Breaking Bread with the Dead

I tweeted this news a while back, but am only now finding time to write about it at greater length: My next book will be called Breaking Bread with the Dead: The Case for Temporal Bandwidth, and will be published by Penguin Press (probably in 2020). You can find a kind of preview of the book by reading this essay I wrote for the Guardian.

I think of this book as the conclusion of my Pedagogical Trilogy, the first volume of which was The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and the second of which was How to Think. Finding delight in reading, learning to think well in opposition to all the social forces that impede thinking, drawing on the wonderfully diverse intellectual resources of the past — these three themes encapsulate much of what I have tried to teach my students for the past thirty-five years.

I have found over those years that when I’m working on a book I don’t do well when I have only that book to work on. Some days I just can’t make progress — most often because I’ve been thinking too much about the issues involved — and I need to get away from the project. I can achieve that best when I have a very different, but also intellectually demanding, project that I can turn to for a brief time. (This is why I sometimes have two books appear within a relatively short period of time: I had two come out in 2008, two in 2011, two in 2013, and two within nine months in 2017 and 2018.)

The second project that I’ll occasionally turn to while my primary attention goes to Breaking Bread with the Dead is my long-meditated treatise on what I have sometimes called Anthropocene Theology — though the working title is now The Far Invisible: An Anthropology for Failed Gods. I have about 80,000 words of that book written, though many of the current words will be replaced by others and there is still a great deal yet to write. But here I want to emphasize that I have not abandoned that project; indeed I am more committed to it than ever. It’s just going to take longer than I had originally thought.

One interesting thing about this particular pairing of projects is that one is very much oriented to the past and the other very much occupied by the future. I’m excited to see how each influences the other.

is it okay to share praise?

Philip Jenkins in the Englewood Review of Books on my book The Year of Our Lord 1943:

Alan Jacobs has written a brilliant contribution to the study of modern Christian thought. By focusing on a single pivotal year during the Second World War, he traces the reactions of a stellar group of Christian thinkers to the ethical and spiritual crises of the age, and how they saw the prospects for building a new Christian civilization in the postwar era. The discussions of individual thinkers are impressive enough, but the conspectus approach allows us to comprehend the critical issues with special clarity. In its innovative structure, the book offers an exemplary model for the writing of intellectual history.

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