Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Telling Secrets” as Want to Read:
Telling Secrets
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Telling Secrets

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  1,022 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
With eloquence, candor, and simplicity, a celebrated author tells the story of his father's alcohol abuse and suicide and traces the influence of this secret on his life as a son, father, husband, minister, and writer.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published 1991 by Harper San Francisco
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Telling Secrets, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Telling Secrets

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 17, 2015 Beatrice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'll return to this one, both mindfully and with re-reads, because already within two weeks after having completed it this book has been very influential in my behavior, decisions, and general understanding of myself. Telling Secrets is beautifully honest and true. A wonderful read.
Sep 01, 2013 Maxwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute must-read. Moving, inspirational, raw and real. This book will take everything you think you know about your self-perception and cause you to reconsider how you express that.
Mar 10, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Buechner's work, period. While reading his books, I'm frequently struck with an odd sense of familiarity, realizing only after considering that he just essentially said (in a much more eloquent manner) something that I've been wrestling with, thinking about, praying through, and more. He's incredibly quotable, as well.

'Telling Secrets' is a very personal, raw, and open book - if you're looking for something prescriptive, or specifically theologically pointed, you may do best to read somet
Jun 06, 2010 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very important book. Beautifully written, of course, Buechner can only write beautifully. Buechner's father committed suicide when he was 10 years old. The book is wise, full of grace and hope and very tender. It relates how harmful secrets can be and it recounts what God can do when secrets are exposed to the light of day.
Helena Sorensen
Jan 22, 2017 Helena Sorensen rated it it was amazing
I love Buechner for his honesty and his gentleness, and this book has deeply impacted me. I have no doubt I'll return to it.
Mar 12, 2008 Joel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Buechner's pen inks poetry, his words elegant and thoughtful. I enjoy reading him for his prose alone.

But this third memoir on his life runs too relativistically. He responds to a Divinity student with a humanistic athiest worldview, "Maybe she was right," Another student, a Unitarian Universalist, said he believed in "faith." When questioned "faith in what?", he responded "faith in faith." Buechner responded "he was doing the best he could." His mystical side comes out as he reflects on are any
Jim Ainsworth
Nov 14, 2013 Jim Ainsworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book sat on my books-to-read shelf for a long time, possibly a decade. I don’t recall why or when I bought it and can’t explain why I never read it until now. Maybe it was waiting until I needed it. I think that happens a lot.

This is my first read of Buechner’s thirty books. It’s difficult to describe. He is an ordained minister who writes fiction and non-fiction. This memoir is in three parts. The titles seem allegorical, but Buechner delves into very real, personal and tragic events in h
Rebekah Choat
Oct 13, 2011 Rebekah Choat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Telling Secrets is Buechner’s third volume of autobiography/memoir. The two earlier books, The Sacred Journey and Now and Then, dealt with what he calls the headlines of his life – his birth, his father’s death, the family’s moves to various different cities, school, marriage, and the like. This book turns to “the back pages of the paper where I have always thought the real news is anyway,” the interior life.

The author does an admirable job of sharing and exploring the secrets of his own life wh
Webster Bull
Oct 14, 2012 Webster Bull rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith, memoirs
For long stretches of this memoir, Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, writes like he can’t stop sermonizing. His prose is beautiful—too beautiful to make you think he ever really hurt over the secrets he claims he held onto for too long.

But the book is constructed cleverly like a descending spiral. Early on, he gives up one of his two big secrets (his father’s suicide) and then quickly the other (his daughter’s anorexia). Then after passing on to other matters, which include his troubed/troublin
Sofie Brånedal
Aug 19, 2015 Sofie Brånedal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is what candor looks like. There is so much truth in this. I have not read anything like this before. It is not so much what he says as how he says it. It is to real to be a novel but also to personal to be a Christian non-fiction. A memoir is obviously something else entirely. I loved the melodic language. I loved Fredericks way of expressing complicated aspects of life by elaborate thoughts through the simplest of words. There were a few times where I struggled following his line of thoug ...more
Mar 08, 2009 Marion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last in the series of masterfully written 3 memoirs in which the author's personal journey of faith pierces the darkness of family secrets and denial, thus illustrating his central theme that redemption is available to all.
Jan 25, 2014 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My copy of this book has notes and highlights and underlining on just about every page. Buechner's honesty and storytelling has made my life richer. I highly recommend this for anyone struggling to make sense of complicated family histories.
Aug 20, 2009 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Frederick, I think you might be my soul mate. Your writing stirs me deeply and puts words to experiences I have not been able to verbalize. I will be reading more of you!
Jan 07, 2017 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An encouraging read that hit the mark for this season in my life and the life of my community. Robust insight into the nature of our humanity--hopeful, with devastatingly honest and contemplative remembrance of some of Buechner's experiences. I would highly recommend.

"I have called this book Telling Secrets because I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tel
Feb 22, 2010 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last week I went to my favorite used book store for a girls' night out with a friend. While there, I found this book. I've been wanting to read something by Buechner for a while now and the description on the back sounded appealing and familiar. Like Buechner, I am the child of an alcoholic. Unlike him, I'm still working up the courage to see and know clearly what my own secrets are.

I found this book to be a quiet, meditative one. Buechner's style of writing is calming yet insightful. I enjoyed
Jan 24, 2015 Laysee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became acquainted with Frederick Buechner’s writing toward the end of 2014 when I read “The Alphabet of Grace”. I subsequently picked up “Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner” and “Peculiar Treasures”. From both these books I now read morsels daily like treats to sweeten the day. And yet I feel a strange hungering after other books he has written.

