Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World
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Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World

4.42 of 5 stars 4.42  ·  rating details  ·  1,227 ratings  ·  301 reviews
What is this World? What kind of place is it?
"The round kind. The spinning kind. The moist kind. The inhabited kind. The kind with flamingos (real and artificial). The kind where water in the sky turns into beautifully symmetrical crystal flakes sculpted by artists unable to stop themselves (in both design and quantity). The kind of place with tiny, powerfully jawed mites...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published June 30th 2009 by Thomas Nelson Publishers (first published May 30th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Douglas Wilson
Stupendous. More to follow.

I had read Notes from the Tilt a Whirl before in its various manifestations. But when it arrived in its final printed form, I was happy to sit down and go through it again, left to right. What a good book this is.

The conceit for the book is that the solar system is a ride at a carnival, with circular motions inside circular motion. Not only do we have the carnival-like motions, we have a carnival-like environment, gaudy colors and situations included. The book works th...more
So, on Saturday I was the lone woman sitting amongst a group of men when the subject of this book came up. I'd started to read it once before and hated it. Why? I didn't like the author. I've thought for years he was trying too hard to be like his father and never quite measuring up. Ugly, I know. But true. And I happen to think his father a right jolly old elf, with a bit of Lewis, Chesterton and Luther thrown in for good measure. Who wouldn't like THAT sort of guy, right?

So when talk about thi...more
N.D. Wilson's book is peculiar. I set out reading this not having a clue what to expect; and to the author's credit, I got a good handle on what I was in for after reading the introduction. Wilson's style is distinct. He is very self reflective and loooooves metaphors. This I do not mind. But it is also no guarantee of a good read.

This book has problems. It is a compilation of random personal reflections capped off by one powerhouse chapter concerning hell towards the end of the book. The writin...more
Gwen Burrow
Breathtaking. Hilarious. Scathing. Fiercely jolly. If you ever want to read about poetry, ants, creation, thunderstorms, evil, Hamlet, eternity, snow, hell, pain and death all rolled into one ecstatic ball, then read this book. It will sprawl you, wind you, pick you up, and push you on your way even as you hold out both arms to stop the world from rocking. It will blind you with beauty and insist that you see.

I read this in one dizzy three-hour sitting in June 2009, then again (much slower) in M...more
Barnabas Piper
The peaks of this book were higher than almost any book I have read in recent years. Wilson has a genuinely unique voice and a gift for seeing the world and the greatness of its minutiae. If you want an exploration of God's kingdom and reality in a fresh way, this is the book.
Abe Goolsby
I resolved before I even began Page One that I was not going to like this book—at least not too much. I figure that I've read enough books by this guy's dad that I really don't need to become a cheerleader for two generations of Wilsons. Well, I'm sorry. Putting on my game face didn't work and, in spite of a heroic effort on my part, I really did love this book. It's quite a ride. A bit out there, to be sure, but as far as all that goes, really nothing even remotely as inscrutable as some of the...more
I gave it five stars with around 60 pages left. Having now finished, I wish I could give it six.

What I consider the major theme of the book from page 70:
Are we on a world kick-started by a god who doesn't know how to drive? Is this god embarrassed? Did he not know that snowflakes would come with avalanches as well as the quaint village scenes they ruin?

Of course He did. This God is big, bigger than the world. Faith is hard on the back of a motorcycle, it is hard when the Tilt-A-Whirl reverse...more
When this book was not what I was expecting, it was ok. I liked the wide-eyed wonder theme because I think we lose too much of that in our modern world. However, this book did seems to ramble and not have a clearly defined "purpose" or if it did, it was blurred into the background by the imagery and wonder. Which maybe that's what Wilson was headed for. I think maybe I set myself up expecting too much like he might write like Brennan Manning or some spiritually enlightening master. He did, howev...more
Wonder is oftentimes a lost and forgotten discipline among Christians. We use a children's curriculum in our church that emphasizes wonder through storytelling. Awe of God rather than a drive to always have the right answers. One of the ways the curriculum is described is "playful orthodoxy." I think that phrase captures Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl perfectly.

