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Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's Dictionary

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  466 ratings  ·  32 reviews

Awry and thought-provoking jaunt through the spiritual terrain of our everyday language -- a lexion of uncommon insight to jar the mind and nourish the soul. "I think of faith as a kind of whistling in the dark, because in much the same way," writes Buechner, "it helps to give us courage and to hold the shadows at bay."

Paperback, 144 pages
Published May 21st 1993 by HarperSanFrancisco (first published 1988)
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May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Refreshing and relaxing read. The sections were brief but surprisingly deep and intriguing enough to pique my interest in related topics. Though written from a theological perspective, the thoughts and emotions reflected were unexpectedly raw and real to today’s issues of the world.

When I begin, I did not expect to take away significant intellectual insights but completing this book actually left me with a better appreciation of the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual aspects of life.

Robin Clayton
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Buechner book. I especially love the essay entitled "Faces".
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Buechner says so much in so few words. And his brilliance is rooted in the simplest yet profoundest sense of how religion should be practiced: watch, listen, learn.
Sean Goh
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am me. I am a sinner. ” “Hi, you. ” Hi, every Sadie and Sal. Hi, every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is the forgiveness of sins, of course. It is what the Church is all about. No matter what far place alcoholics end up in, either in this country or virtually anywhere else, they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it. That is what the Body of Christ is a ...more
J. Alfred
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
The following is a gift, from Buechner, to me, to you:

As 'acedia,' boredom is one of the seven deadly sins. It deserves the honor.
You can be bored by virtually anything if you put your mind to it, or choose not to. You can yawn your way through Don Giovanni or a trip to the Grand Canyon or an afternoon with your dearest friend or a sunset. There are doubtless those who nodded off at the coronation of Napoleon or the trial of Joan of Arc or when Shakespeare appeared at the Globe in Hamle
Josh Sieders
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Little vignettes on various words. Thoughtful, often beautiful and usually simple but profound. A chance to stop and think about some of the everyday things of life and get down deep into them and realize their huge significance. Not every perspective was one that I shared ideologically or theologically but all were worth reading and considering.

I enjoyed this more and more, every time I picked it up. I read it for a few days at first, but the format begged to be taken slowly a little more like
Nick Poe
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting concept for a book type that I normally am not a fan of: collections of essays. I still love Buechner's refreshing writing style, but this book falls into the same issues that I have with every collection of essays. There isn't a larger idea or an overarching point, so, by the time you've read one essay, you've forgotten what the previous one was about.

With the essays in this book being so short, it's far easier to fall into that trap.
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A slim volume filled with nuggets of gentle, but startling insight and wisdom. The entries on 'Art' and 'Law of Love' are great examples - pay attention to the world around you through the supreme law of love. Buechner is funny, contrary, nudging, forgiving, practical, and hopeful. The little experiences turn out to connect us to greatest experience of all - our connection with one another and to God.
Tommy Kiedis
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
Any time I am marking up the book, tweeting lines, and writing "keepers" on the back pages, it has been a good read. But then, it's Buechner. In Whistling in the Dark (a follow-up to Wishful Thinking), Buechner provides succinct, thought-provoking reflections on the theology behind everyday words.
Sabra Kurth
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Though a little uneven, this was a wonderful way to begin my day. Meditations using a dictionary format.
Erin Henry
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
4.5. Short essays with one word titles. I underlined a lot.
Mallory Albeck
Some of the little stories were good, some were meh. Very outdated current events references but I could still understand them (mostly Cold War stuff)
Ginny Martinez
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Some thoughtful essays. 4/19
Kelly Sauskojus
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought-in-2020
Another serious contender for best book I’ve read in 2020
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting way to write reflections on a variety of topics. The ABC's approach gives the author Buechner, a chance to choose words that had meaning to him - abortion, aging, comedy, dying, family, knowledge, loneliness, etc. - and write about the subject.

The book was written in 1988, the cold war still in place so there is a certain reference to the despair of the nuclear armed status quo, but recent enough to see topics discussed in a contemporary manner.

I had dog eared two reflections tha
Tim Newell
This book was rated highly and recommended by a good friend. Clearly based on the overall ratings he is not alone. I was quite unimpressed, though. The best I can say about this book was that it was a quick and easy read.

The subtitle of the book is A Doubters Dictionary. Maybe I have a different definition of the word doubt. I would consider myself a doubter, former believer and, currently, sympathetic atheist would probably be a fitting label. This was not written for doubters or questioners o
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frederick Buechner is an excellent writer and a creative thinker about life, faith, and the life of faith. This ABC book for adults, contains his short reflections on a random assortment of topics: Aging, Art, Depression, Government, Racism, Sleep, Virtue, and so on. They are almost all uplifting and a good shot of reality-based encouragement.

Here is a portion of his reflection on Anxiety: "He [St. Paul] does not deny that the worst things will happen finally to all of us, as indeed he must have
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars. My first book by Buechner, though I have long appreciated everything else I have read or heard from his writings. I'm not sure what drew me so viscerally to this book on the bookstore shelf. Maybe it was just the title, "Whistling in the Dark". What a beautiful image of faith.

But I honestly didn't all that much enjoy the "dictionary" format, and to my surprise, really didn't get a lot out of the thoughts in it, nor enjoy the art that fills the pages. But it certainly has it
Tim Hoiland
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
"They say they will love, comfort, honour each other to the end of their days. They say they will cherish each other and be faithful to each other always. They say they will do these things not just when they feel like it but even – for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health – when they don’t feel like it at all. In other words, the vows they make at a marriage could hardly be more extravagant. They give away their freedom. They take on themselves each other’s burdens ...more
Lonnie Smith
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible read, my first foray into Buechner's work, and I am hooked. I will definitely need to pick up some of his other stuff. This was an easy in too as the format is very readable, and can easily be picked up and put down quickly, while still feeling like you walked away with substance. Several of the entries brought me to tears or to my feet cheering, and rarely does a book evoke this much emotion in me (the last one might have been Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis).

I recommend this
Kristian Kilgore
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Once again, as with literally everything else I've read from Buechner, this was absolutely wonderful. I don't always agree with him on the trajectory of his theology, but something about the way he writes causes the embers of my soul to spark and pop into flame. Can i, should i, ask more than that of an author?

Highly recommended.
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
A delightfully written book where the the author offers his musings and reflections on a great variety of subects touching upon the spiritual life and ordinary Christian experiences of faith. I like this one. Great for small group discussions.
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A theology I can relate to.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
thoughtful definitions of spiritual words that made me reframe my understanding...
Ian Carmichael
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just brilliant - some great serious thought starters, some wonderful whimsy, and an evocative touch with language.
(And a Leunig cartoon on the cover...)
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Good research reference for biblical teachings.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
-Contains very interesting ideas
-Written with amazing eloquence
-Some are just his private thoughts and so take it with a grain of salt
James Prothero
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very nice. Some parts more striking than others.
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Frederick Buechner writes about Christianity and spiritual matters in such a clear and powerful way that he makes me want to dance with the joy of my faith.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is teeming with wisdom and good thoughts. I liked it.
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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

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