“Telling Secrets” is Buechner’s third autobiography written in 1991. It is about his interior life and what he called “
Jul 06, 2009 Juli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Buechner's books are often so layered that it takes me several times through to catch the brilliance of it all. But brilliance it is. In a memoir, Buechner brings the reader along his journey of processing through some of the hard things in his life. He reflects on the importance of telling our stories - both for our own sakes as much as for others. He writes about the power of remembering and the idea that through remembering we can be blessed and healed (not just cursed by it). Buechner models ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Max rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, with long, rolling sentences evocative of the style of William Faulkner. Buechner extolls the power of story, particularly our "secret stories," to convey the human condition, and foster empathy and love. The storyteller must first and foremost delve into his own secrets if he is to better understand himself first, and then others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Thus, love thyself well. This is all good stuff.

However, the conclusion of Buechner's memoir left me very confuse
Marika Chronister
Aug 16, 2011 Marika Chronister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beuchner has put to words some of the deep "secret" experiences and emotions of my own heart and has done so with eloquence and grace. Although our theological perspectives may not be a perfect match, I'd like to think we could converse with the same open dialogue he enjoyed at Wheaton:

"The result was that to find myself at Wheaton among people who, although they spoke about it in different words from mine and expressed it in their lives differently, not only believed in Christ and his Kingdom m
Mar 25, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs-journals
Telling Secrets is a personal, self-revealing memoir that succeeds and enlightens. The author reveals as necessary without the chronic whining of more contemporary attempts. Rather, like an onion, he peels back those memories that have forged the family. And as a result, the writer and his work. On occasion Buechner does touch on writing, but only here and there and only as it relates to his upbringing and family history.

He shares valuable insight into how we humans stuff our pain away. Buechne
Feb 14, 2010 Gigi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Few authors are as bold, or candid or vulnerable as Buechner. I find in him an authentic wrestler and Christ-follower. He makes me want to be more real and less pretend. He finds words for the indescribable.

His words on story encapsulate why reading this book is important.

My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their pa
Feb 25, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frederick Buechner's book, Telling Secrets, A Memoir, is his journey of making sense of the suffering in his own life. He sees suffering and healing in very human ways. In that way, I found his book really refreshing. He brings an honesty to his faith, that a lot of the Evangelical world would have a difficult time digesting. He talks about God speaking through the hieroglyphics of the things that happen to us. His premise is that in keeping our secrets and pains hidden, we do a disservice to ou ...more
May 25, 2016 Chrystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I don't think I fully agree 100% with the author's theology, I am left undone by the beauty of his words. We need to share our deepest secrets - for the strength of others, but even more so for our own healing. This book has challenged me to let go of the bondage of my story and live in the freedom that all really will be ok. We can rejoice even in the hard parts of our story, because it's those very parts where we have more often than not been met with the undeniable love of God. I'll be ...more
Nov 17, 2016 Joni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was difficult for me to catch the cadence of this author's writing in the beginning. However, as I read on I was touched by the naked honesty of Buechner's prose, and I feel honored to be allowed to glimpse the inner chambers of his existence. It takes a lot of bravery to write like he does.
Mar 03, 2016 Kristy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pages of this book were a 5 and some just did not interest me at all so I had to go with a 3. Overall, it is very short and worth reading for the truth you get.
This was an enjoyable read. Plodding at times, Buechner reflects on hidden areas of his life, and how they've affected him. He ends up drawing some beautiful conclusions about God's interactions with us, our interactions within ourselves, and with each other.
Nov 01, 2011 Jodi rated it liked it
Recommended to Jodi by: Kelly Chirzpatrik
The thing I like about being in a book club is that I must read books I would normally never pick up otherwise. This book is one of those books. The blurb wouldn't have grabbed my attention, I do not know the author, and the cover isn't overly appealing. However, a member of my book club wanted to read it so............I read it. Certainly, not a life-changing book or one I'll remember for ever, but it was a decent and quick read.

The author shares things that he has struggled with in his life -
Brian Whited
Buechner opens the beginning of his book with this statement, “It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing (3).” He warns that ministers are especially at risk. Pastors “tend ...more
Katelyn Beaty
I would probably enjoy reading Frederick Buechner's grocery list, and yet the third installment of his spiritual memoirs, Telling Secrets, was a little underwhelming. It seemed Buechner relied too heavily on squishy spiritual maxims to pack an emotional punch, rather than just telling the readers his life story, in that magical-grandfather way he does. I did, however, enjoy Buechner's section on teaching at Harvard, and especially on his time at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church--primarily because I ...more
Dec 01, 2011 Charis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1 of 3 books on Frederick Buechner's autobiography, Telling Secrets dives into a part of his life that dealt with shame and hurt. For Mr. Buechner, it was a huge revelation and healing opportunity in his life; unfortunately, our world is so broken his story is not as shocking today as it may have been 20 years ago.

However, those who have had shame in their family, a suicide, divorce, abuse, etc., may find this book encouraging and uplifting. It's a simple read and a great reminder of God's grac
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery
  • Brother to a Dragonfly
  • Gracias!: A Latin American Journal
  • Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace
  • The Preaching Life
  • Ragman: And Other Cries of Faith
  • The Gospel According to Job
  • Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
  • Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring
  • The Cup of Our Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth
  • Holy the Firm
  • Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity
  • The Jesus Style
  • Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality
  • Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality
  • Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life
Frederick Buechner is a highly influential writer and theologian who has won awards for his poetry, short stories, novels and theological writings. His work pioneered the genre of spiritual memoir, laying the groundwork for writers such as Anne Lamott, Rob Bell and Lauren Winner.

His first book, A Long Day's Dying, was published to acclaim just two years after he graduated from Princeton. He entere
More about Frederick Buechner...

Share This Book

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ” 196 likes
“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ” 126 likes
More quotes…