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Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

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4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  34,435 Ratings  ·  2,058 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced ...more
Paperback, 275 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Anchor (first published January 19th 1999)
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Carol Kroker yes, I would categorize it as autobiographical and spiritual.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Memoirs by Women
38th out of 1,624 books — 2,029 voters
Traveling Mercies by Anne LamottThe Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas MertonConfessions by Augustine of HippoSurprised by Joy by C.S. LewisA Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
The Best Spiritual Autobiographies
1st out of 82 books — 103 voters


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Community Reviews

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Aileen
Sep 15, 2007 Aileen rated it it was amazing
I bought this book the day before I had a late-night conversation with life-time friends about religion, and heritage, rational thought vs "faith," and personal responsibility. I learned a lot from that conversation. Indeed, I think I keep learning from it. Perhaps reading this book prolonged those lessions. At the very least, it kept alive in my own mind the debate. Can a rational, free-thinking, independent person have religious faith? Is there any good in organized religion? Do we have an obl ...more
Jocelynlt
Feb 24, 2008 Jocelynlt rated it it was amazing
I flat-out love this book. It's probably my favourite book ever, certainly my favourite book on faith and spirituality. Annie Lamott earned her place as my very favourite Author and person-I-want-to-be-like-when-I-grow-up with this book. It's a "spiritual memoir" of sorts, written by a funny, idealistic, liberal, reformed imperfect prophetess alcoholic. This book has perhaps the best description of God I've ever read - God as cat at the door. We are all glad Annie invited him in.

Anne Lamott has
...more
Erin
Aug 13, 2007 Erin rated it liked it
I'm having a hard time identifying why I didn't really enjoy this book. Many of the stories and the related "morals" resonated with me and the author presents them in a very palatable form which is surprising to me given the strong christian current running throughout the book. But yet, I did not look forward to picking this up and found myself reading it just to get it over with.
Kate
Jan 13, 2015 Kate rated it it was amazing
A great writer, whether you like the terrain or not.

I have not read any of her other books, but I am a big fan of this one. It is humourous and dear, ripe with blasphemy and deep spirituality all at once, which is just how i like it.

Anne Lamott writes about life and christianity with very real and human eyes. She is blunt but tender in her thoughts, highly educated and yet unafraid to show sentimentality. She is a bundle of extremes that work together beautifully with all their flaws and jumbled
...more
Megan
Feb 15, 2009 Megan rated it did not like it
Anne Lamott writes sharp, funny, clever prose -- another of her books, _Bird by Bird_, really does give wonderful advice on writing and is how I was initially introduced to her. This book is a number of essays on a variety of issues -- getting older, handicapped people, what you can learn when you hurt yourself on a ski slope. She can be quite smart and very cute. But although she has a "love everyone" approach and is all about forgiving and laughing through life's brokenness and hurt... it all ...more
Jeannine
Nov 03, 2007 Jeannine rated it it was ok
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I don't really know how to express them clearly, so just let me know if you want a more detailed explanation!


Reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz gave me some clarity as to why I didn't like Traveling Mercies. On the back of Blue Like Jazz, a commentary compares Miller and Lamott, but I completely disagree with that comparison. Before becoming Christians, both had very strong adversions to Christianity and yet both decided to give their lifes to Chr
...more
Susan B.
Nov 05, 2007 Susan B. rated it really liked it
Anne Lamott is a person who has lived a lot of life and managed to come through the other side. Thanks to her good sense (and good sense of humor) this book is not so much a victim-y detailing of her descent and recovery, as much as it is a compelling story of how she began to catch glimpses of grace in everyday living. To this end, she offers a series of short vignettes on various topics including hair, beauty, illness, kids, family relationships, politics, music, drugs, eating, sex, etc. All a ...more
Jon
Feb 03, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
This came highly recommended by a Goodreads friend, and I've found it just as good as he said. At first I was a little put off--the author grew up on San Francisco Bay, the daughter of comfortable liberal parents, and one would suspect that she'd only have the blues 'cause she ain't got nothin' to have the blues about. But one would be wrong. She is a very sensitive, funny, and open-hearted writer, not ashamed to admit her inadequacies. She spent most of her time from high-school to early thirti ...more
Stephen M
Jul 10, 2011 Stephen M rated it it was ok
Recommended to Stephen M by: A friend's mother
All I should say, is that this book wasn't for me.
Perhaps if I was twenty-five years older and a women who frequently goes to church, then I would really be taken away with this one. I understand her appeal as a writer, but it didn't get me.
I'm not anti-religion by any means, I'm open to spirituality; that is probably why I read this book. However, I don't think at this point in my life it means much to me. But who knows? Life changes.
Heather
Jun 18, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing
if I were in the position of Saint Peter, I don't know if Anne Lamott would make it through the Pearly Gates. But I'm not, so I absolutely loved this book that tickled my funny bone and stabbed my heart. The account of her conversion was powerful and hilarious: "Fuck it. I quit. All right, Jesus, You can come in." After being at Mount Level, her descriptions of Saint Andrew resonate deeply with me. I adored her descriptions of her friends as unrelentingly beautiful. Indeed, her capacity for incr ...more
Kurt
Jul 23, 2011 Kurt rated it it was ok
The title is a fair summary of the contents of this book. It really is just a collection of thoughts by Anne Lamott, largely on faith. I was expecting it to deal more with a specifically Christian faith, but Lamott really doesn't do that. In an alternate reality, if she had found Buddha instead of Jesus in her time of need, and if she had a strong community that didn't happen to be a church, there are really only three or four pages in this book that would need to be changed to fit her circumsta ...more
Jenifer
Mar 23, 2011 Jenifer rated it really liked it
I liked Lamott's tenderness in the face of real-life situations. I liked her love of community and her reverence for friendship. I liked her admissions of growth and progress while also recognizing her own human error and frailty. She reminded me to be more forgiving and to look for grace in the everyday. I am a better person for having read this.