This book contains meditations about the world, reflecting on God's unmistakable hand in all of it. It is thought-provoking and well writte...more
Aug 05, 2008 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone with a beef about God or who likes stuff. So, pretty much everyone.
It reminded me of Chesterton, "The greater and stronger a man is, the more he would be inclined to prostrate himself before a periwinkle."
I'd like to read it again, but I'm going to be patient and wait for the finished draft. I have to agree with Elise, if they take anything out it's going to annoy me.
One of the best books I've ever read, never mind that it was written by a friend of ours. When it comes into print, I'll be buying it for everyone I know--especially anyone who is...well, someone I know.
Joe Haack
What if Annie Dillard was orthodox? And a bit more sprawling (with a less skilled publishing editor)? And what if she channeled her God-gift of observation not through Thoreau, but through a) the paradox-wonder of GK Chesterton, b) the cut-through-the-fog sanity of CS Lewis, and c) self-conscious (but not self-absorbed) memoir style of Frederick Buechner? And if she was a young husband and dad? And a pastor's-kid who likes his dad and his God? And a St. John's Annapolis graduate (look them up)....more
John Gardner
Originally posted at Honey and Locusts.

One of the most fascinating topics I studied during my time in college was synesthesia. Translated literally, this means "joined perception", and basically refers to a condition in which someone simultaneously perceives one sensory input with multiple senses. For instance, someone might hear the smell of fabric softener, or know exactly what the color blue tastes like.

The first time I ever thought I might have some idea what this could be like was at a Blue...more
Callie Glorioso-Mays
I am very conflicted about this book - I'll do my best to explain why. When I read the summary, I thought I would love this book and I was thrilled to be reviewing it. But when it came and I actually started reading, I really labored over it. The first few chapters were mind-boggling. Each time I picked up the book, I literally got a headache and had to put it down within a few minutes. I was thrown off by Wilson's style and really struggled to keep reading. It was the first time I seriously con...more
Phil Dunn
Probably the most unusual Christian book I've ever read!

The style is poetic throughout, but if you're not much of a poet like myself don't let that put you off. 'Unusual' in this case is good. Very good in fact. Wilson has a wonderful grasp of language and communicates in a way that I found very engaging.

The author takes a look at the world (which he refers to as a 'tilt-a-whirl' from a fareground) - and reflects on what he sees. He looks at nature, the seasons, insects, his own family experie...more
I really wanted to like this book much more than I did. The first half confused and bored me, but the second half was much better and improved my overall opinion. I think it's a book with some definite merits; and I'm glad to see someone attempting to break out of standard evangelical literary molds. However, I do have two major issues with the book: the style and the audience. First, I actually do love the initial premise of the book and "note" style. I get what Nate was trying to do, but I act...more
Joshua D.
Aug 04, 2011 Joshua D. rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: everyone
Imagine a Rob Bell book, but with longer sentences and better theology. I suppose that's mean. Fans of Bell will think I'm taking a swipe at him (which I suppose I am). Fans of Wilson will think I'm dragging him down by comparing him to Bell (which isn't my intent). Okay, let's start over.

I read a review this morning talking about Francis Chan's book "Erasing Hell." Chan's book is a response to Rob Bell's controversial "Love Wins." The reviewer said of Chan's attempt, "right time, wrong book."

Kris Irvin
I really wanted to like this book. But holy cow, reading it was like stabbing myself in the ear with a toothpick.

There were a few lines and paragraphs I enjoyed. I loved the entire chapter on Hell. But the rest of the book I found painful. It reminded me of "one thousand gifts" by Ann Voskamp, another very flowery, Christian book that goes on and on without ever coming to a point.

Actually, Wilson does make a point in his book. He makes several. But I found him condescending, repetitive, and ir...more
Shelby Stafford
I would give more than 5 stars if I could.

What is the best of all possible Art? That which reveals, captures, and communicates as many facets of that Being as is possible in a finite frame.

Wilson, N. D. (2009-06-25). Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World (p. 8). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pr...more
This is the best book that I have read all year. I didn't want it to end, and so I put it down and waited for months (Stupid I know) I have a new appreciation for creation, I am seriously convinced that the world is made up of Quarks and Leptons and that those bits are the spoken Word of God.

