Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent” as Want to Read:
Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,354 ratings  ·  441 reviews
A poetic portrait of faith, futility, and the joy of this mortal life.

In this astoundingly unique book, bestselling author N. D. Wilson reminds each of us that to truly live we must recognize that we are dying. Every second we create more of our past—more decisions, more breathing, more love and more loathing, all of it slides by into the gone as we race to grab at more
Hardcover, 190 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Thomas Nelson (first published January 1st 2013)
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 Death by Living, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Abi It's a Narrative about the life of a person. ;) On living while dying

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,354 ratings  ·  441 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
G.M. Burrow
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Only The Lord of the Rings has made me laugh and cry at the same time, but Death by Living came close. It certainly made me do both, even if at separate moments. By the time I finished, I was so full of sehnsucht (that “overwhelming bittersweet yearning that bleeds into joy”), I felt ready to detonate—like Agent Smith in The Matrix, split by the light-spear, but in a good way. I wanted to live. I wanted to die.

I was glad that I could do both, right now.

You’ve heard it said that from the minute
Stephen Altrogge
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I know I'm going to get crucified by the Wilson fanboys for rating this book so low, but it just didn't live up to the hype. Don't get me wrong, ND Wilson is a great, creative writer. But honestly, it felt like the book tried too hard to be creative. There were many points where the creativity seemed to actually hide the point he was trying to make. I struggled to take away one main point from this book. I sort of feel like I should pull a George Costanza and say, "It's not you, it's me," to ...more
Valerie Kyriosity
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
December 2019 — Couldn't let 2019 end without squeezing in this favorite. Appropriate for Christmas, the celebration of the Man born to die.

I've posted lots of moving and profound quotes from DBL before, but the one I was most looking forward to and enjoyed again this time was a funny: "The boy had gone pope slapping."

The four cornerstones of this book are the author's four grandparents. When he wrote it, there were two left. Now there is only one. By the next time I read it, they will all be
Becky Pliego
An invitation (impossible to turn down) to live a purposely, fully, and grateful life -and be excited to live it facing the finish line.

Read it again, and again I laughed and cried with this book in 2015.

2017 - Read it again. Started it the same day that N.D. Wilson had to go into surgery to have a brain tumor removed. Seemed the right time and the right thing to do. I am grateful I did. And I am grateful he has given more days to write more pages-

Douglas Wilson
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Got to read the galleys, having already read the rough manuscript. This is fantastic.
Brandon Miller
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fun-theology
Five star ratings are for books that changed my life. Books that will never be forgotten, by me or anyone who is silly enough to ask me what my favorite books are.
This book got five stars.
I don't know where to start or where to end. This book made me conscious of ever passing second and it slipped by into eternity, but didn't overwhelm me with a sense of insufficiency. It reminded me that I'm not in control of my life, and that I don't have to be because Christ is. It encouraged me to enjoy the
Valerie Kyriosity
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
N. D. Wilson mentions early in this book his childhood penchant for hitting his sisters. I don't think he's quite grown out of the habit, because Death by Living delivers slug in the arm after slap in the face after sock in the jaw. And dang it all if he doesn't almost make it fun. Get up! Get busy! Get living! Get dying! Look at how joyful and glorious it is when you do!

I posted several quotes on my blog. Here's another one (from pp. 40-41) [brackets are mine]:
When faced with unpleasantness
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I swallowed this one whole. I raced to read it, then re-read and re-read it again. It's the kind of book you hide under a pile of grammar books so no one will steal it away. It's the kind of book that makes you snarl at Sister Dear when she asks if you are finished yet. ((So Sorry, Jesse)) It's the kind of book that keeps you up late, trying to remember everything your grandparents ever told you about their stories. It's the kind of book that puts you in awe of the Maker and MasterStoryteller- ...more
Tara McLarty
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I highly recommend listening to him read the book himself on Audible or Scribd. It was an experience, not just a book. My mind is still reeling.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
N.D. Wilson writes with Chestertonian joy. I'm devouring this book with rapturous exultation. Highly, highly recommend it! Few books have so moved me as this one.

* * * * *

"Stories are soul food.... We are narrative creatures, and we need narrative nourishment—narrative catechisms."

"Her voice is sweetness itself, part apple pie and part clean laundry left to ride the wind in the sun. Always has been."

"A ninety-five-year-old man sits in his chair with a wandering mind because a century cannot pass
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Wilson is an artist pure and simple. I guess I could also say that he is a weaver because he takes images, themes, and stories and braids them together beautifully.

