reviews out so that you can make a timely buying decision.
 

Community of Christian Readers

Looking beyond six months, I have big hopes for this podcast but I do struggle with making sure I don’t get too far ahead of myself. The important thing is whether we can build a community, whether we can get enough people who are interested in this niche, this Christian book reviews. And if we can have a community of people then the things that I mentioned just now, like affiliates and blog review program, those things can easily happen.
But if it’s only just me talking to myself, which is one of those nightmares that I have regarding this podcast, you just throw it out there and and the only person listening to it is me.
 
So anyway, if we can have a community that can gather together for Christian book reviews, the same way that there are communities that gather for camera or microphone reviews or entertainment, like music and movies. If they can have communities around those things, I think we can have a community for Christian book reviews. I’m sure there are people out there who love to read Christian books. Otherwise all those books are published for who? I mean it must be for people who like to read them. Right?
 
So I hope that enough people enjoy reading and listening to reviews like I do. So that’s why every episode I ask people to subscribe or write a review and even visit the website so that we can build this community.
 

Sharing a Good Thing

And there is a reason. I’m gonna explain to you because maybe some of you don’t know why. Why is it that every podcast asks that you subscribe or download or share the podcast with a friend? And the reason is because when you subscribe, it actually does something to the algorithm. That’s how channels and podcast go up the ranks when you search for something. What pops out? What pops out depends on the level of interests and the level of interest is dependent on subscription, downloads and so on. The more people like it then the more people will see it and this creates a virtuous cycle and that is what every podcast and every channel Youtube channel and so on is going after.
 
And what does that mean for this Reading and Readers podcast? If you like it and you subscribe and you share your friends and more people get into it, what happens is that the chances of this podcast coming up in a search becomes higher so that other readers, other would be readers, are more likely to see this and my hope is they can get introduced to good books.
 
As I mentioned early on, a good book, can turn the desert into life and help some gain a fresh perspective on their situation. There are so many books and I don’t want to review them here now, but there’s so many books that makes me savor the salvation that I have. There are books that has made me humble by the lives of the saints. I mean I was sharing with this young brother and he said look at Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve read the mini biographies and I’m so humbled by what they have done in their sacrifice for the faith.
And yes, I can now have a conversation with this young man about all these Christians and not idolizing them but sharing about what the faith has meant to the saints. And I think it’s just a wonderful thing. If more people know who Amy Carmichael, Bonhoeffer, Liddell, Spurgeon and so on, if they know more of these names, I think it would be a great benefit to the Christian life.
 
I can go on I can go on but for now I just want to say that this is a behind the scenes look at Reading and Readers. If you like what you hear, if you like the book reviews, share it with someone, tell someone who likes to read or someone you think would like to read one day and encourage them to listen and pick up a book to read. If you like this podcast, please subscribe, write a review and visit the website. Readingandreaders.com. And with that thank you very much for listening. I don’t know what the future holds but I trust in God’s Providence. Until next time, keep reading.
 

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