I also fully believe that "He [God] is the rock He can't lift. He is the Infinite struggling to capture Himself, to reveal every faced of His Infinite Self in the limitations of tiny space" (188) and I also...more
Emily Woodham
This book was a fantastic ride! I love philosophy and literature, and it thrilled me to no end to have someone, especially a sound Christian, address the different philosophies and world views in such a creative way. This is NOT boring! I read some reviews that said they found the book difficult to follow, but I only stopped my reading to savor a phrase or paragraph not because I felt it was presented in a muddled fashion.

My Mom died a year ago when her mitral valve suddenly collapsed. It was c...more
Reading this book really was a little like riding a tilt-a-whirl. Your brain is made to spin in too many directions at once, and you have the sensation of being a bit dizzy, but you really want to keep riding. With well crafted words and a healthy dose of the ridiculous, N.D. Wilson paints a picture that forces us to look at the world in new ways. He takes those observations and turns them into awe about God Himself. It succeeds in being a book that cultivates greater admiration for the Author o...more
take away:
this seems like a morbid take-away but I relate to this perspective:

It is hard knowing I will die
He has the authority to choose my end.
He has the authority to sever my soul from my body and call it to another part of the stage
when I die...wherever or whenever...there will be other characters in the story with me...but God will be there too...closing a chapter...smiling.
To His eyes, I never leave the stage...I do not cease to is a chapter.
Look to Him...walk to Him
when my body...more
Mike Crews
This book comes so close to being a masterpiece. It is intriguing, interesting, and profound on many levels. There are moments when I could crown Wilson heir to the genius of Chesterton. I would love to give it 5 stars, but alas, I cannot simply because it contains so much needless profanity and scatological humor/references. The author rides the magnificent heights of art then suddenly drops into the gutter and slops mud over his canvas. I give it 3 stars for what he does right, but he robs him...more
Wow. Incredible read. I had read about this book on various blogs I follow, but even when I picked it up from the library I wasn't sure what I was getting. The past few weeks, my early mornings have begun with a chapter from the book, but that may have been too much to read in one sitting. I found myself wanting to sit longer with passages and share them with others. His writing is zany, hilarious, yet profound, poetic, beautiful. I highly recommend this one and I hope Wilson writes more non-fic...more
One of the best books I have ever read. This is one of those books that gave me the rare experiences of joy in the way CS Lewis talks about it in his biography. One of the things Wilson does beautifully is defeat to defeat naturalism by mockery. I mean, really, if you step back away from the big words, Nova specials, and claims to scientific disinterestedness, you can easily see naturalism is lifeless, self-defeating, meaning-stealing, stupor-inducing, savage-producing drivel.
Biblically sound. Perfectly frank. Definitely funny. I laughed more than once as I read the book, but I learned so much from his theology about creation, the problem of evil, and Hell. His thoughts on speech and the picture of God as an artist are particularly striking and set the stage for the rest of the book. Someday, I'll certainly read it again, but for now I'll look forward to more of his novels :) and see if I can apply any of the things I learned from this delightful book.
I'm sorry . . . I didn't get it. I know a lot of people have been giving this book a really strong rating, and Wilson is indeed a gifted writer. But I often got lost in his schizophrenic style of depth, witty observation and "gee, look how flowery of prose I can use!". In the end, I really didn't care anymore about his depth or witty observations due to wading through the muck of his flowery writing . . . I just ended up thinking he was trying way too hard to be "cute".
Jay Miklovic
Wonderful. I remember driving down Glendale Avenue in Toledo the first evening I after I had gotten my glasses and coming to the realization that I had never before seen detailed tree branches illuminated by street lights. I recall realizing that street signs were actually visible well before it was too late to read them. Reading this book reproduced that feeling.

Of all the books I have read this year, this might be my favorite.
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“Do not resent your place in the story. Do not imagine yourself elsewhere. Do not close your eyes and picture a world without thorns, without shadows, without hawks. Change this world. Use your body like a tool meant to be used up, discarded, and replaced. Better every life you touch. We will reach the final chapter. When we have eyes that can stare into the sun, eyes that only squint for the Shenikah, then we will see laughing children pulling cobras by their tails, and hawks and rabbits playing tag.” 40 likes
“The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.” 34 likes
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