Off to an Excellent Start!


Cynthia Eller

Last Updated Date

Monday, July 18, 2016 - 03:07
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Many thanks to all of you who have discovered Reading Religion in the past week and a half, and who have made this such a thrilling launch. As of Friday, July 15th, we have received over 175 requests to review books! Suddenly our ambition to review all scholarly books about religion seems a little less fanciful.

I want to extend my special thanks to a number of people who have worked tirelessly to make Reading Religion a reality over the past six months. Susan Snider and Rob Williams at the Luce Center in Atlanta took a wish list and made it a website, powering through numerous programming obstacles along the way. Their work will continue over the coming months as we try to bring some key improvements to the website: the addition of a more robust search engine; a subscription service that will allow us to alert you via email to the addition of new books and new reviews; a pop-up window over book jackets that will clearly display each book's title and author (for those of us with tiny screens or old eyes, or both); and a simpler method for AAR members to comment on reviews and get the conversation going. 

Sarah Levine, the managing editor of Religious Studies News, brought her experience and expertise in running a religious studies website to bear on many questions regarding Reading Religion as the site developed. And Aislinn Jones, the Director of Membership and Communications for the AAR, has recently come on board to help Reading Religion find its audience.

At Claremont Graduate University (CGU), C. Travis Webb, editor of Reading Religion, and Tammi Schneider, book review editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, teamed up to dream big and dream often about what Reading Religion could be. The results of their brainstorming are visible on every page of the site.

The editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion patiently waded through hundreds of book summaries, which were presented to them in ever-changing and often inconvenient formats, and suggested the diverse, international group of reviewers that you see on the Reading Religion site today.

Sarah Tomerlin, our first research assistant at CGU, has been a force to reckon with, cutting and pasting and keywording like a champion. She has recently been joined by the indefatigable Lisa Haygood (CGU) and Angela Scott (Claremont School of Theology), both of whom have quickly become expert in tracking books—from their arrival in our offices, to their departure to reviewers, and then as they make their eventual return in the condensed form of a review.

Any project of this size needs a sturdy and comprehensive database, a library catalog on steroids that can store information, log correspondence, and maintain order in the face of the chaos that propagates under the awnings of the big tent that is the American Academy of Religion. That cathedral of information was built by Jonathan Greene, master filemaker programmer, who graciously donated his time.

Ultimate thanks, of course, go to our executive director, Jack Fitzmier, whose inspired idea this effort was.

And what have I done? My father gave me this sage advice when I was young: "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." I have taken this advice as my guide in all things, and certainly in this endeavor. Behind the calm screen of beautiful book jackets that make up the Reading Religion website, know that I am freaking out.

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