A couple of things I really liked;

p82. "I called all my smartest friends. All the ones who believe in God told me to pray, so I did. Here are the two
...more
Camie
Oct 28, 2013 Camie rated it really liked it
After reading the first 1/3 of this memoir by Anne Lamott, I found myself wondering how she was still alive. Basically she was an alcoholic, drug addicted, bulemic, teenager who was raised "by a village" since her parents were "otherwise engaged." ( it was after all the 1960's. ) Later on with many of the same problems she also becomes a single mother with very little means. This book takes us on the often precarious journey through her troubled past and with humor and not a small amount of irre ...more
Michele
Jun 26, 2007 Michele rated it it was amazing
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

These are the last three sentences of the book, "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lemott. And they sum up this collection of stories beautifully. This is a book about faith and a book about gratitude. It is intelligent, thought provoking, funny and highly readable. Anne Lemott, Annie--as it appears her friends call her--lets us into her world and shares a very personal and poignant path of a unique and awkward girl taking off her "glasses of puberty" and coming of age.
...more
Sarah
Nov 28, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I'm only writing this because the book's description makes Lamott sound so boringly inspirational, whereas she's a hilarious hot mess and the best spokesperson for faith I can think of.

My two greatest takeaways are: give away your magazines to strangers because they really like that, and you don't have to wait to become an old crone to enjoy being one.
Gillian
Oct 22, 2012 Gillian rated it it was amazing
If you can handle some spirtituality in the form of a black church, Ram Dass quotes, and dreadlocks, then you will thoroughly enjoy this creatively written memoir of a 40-something, single mother, who's been through it all. It includes valuable and often comic insight on alcoholism, relationships with men, food and ourself, as well as motherhood and finding grace in impossible situations. Including a cast of interesting characters, Lamott presents a story to which any woman can not only relate b ...more
Ije the Devourer of Books
Feb 02, 2016 Ije the Devourer of Books rated it really liked it

I wish I had read this book years ago. For me this is more than a story about one woman and her faith it is a story about faith, the single parent and life.

I became a single parent when my son was five and it is the most challenging aspect of my life. The stress and fear of single parenting eclipses the challenges of career, academia and study, priesthood and everything else. It was for me a kind of furnace but one in which my faith became real and I learnt to walk with God just like Anne Lamot
...more
Liz Findlay
Mar 15, 2010 Liz Findlay rated it really liked it
My mother in law gave me this book for Christmas-- it's one of her favorite books. I have to say after finishing it, it just made me love her even more.

I especially enjoyed reading this book as a woman of faith myself. At first glance (or rather, through the first several chapters) it was too easy to say that my faith was very different than hers, and that my own experiences fell at the opposite end of the (faith?)spectrum. However, by the end, it was clear that there wasn't that much different
...more
Rachel
Oct 23, 2011 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography-memoir
I usually enjoy Anne Lamott's writing, but I wasn't crazy about Traveling Mercies. It's a memoir of Lamott's religious faith, which is predominantly Christian but with a little Buddhist philosophy and the occasional slogan from a motivational poster thrown in when it suits her. It's subtitled "Some Thoughts on Faith," yet I get the sense that she hasn't thought deeply about any of this; at times it seems almost deliberately naive. It reads a little like one of those ersatz inspirational blogs th ...more
J.E. Jr.
Aug 15, 2012 J.E. Jr. rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Having read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life years ago, I was familiar with Anne Lamott’s delightful writing style, and thought Traveling Mercies would be a good one to take on vacation. I was right.

