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Grace Notes

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  113 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Brian Doyle might just be the most passionate storyteller in America. In this eclectic and compelling collection of stories about discovering the incarnated Spirit of God every time he turns around, often in the most unlikely of people, places, and things. In 37 short snapshots, he captures the spiritual essence of everyday life from the perspective of a committed Catholic ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by ACTA Publications (first published September 1st 2011)
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So here’s where I try to “review” this collection of Brian Doyle essays. These essays are sharp, roomy, poignant, commonplace, apt, wild, grandfatherly, cool, funny, woolly, eye-opening, eye-closing, hysterical, familiar, tickling. Please indulge my attempt at a Brian Doyle–esque exercise.

I was genuinely moved by this collection. I had little tiny post-its to mark the essays and lines that I particularly liked…and then I realized that just about every other essay was marked. Hardly a useful exe
I'm surprised to say that this was the worst book I've ever (tried to) read. I've read some pretty bad books in my day, but they almost always have one or two redeeming qualities, and I'm not one to give up on a book without finishing. This is the first exception.

I simply could not bring myself to keep reading this. I found Doyle's writing style to be unnecessarily complicated, and I had to stop and study almost every sentence one by one. After investing all of that work, I was disheartened to r
Doyle writes like no other. His run-on sentences and jagged style takes some getting used to. I love it. These essays cover marriage and basketball, prayer and bullets. Jump right in.
"I believe with all my hoary heart that stories save lives, and the telling and hearing of them is a holy thing, powerful far beyond our ken, sacramental, crucial, nutritious; without the sea of stories in which we swim we would wither and die; we are here for each other, to touch and to be touched, to lose our tempers and beg for forgiveness, to listen and to tell, to hail and farewell, to laugh and to snarl, to use words as knives and caresses, to puncture lies and to heal what is broken."

Jonathan Hiskes
Nobody writes like Doyle. Nobody. I used to wonder if there were still writers who would flip me on my head the way Duncan, Dillard, and Vonnegut did when I first encountered them. I wondered if you had to be 17-21 to feel that rush. I don't wonder about that anymore.
Nov 07, 2012 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
A book of short essays by Catholic writer Brian Doyle. These were my favorites, in descending order:

1) "A Note On Pornography"
2) "A Child Is Not a Furniture"
3) "The Next Eleven Minutes"
4) "Rec League"
5) "On Miraculousness"
I think I gave Brian Doyle's two novels - Mink River and The Plover - five stars. If I didn't I should have - he writes marvelously. What he might be better known for are simply his stories, his essays, of which Grace Notes is compiled. Doyle's thoughts/words/stories make me smile, chuckle, laugh, weep, nod my head vigorously and say 'exactly so!' They make me look into myself and want to be a better person. He has exactly the perfect word even if it is one he makes up himself. His books, includ ...more
Sublimely down to earth. When he says the Virgin Mary spoke to him once, I believe it.
This collection of poem-essays is purely beautiful. It got into my heart.
Brian Doyle's Grace Notes is a fantastic collection of nonfiction pieces (I guess you would call them essays) tracing manifestations of holiness in family, love, friendships, acquaintanceships, religions, current events, and just about every other aspect of life each of us goes through. Though technically they're essays, they're written as though he's just sitting on the couch with you after dinner, chatting about funny and crazy and horrific and magical things that have happened to him and you ...more
It’s 5:59 a.m. on a Wednesday and I’m reading and laughing aloud at one end of the house, trying not to stir Sleeping Beauty at the other end.
Five days later, at 6:05 a.m., instant replay.
Brian Doyle is to blame.
“Grace Notes,” his new collection of stories, is his weapon.
This is writing to savor in the silence and holiness before the rest of the world wakens.
Goodness the man can write.
Lord he can tell a story.
In “Grace Notes” Doyle tells 37 of them, about himself, about his family, about people
Kylee Buchanan
Grace Notes preserves Brian Doyle's emotional voice. As a speaker, his tone is forceful and passionate, giving his thoughts and feelings and observations of the world while simultaneously calling you to action to feel these things, too. Grace Notes deals with a lot of the nuances of relationships, a theme in his writing. He discusses being a parent and making mistakes, being a husband, being a follower of God. One of my favorite essays in Grace Notes is called Cool Things. Cool Things is a colle ...more
Sarah Wells
I JUST finished Grace Notes by Brian Doyle, literally just finished the last page and set it down on my desk and sat back in my chair and sighed that long, contented, choked up sigh of YES. This!

"...after fifty years, I am absolutely sure what I am supposed to do: sense stories, catch some by their brilliant tails as they rocket by, carve and sculpt them into arrows, and fire them into the hearts of as many people as I can reach on this bruised and blessed planet. That's all. That's enough."

James R
I really was captivated by Doyle's Mink River and was, therefore, very excited to read a book of his essays. I was ultimately as disappointed with it as I was taken with Mink River. There were some brief moments which made me reach for a pen to take a note, but for the most part for me it seemed he was just trying too hard to be clever and soul searchingly honest or too often cloyingly sweet and sensitive. I notice that other readers were attracted to his charms. Unfortunately I wasn't. And for ...more
John Osman
This book was recommended as highly popular with men. Since I was in the process of picking a book for our men's [spiritual] gathering this summer, I started reading Doyle's book with anticipation in the hopes that my search would come to an end.

I need to keep searching.

