IVP - Addenda & Errata - Dear Preface Readers

October 21, 2008

Dear Preface Readers

I always read a book’s preface. In fact, I’ll wager a copyright page that if you are reading this blog, you too are a preface reader. After all, if you are taking the time to read an editor’s blog (how geeky is that?), you’ve got to be a preface reader!

But my gentle preface readers, I’ve occasionally run into people who proclaim that they never, or hardly ever, read a preface.

What shall we say about these folks? That they are blunt-nosed pragmatists who only want the book’s freight delivered and don’t care how it came to be or why? That they don’t care how the author’s spouse and children were longsuffering during the birthing of the book? That they don’t want to see if they know any of the author’s friends, colleagues or mentors? No, I’m not being facetious. I want to get to know my author. After all, I’m going to be spending some time with him or her.

Sometimes you encounter whimsy and playfulness when you read prefaces. For instance, in John Goldingay’s preface to his forthcoming volume 3 of Old Testament Theology, he’s pleased to note that he did not die before completing the book, which in turn refers to his preface to volume 2, where he said he’d be embarrassed if that did happen before completing volume 3! (And you will read how his disabled wife Ann will set him straight in their first decade together in heaven.)

In fact, I’ll wager that those who don’t read prefaces are the same ones who think “book people” don’t care about people. How wrong they are! We care enough to listen. Who knows? We might even find the author’s grocery list interesting.

Posted by Dan Reid at October 21, 2008 9:15 AM Bookmark and Share


Shoot, you caught me!

Comment by: Mike at October 21, 2008 10:56 AM

Reading the preface and the introduction of any book is one of my favorite things to do. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I often find myself spending more time with those two sections than the rest of the book. Reading habits are hard to break. Great post! I feel very privileged to be one of your "Dear Preface Readers."

Comment by: Donald Kim at October 21, 2008 10:58 AM

Of course I read the preface as all good readers do. One of my favorite recent discoveries was Rowan Williams's Wound of Knowledge which he wrote at age 29. He thanks his mother for typing it up for him.

Comment by: Andy Rowell at October 21, 2008 11:31 AM

I've always thought of a book as visiting someone's house--you're invited in to take a look around in his/her life or mind, stay for a bit, and then say goodbye. The preface is more like sitting on the porch before you go in, just to get a feel of things. You can learn a lot by sitting on someone's porch...

Comment by: Billy Coffey at October 29, 2008 9:09 AM

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