When it arrived, I really thought I wasn't going to like this book. It's classified in the "religion/spirituality/general" category and the author, Donald Miller, is described as "the founder of The Mentoring Project (who) serves on President Barack Obama's task force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families". I had also agreed to read and review the book by a specific date (today !) and it only arrived three days ago, so I would have to read it in a few prolonged sittings. I know lots of reviewers brag about speed-reading but I like to take my time and really think about what I'm reading, not just skim through it in the shortest time possible.
I was expecting a religious-oriented self-help book from a very serious, holier-than-thou evangelist/governmental official, telling me what to do to sort my life out in a pretty undigestable and condescending manner.
Instead, I found myself chuckling and imagining the author as the missing member of the Jackass team, as he described holding on to a leather steering wheel cover tied to the back of a car and "sledging" through the snowy streets in a kayak at breakneck speed ! I warmed to him as he mentioned his self-doubts and insecurities due to being overweight and unfit, and I loved his self-deprecating humour.
The story - and yes, this book does have a story, it's not your usual self-help do-this-do-that lecture - explains that the author is contacted by a couple of movie directors who want to turn his memoirs into a film. But his lifestory needs to be rewritten and made more interesting before it will make a good film. This makes the author think that his real life, not just his cinematic fictionalised life, SHOULD be more interesting and he should get out there and do some exciting things. As he says, "A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life." When I was a child, there was a TV programme called "Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?" That's the guiding principle of this book - carpe diem !
At a seminar for would-be movie-makers, he learns that you need "a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it" and this is what he pushes himself to become. We follow him on his self-imposed challenges and adventures and see him develop as a person. And that's it - he doesn't preach or nag or gloat, he just shows us what he did and how he felt and leads by example, showing us some pretty inspirational moments on the way.
I had a short deadline for reading this book (three days) but I actually finished it within a day ! Partly because it's a quick read - the double-spaces between the lines of text give you less words on a page - but mainly because it sucked me in and kept me interested. I kept reading because I really did want to find out if he rose to the challenges, I did want to keep laughing at his silly tales and I did start thinking about his message too.
I would conclude by saying that this is a self-help book for people who don't like self-help books ! The author's references to his religious convictions are not at all "in-your-face" and would not be at all off-putting to non-believers. He tells you how he feels but he doesn't try to tell you that you should feel the same way. It's a great read and will have you thinking - and probably acting - long after you've finished the final page.
star rating : 5/5
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (29 Sep 2009)
RRP : £9.99