Lamott tells of her coming to faith, and of her ongoing struggles with faith, in this memoir. It is fresh with honesty and frankness, almost to a fault; her sometimes-coarse language may make many fellow believers squeamish. Nevertheless, it is an encouraging read for believers who
...more
Ruth
May 02, 2013 Ruth rated it it was amazing
No matter how much I enjoy a book, I'm generally fine with returning it to the library. I'm sad to do so with this one (I'll have to buy it eventually). I've loved Anne Lamott ever since reading 'Bird by Bird,' but this one is--if possible--even more personal and wonderful. I felt hungry for more on every page. The typical wit and what Newsweek calls "ruthless honesty" is definitely in place here; this is not an author who shades her meaning or writes coyly. There are no riddles or abstruse meta ...more
Mikejencostanzo
Aug 21, 2008 Mikejencostanzo rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I thought Traveling Mercies sounded like an interesting book from the title, and was recommended by a fellow overseas co-worker as a good one to read as a world traveler. However, I was disappointed. Maybe my perception would have improved had I mustered up the endurance to stick it out and read the whole book. Traveling Mercies chronicles author Anne Lamott's journey to faith through a diversity of religious & not-so-religious experiences. Since I stopped reading partway, I never reached th ...more
Megan
Oct 09, 2009 Megan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Megan by: Amy Poehler
I adore Anne Lamott and this book. She is the most realistic Christian woman I have read in quite a long time, if not ever. She doesn't claim to have it all figured out and is far from perfect, but she loves Jesus openly and joyfully. Anne honestly writes about her childhood, adulthood and all of the in between times filled with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and pain; and explains how she finally found herself in the most unlikely place by finding Jesus. Without being preachy or making me fe ...more
Bobbi
Aug 22, 2015 Bobbi rated it really liked it
"I don't know why life isn't constructed to be seamless and safe, why we make such glaring mistakes, things fall so short of our expectations, and our hearts get broken and our kids do scary things and our parents get old and don't always remember to put pants on before they go out for a stroll." Anne Lamott did not disappoint in this raw and honest look at life and faith and the daily struggles many of us go through but are afraid to admit to ourselves and others.
Lynne Spreen
Jul 14, 2015 Lynne Spreen rated it it was amazing
I read this a long time ago but it was worth a new visit. Lamott describes her struggle with growing up in a difficult environment, going totally off the rails in young adulthood, and struggling as a single mother. Along the way she discovers the strength in community, shakes off her addictions, and finds her own version of spirituality. She's inspiring and possesses a killer sense of humor. What a great, fun, enlightening book.
Teresa
Oct 30, 2013 Teresa rated it liked it
I enjoyed Anne Lamont's writing style - her contemporary analogies and sense of humor make you feel as if you are having a conversation over coffee with a friend. Her search for God and spirituality seems heartfelt. This book was a series of chapters, each one a short story in and of itself, about various times in the author's life. Some I couldn't identify with, some made me cringe, and some made me laugh (especially the chapter on forgiveness - we've all had at least one nemesis at work that s ...more
Lauren
May 11, 2009 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is officially on my all-time favorites list. Anne Lamott shares her hilariously funny and at times deeply moving perspective on God and her relationship with Him in a way that makes me want to immediately drop what I'm doing and take my daughter to church. I think that everyone can identify with at least one of her struggles, which range from alcoholism to the shape of her thighs.

Her imperfections, to me, make her that much more lovable. I was completely absorbed in her internal strug
...more
Pat
May 18, 2014 Pat rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I am not sure who gave me this book. I like the funny parts and the part about becoming Jewish in college but I think I have had my fill of Anne Lamott for now, maybe forever.

I have to add that the chapter on her mother nearly had me weep. Perhaps this is reason enough to read the book.
Sherri
Sep 13, 2015 Sherri rated it really liked it
No one writes about God and faith and life quite like Anne Lamott. It's true that at times her books can run a little crazy and "off the tracks," but mostly they are funny and inspirational with some real spiritual gems about faith and coping with life despite how messy and painful it can sometimes be. I always come away from her books feeling uplifted and determined to live life with more love for others and gratitude for all of God's many blessings.
Carol
Apr 28, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
I am taking my time reading this book, savoring each chapter. I've become tired of memoir, particularly that of someone who has been abused or who has abused herself, but this little book is different. Lamott doesn't claim to have answers, there is no self-righteousness here and no proselytizing. It's the story of someone who was without faith who came to God much to her own surprise...and, ultimately, delight and gratitude. It's nice, it's sweet but not cloying, it's a pleasure to read. I am ve ...more
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Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity. She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such ...more
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“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” 574 likes
“It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do.” 321 likes
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