Doyle's run-on style of writing distracted from his spiritual ends. And not only do you get run-on sentences but they are replete with a litany of seemingly unrelated topics. Perhaps there are spiritual gems in the book [somewher
Linda Gaines
This collection of Doyle's essays is wonderful. He writes of everything from "Cool Things" to "Order in Which People are Admitted into Heaven" ( I'm glad to see I am in the second group due to the Scot RL Stevenson who was Presbyterian).
You will laugh and cry reading these pieces.
Charlotte Davenport
Special moments of being touch by the beauty and pain and joy of life.

The writing is both lyrical and truthful. It could be a moment of prayer or laughter,gratitude or memory bringing. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moment's break. Each story or essay is worthy of spending time on. You might be tempted to read it I. One sitting, but take time to savour.

Mary Helene
Jun 16, 2014 Mary Helene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mary Helene by: Susan Jones Mitchell
Oh, wow. What a show-stopper - and fun, too! I've been reading one small selection every evening. I am learning to trust this man and his reflections tilt my angle on the day. Mr.Doyle is both contemporary and local but I think this is wisdom which can age well and widely.
A mixed bag of essays and stories from his life. Personal, yet I felt a distance from it, and also not in sync with the moralizing that seems inevitable to be passing judgment, loving judgment but still looking at people through the lens of his own religious tenets. Some of the writing was repetitive, I wanted a fuller flower of language to emerge. His book Mink River shows that flowering so remarkably, I couldn't help but be disappointed that this one did not quite deliver up to the same standa ...more
Brian Doyle is a great writer. Different than any I've read before, but he definitely got my attention. I loved how short and succinct each essay was (not longer than a page or two, or a two and a half pages). He has some neat ideas, and a way of saying something that makes you all bubbly inside. My favorite being "sidelong glances from someone you love" in the essay "Cool Things." For more on that rather vague and abstract statement, read the book! Or just read that essay, it's posted on my blo ...more
Lee Anne
It took me a while to get into his rambling style, but then I rather enjoyed his thoughts.
Brittany Wilmes
Another heart-rending, lovely read by Brian Doyle. I can already think of five people I'll be giving this to in 2012. I am so enamored of Doyle's voice and his wise, joyful reflections on faith, family, grace, God, and life.

This book has made me reconsider my religion as relevant again. I kid you not. It has also given me the most poetic image of Jesus I've ever encountered: "the gaunt dusty man with starlight in his veins."
Brian Doyle is a great write. His novel Mink River was excellent. This is a small book of short snapshots, not exactly stories. Heavy on religion, Catholicism specifically, but also universally. (don't shy away because of that) There was a lot of good in here, with a couple of things I really disliked. Overall though, an interesting read with some great snippets. I hope he writes another novel.
Doyle is an observant writer who can make a whole story out of a little boy he passes on the beach. He has a personal touch to his writing that draws the reader in. Though a highly moral writer, at times he bordered on cheesy, but not often. His prose is wonderfully clear and his themes are uplifting. A good read.
Nicole Modugno
Honest to the bones. His structure of writing really bothered me at the beginning, but I have learned to appreciate it. Again, like Albom, so teachable yet not didactic. Such honesty and embarrassment, and information, and lessons learned. It's the kind of book that can change a person, if they let it.
Kat Masek
There are so many passages I had to repeat verbatim to a friend, as soon as possible. Brian Doyle, his soul and his words, make me feel--I don't know how--that doing that will make me, and the world, a better place. I believe it will. He fills me with joy, he makes me weep.
A collection of short, airy, deep, lyrical, messy, happy-sad stories told by Brian Doyle. There were 5 or 10 (out of 37) which I didn't like because of the topic choice, hence the lack of the fifth star in my rating. But the rest were beautiful.
Suzette Kunz
A collection of essays about life, love, and faith. I love Doyle's view of the world. He's very realistic, but very hopeful and had some great insights. I especially liked a couple of his essays about marriage/divorce. Great insight.
Charming and poignant. An amazingly honest voice speaking out for those to whom faith and family are important without a single strain of defensiveness. Short and easy to read essays, an absolute must read for anyone I know.
Lacey Louwagie
Dec 13, 2011 Lacey Louwagie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lacey by: ACTA publications
For my review on this book, please see my post on Young Adult Catholics:
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Goodreads Librari...: Book listed under incorrect author 3 24 Feb 06, 2012 09:12PM  
  • As One Devil to Another
  • The Shaking of the Foundations (Shaking of Foundations SL 30)
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  • The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals
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  • Unraveling: Hanging On to Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage
  • What Is God?
  • What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol, and Story
  • When You're Falling, Dive: Lessons in the Art of Living
  • A Cat Named Darwin: Embracing the Bond Between Man and Pet
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  • The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress
  • Balancing Heaven and Earth: A Memoir of Visions, Dreams, and Realizations
  • Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics
  • Rumi: Soul Fury: Rumi and Shams Tabriz on Friendship
  • Friedman's Fables (with Booklet)
  • Experiencing Spirituality: Finding Meaning Through Storytelling
Doyle's essays and poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The American Scholar, Orion, Commonweal, and The Georgia Review, among other magazines and journals, and in The Times of London, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Kansas City Star, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Ottawa Citizen, and Newsday, among other newspapers. He is a book reviewer for The Oregonian and a contributing ess ...more
More about Brian Doyle...
Mink River The Plover The Wet Engine: Exploring Mad Wild Miracle of Heart Leaping: Revelations & Epiphanies The Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World

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