Two reviews from the top of the stack…

Philip Yancey’s introspective, wise writing has been both a mirror and a pair of binoculars in my life. The reflective nature of his work has forced me to take a good look at myself in Disappointment With God; the binocular view of the struggles of others in Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. But the truth is that most all of his beautifully-crafted writing is both mirror and binoculars. I’ve been a fan since his days writing for Campus Life magazine in the 1970′s.

Grace Notes: Daily Readings With A Fellow Pilgrim (Zondervan) offers up 366 daily one-page readings from Yancey’s prolific career (so far). The readings center on themes like faith, prayer, forgiveness, suffering, church and grace, and are arranged will sensitivity to the days and seasons of the year. For example, the September 11 and 12 entries both offer reflections on the grace Yancey discovered at New York’s Ground Zero in 2001.

The simple volume would make a perfect gift for a Yancey fan or a friend who values the kind of thought-provoking, soul-surprising writing that is both mirror and binoculars.

* * * *

I liked Pete Gall’s first book, the memoir entitled My Beautiful Idol enough to write and tell him so. His funny, messy journey from his job in the advertising industry to world-changer bound to set the world on fire to burned-out ex-superhero was well-written and honest. Gall is back with the next chapter of his story-in-progress: Learning My Name (Zondervan).

Story-in-progress most definitely captures the feel of this book. It does not have a neat resolution featuring the five alliterative steps he took to get fixed. Instead, Gall’s quest for emotional, physical and spiritual health form the narrative of this extremely personal, confessional memoir. Gall is battling obesity, and he begins the journey toward wholeness as he faces down the why of his condition.

His father’s introduction at the beginning of the book brought me to tears. It alone is worth the price of the book.

This was not an easy book to read. Part of me wanted to walk away from the book, to cover Gall somehow – the confessions are so intimate and his wounds so raw that I found myself worried for the very public way in which he is processing his pain in real time. The other part of me, however, felt welcomed into the naked mess of his story. I am broken, too.

Gall is not certain whether his story will have a happy ending. He hopes so, but that hope is not the Braveheart triumphalistic kind of hope that we tend to see in Christian books. It’s small and uncertain, and it’s a costly kind of offering that actually looks more like true worship than a lot of the bombast that passes for it in other circles.

If you or someone you know is battling an addiction or facing down their own brokenness, this book might be a helpful companion. Even without the certainty of a happy ending.

Or maybe, especially because of it.

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About Michelle Van Loon

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