Pretty much everything has a patron saint. Under the letter “B” alone, bikers, brewers, blood donors and butlers all have a saint looking after them.

Why not bloggers? The idea has been kicked around and debated in the blogosphere. Non-Catholic blogger Hugh Hewitt (hughhewitt.townhall.com) proposed St. Augustine or St. Hugh of Lincoln. Stephen Bainbridge (professorbainbridge.com) proposed St. John the Apostle, St. Isidore or St. Expeditus. Presbyterian pastor Mark Roberts (markdroberts.com) nominated Martin Luther — while acknowledging the limits of the appeal of that “saint.” The Curt Jester (splendoroftruth.com/curtjester) nominated St. Jerome.

I think St. Jerome won, if popular acclaim in the Catholic blogosphere counts.

I would’ve joined Hewitt and picked St. Augustine. Augustine wrote prolifically and he wrote the first autobiography. Likewise, bloggers write a lot. And a lot of what they write is about themselves. They could also use a stylistically graceful intercessor like Augustine.

I also like Augustine as the blogger’s patron saint because he wrote books. Not only do some bloggers write books — Amy Welborn of amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook, Mark Shea of markshea.blogspot.com and Mike Aquilina of fathersofthechurch.com, to name a few — but bloggers tend to read books, write about books, argue about books, dream about books.

And they meme about books. Book memes are big in the blogosphere.

Oh, sorry. What’s a meme? In the blogosphere, a meme is similar to a chain letter. A blogger answers a list of questions, then tags a handful of other bloggers to answer the same questions, who then tag a handful of others, and on and on it goes.

Memes are kind of annoying, but that didn’t stop me from starting one awhile back. I asked bloggers to list their three biggest books, the type you’d drop on invaders while defending a castle. Some interesting results discussions ensued.

The most recent book meme was called the “One Book Meme.” It asked bloggers to list one book that changed their life, one book they’ve read more than once, one book that made them cry and so on. Faith and Theology (faith-theology.blogspot.com) got that one going, and it had a pretty good run. If it were a monetary chain letter, that blogger would have received a lot of one dollar bills by now.

If you’re thinking all of this sounds decidedly nerdy, you’re right. Bloggers tend to be nerds. But don’t worry. I won’t take offense. My wife calls me a nerd every week. If nerd means “a person who thinks there’s more for the mind than daily news and Stephen King,” you can call me a nerd until the cows with the horn-rimmed glasses come home.

Nerds have a long history. Reading goes back to 4000 B.C., about the time someone in Syria used two clay tablets to draw a sheep and a goat, which, archaeologists assure us, represented the number 10. It’s one of the first examples of writing we have.

I don’t know who read that first wannabe novelist, but someone presumably did. Perhaps he or she sounded out the letters with grunts. A meager beginning, yes, but it got the reading ball rolling. Less than 4,000 years later, grunt-free reading had arrived. Historians say Alexander the Great’s troops were astounded to see him reading a letter from his mother — silently.

Was Alexander the Great a nerd? Possibly, though that doesn’t quite fit his reputation as a great warrior who conquered half the known world and partied so hard that he died of a hangover.

But maybe the nerd label does fit Julius Caesar. He was bald, plus some claim he was the first person to fold pages into booklet form, thereby presaging the book as we know it today.

Maybe Alexander and Julius Caesar could be the patron saints of the pagan blogging community.

Flickering Pages

There’s something about books and blogging that go together like pretzels and beer. Bloggers don’t need books and books don’t need bloggers, but they complement each other. It’s no coincidence that there’s a blog about book publishing from a Catholic perspective (People of the Book at peopleofthebook.us).

Someone once observed that the desire to write makes a person want to have something to write about. A lot of bloggers rely on the Internet for their fodder, but the better bloggers tend to be well-read. They’ve drunk deeply from the book well, casually quoting old books and new, fiction and non-fiction.

In the Catholic blogosphere, you’ll find scores of references to famous Catholic authors: Hilaire Belloc, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh. One blogger even started a blog dedicated to Flannery O’Connor (flanneryoconnor.blogspot.com), though it kind of limps along, like Flannery did: Crippled by lupus, that brilliant shooting star died at age 39.

I often wonder whether the reading blogger is enjoying himself. I know from experience that the blogging and reading combination can put a person in a constant state of mild agitation, as if there’s always something to be done. The poet Wallace Stevens correctly noted that it “adds tremendously to the leisure space of life not to pick up a book every time one sits down.”

Catholic bloggers strike me as the non-leisurely type. I have little doubt that they’re picking up a book every time they sit down. They read all sorts of stuff. Do a fast tour of, say, 25 Catholic bloggers and peek at the links in their side columns. A handful (20% maybe) will have a list of books that they either recommend or are presently reading. Most of the links go to Amazon.com because that online bookstore offers a kickback to referring bloggers.

No Rules, Just Write

Bloggers have eclectic tastes. It seems that few, if any, have an orderly reading plan. Is that a bad thing? Maybe even evidence of a disordered, undisciplined mind?

I hope not. It reflects my reading habits. In fact, I think it reflects the reading habits of most people. Fortunately, the historian John Lukacs once pointed out that there are “no rules about reading, no rules about what should — or will — interest you. What you must do is follow and feed your own interests.”

It’s one of my favorite quotes. I think it should be the anthem of the blogosphere — an arena of unconventional writing where there are no rules, where bloggers follow their own interests, each one doing a little bit to further the great written conversation of Western civilization that has been taking place since a clever fellow in Syria scratched a sheep and goat onto some clay tablets.

St. Augustine, pray for bloggers.

Eric Scheske blogs at

ericscheske.com/blog.