I’ve been putting off writing this review because I couldn’t get myself to finish reading the book. I also knew that even if I could finish it I would...moreI’ve been putting off writing this review because I couldn’t get myself to finish reading the book. I also knew that even if I could finish it I wouldn’t have much good to say about it.
There. I said it.
This book is about a writer– presumably of Barcalounger arm rest humor and Christian Dudes Golfing Or Something (no doubt printed in totally unjustifiable hardcover)– whose editor… or publisher… (I don’t care enough to double check) gave him the only very marginally interesting idea of telling nothing but the truth for a year and then writing about his experiences.
The writer, whose name I have to keep looking up, agreed and set out to write this book, the title of which I also have to keep looking up. He tells his friends he’s writing this book, he makes a big deal about how he thinks they’re going to take advantage of his honesty vows, they don’t take advantage of his honesty vows, all while he pens one-liner after one-liner revealing an annoying habit of mistaking “humor” for “integrity” for 161 pages.
After that I don’t really know what happens. That’s where I stopped reading.
The author, Phil, sounds nice enough, but… Aw geez. I d’unno. A few of his anecdotes were relatable in a very general, “I’ve got an uncle like you” sort of way. But the constant joking thing is– it just gets old fast, both in real life and on the page.
Unless you’re Dave Barry. Have you read The Taming of the Screw?! Oh man! I laughed so hard at that book!
Or Haven Kimmel. She’s pretty consistently funny without being annoying too.
So what is it about this guy? About this book? For a reader who tends to appreciate humorous memoirs, why am I har-har’ed out with this one?
I think it might be because he set the book up as this brave foray into honesty, and then he spent most of his time joking about praying down hellfire on people. I get it that that’s not what he really wants. He’s just joking. Again. But when there’s so little actual substance to a book he says is about something he claims is potentially life changing (see title), then I expect him to deliver something beyond goofballness, incessant punch-lining, and weak bon mots. It may’ve worked for you in your other books, buddy, but here you’ve failed to deliver on what the book is supposed to be about by masking sincerity with silliness.
On rare occasions he does actually lay things bare with some surprisingly open, candid moments. Moments that made me think “Yes! He’s finally going to give me something good! Something real! Something I’ll be able to relate to!”
Wrong wrong wrong.
Those moments were short, few, and very far between. The author himself may have said it best after speaking with his editor/publisher/Piggly Wiggly bagger: “I still wasn’t sold on the idea [of writing about being honest for a year], but I couldn’t stop thinking that I would love to read such a book. If someone else wrote it.” (p.3)
You and me both, Phil. You and me both.
I feel kind of bad writing how much I disliked this book. I’ve got this vision in my head of this guy Googling reviews of his work and coming across this one and getting really bummed out over it even though I’m just some stranger with a laptop and precious little in common with what is presumably the book’s target demographic (upper-middle class middle aged Christian white guys).
It’s not a terrible book. Really, Mr. Callaway. A couple of parts- I probably should’ve marked them so I could find them again- even made me laugh out loud. It just wasn’t very, ah… good?
If you receive this book as a gift, at least page through it. Who knows? Maybe it’s just not for me. But I sure wouldn’t recommend spending any money on it. Especially not when you could be spending it on A Girl Named Zippy instead.
*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I don’t owe it to them to like, or not like, this book. The opinions in this blog are mine and mine alone.
ETA 12/6/11: I was so close to the end of the book when I stopped reading it I figured I might as well finish it. I hate leaving loose ends on my Goodreads account.) For the record the author still doesn’t seem to understand that “honesty” and “not lying” and “telling the truth” are not interchangeable with “cracking jokes about suggesting suicide to nursing home employees” and the like. The book remained unfunny, at times even callously so. Before I’d have given this book 2 out of 5 stars because I liked the guy’s wife. After finishing the book I would barely give it 1.(less)
Billy Graham‘s most recent work, Nearing Home, is one of those thoughtful, peaceful sorts of books you can either read cover-to-cover, or stroll throu...moreBilly Graham‘s most recent work, Nearing Home, is one of those thoughtful, peaceful sorts of books you can either read cover-to-cover, or stroll through at random and still come out ahead either way. It’s like memories of your childhood; you don’t have to bring them up in any certain order to enjoy them.
The focus of the book is on the challenge, and the beauty, of aging well. It deals with recognizing one’s value and responsibilities during a stage in life when it may seem like there’s little left to do, or fewer places where one’s value will be recognized. And it’s as much a pep talk for older readers as it is a guide for younger readers on the importance of respecting their elders for the wisdom and experience they can provide. It reaffirms the importance of standing fast in one’s relationship with God regardless of the inevitable challenges that accompany the changes of time.
Reading his commentary on dealing with the pains of aging and grief (Ch 5: “Fading Strength But Standing Strong”), and on providing wisdom and counsel to younger generations not only through words but through actions (Ch 7: “Influencing the Impressionable”), I was reminded again and again of the Godly examples set for me by my grandparents through their love for the Lord and for their families.
It made me think of my Mimi, in particular, and the way she boldly- daily- lives out a hope shared by Graham that her children and grandchildren will “become men and women of compassion, honesty, morality, responsibility, selflessness, loyalty, discipline, and sacrifice… trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior and seeking to follow Him.” (p. 120) In fact, multiple times throughout the book I heard the words in her voice instead of his. I guess you could say my Mimi served as my litmus test on whether or not what Graham was saying checked out as worthwhile advice. (Way to go, Mim. ;)
A few words of advice Graham shares with his readers on “bridging the gap” (p. 121) between generations hit home for me in terms of my own family because I regularly see them living out this guidance in realistic ways. (Way to go, fam. ;) I’ll share it with you here, and trust you’ll also read beyond the list’s disarming simplicity: Pray Consistently, Keep In Touch, Encourage [Your Family], Remember Your Place, and Be An Example.
There were times I found it difficult to stick with the book, as it speaks to a decidedly older demographic than my own. While I appreciated the sentiments the author shared, it was a bit like reading about dealing with grief when you’ve never lost a loved one, or about bonding with your troubled teen when you’ve never had children. I know there is value in his words, but for now I’m just filing them away in the hope that they spring back to mind about forty years from now.
A good summary of the book appears on page 48: “One day you may not be able to do everything you once did or everything you would like to do. Instead of feeling guilty or frustrated or resentful, however, thank God that you can still do some things- and make it your goal to do them faithfully and do them well. Commit your time- and your whole self- to Jesus Christ, and seek to do His will no matter what comes your way.”
Words to live by.
And it wouldn’t be a Billy Graham book if it didn’t end with an alter call.
“No one ever grows too old to accept Christ’s forgiveness and enter into His glorious presence. When we look back over our experiences along life’s journey, we may have regrets about the choices we made, but remember, that was then… this is now. … “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV).” (p. 180)
While I wouldn’t want to discourage younger readers from attempting to tackle this book- there is a lot in it to appreciate and learn from, and so many insights into perspectives it’s impossible to gain oneself until later in life- it is most definitely geared toward an older crowd. It is to them I would recommend this book. I think anyone dealing with the issues presented in it will find it encouraging, and will find its sentiments expressed in such a humble, straightforward way they will want to pass along to others Graham’s uplifting take on a potentially difficult subject: that of moving closer to our promised time with God, to nearing home.
*I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.(less)