Family stories, travel stories, existential reflections--all through the lens of life with God.

I keep referring back to certain pages and lines. Several times I had a lump in my throat.

Wilson makes me wish that I did more to suck the marrow out of life and experience all that God has given me with wonder-filled eyes.

This is the kind
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Round five. It gets better every time. Hearing it anew is good for my soul.
"Save yourself. You don't owe these people anymore. You've given them everything.”
"Not everything. Not yet." - Bruce Wayne
Reading this book yearly keeps me focused on the things that truly matter.

Living is dying. Living well is dying for others. Stop grabbing. Manna doesn’t keep overnight. More will come in the morning.

(Read in: September 2013, November 2014, June 2015, May 2017, January 2018.)
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is good stuff. I would even venture to say it surpasses tilt-a-whirl...
Becky Pliego
This book is a favorite of mine (I try to read it every year). This time I listened the audio version and enjoyed it very much too.
Aaron Fox
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I must say that I really wanted to enjoy the book more than I ended up actually enjoying it. Death by Living covers a topic that I think about fairly often that I hope you do too: are you going to live to die, or die that you might live longer?

Mr. Wilson has so many points I agree with in this book, but honestly (I know Brandon and Megan will disagree), the 3 star rating has to come from the delivery. As in Notes From the Tilt-a-whirl, he uses the same, scattered writing style that I'm not too
Joy C.
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard so much about this book online from friends, so when we went down to Sydney for a few days and I got to visit my favourite childhood bookstore, I was over the moon to find a copy of N.D. Wilson's book sitting quietly on the shelves. I began reading it promptly on returning home, and it was nothing like I expected it to be! It was glorious and gut-wrenching and wonderful and just the kind of book I needed in that time of my life (I think I'll always need a book like that, and I want to ...more
James Nance
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nate's words remind me to be thankful once more for the story that My Father is writing. For my life, and my new life. For my lovely wife, and our fourfold love made flesh. For grass mowed too short in my enthusiasm, and for storm showers to heal it. For the smell of cookies freshly baked, and chocolate chips still melty. For Mom and Dad.
Nate writes that one of his recurring childhood memories was the sound of breaking glass. I am honored that my car window was one of those, shattered by a
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good continuation of Tilt. "Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl focuses on a way of seeing. With this book, the focus is on a way of living, a way of receiving life" (xi).

Lots of humor and stories mixed in with theological insights, and all written very poetically. See excerpts here and here.

Some critics of Wilson's style say that he overwrites, that he's trying too hard. Know the names of these critics? Yeah, neither do I.
Ryan Watkins
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
Wilson's writing is really unlike anything I've read before. The closest author I can think of is Chesterton. As someone less familiar with poetic writing such as this the message can sometimes get obscured in the medium.
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful read! I’m not sure if I have ever savored a reading so much!
Aaron Downs
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
N.D. Wilson’s commentary on life (and death), Death by Living really needs no comment—other than that it should be read. It should be read quickly, slowly, all at once, and with many breaks between reading. This comment may seem paradoxical, but then so does Wilson’s book.

His book is a story about stories; a look at the minuscule stories of each human being wrapped up into the Story of our Creator. In this story about stories, Wilson makes the reader feel diminutive and worthless, while at the
Megan Lane
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, growth
I'll be straight up: I didn't like this as much as Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl. That doesn't mean I didn't like it, just that I didn't like it as much.
But maybe that's just what a first love will do to you.
Anyway. I don't really have anything to say beyond that. It really was beautiful. Emotional, touching, inspiring, encouraging.
Another wonderful Wilson book that will be a favorite, I believe.
EDIT, 2018: Audiobook this time. Read by the word master himself. Really, this book.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I only give five stars to books that I love enough to want to read again, and by the end of the second chapter I knew this would be one of those books. Wilson begins with the same familiar ingredients used by countless Christian motivational speakers -- "life is a story," "death is inevitable," "let's make the most of the time that God grants to us" -- but manages to whip them into something entirely unexpected and awe-inspiring. His writing is the sort that drains highlighters (or ...more
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So good. So, so good.

I loved Tilt-A-Whirl and have been anxiously waiting for this since I first heard about it several months ago. Wilson's writing does what only excellent writing can do: takes you on a dizzying journey of experience, thought, remembrance, joy, sadness, and all the while cultivating a longing for a life to be lived. The type of writing that makes you forget that your pen which you customarily keep on your ear for note taking has been sitting there for hours. There's no time
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With only his second non-fiction book, Wilson has quickly become one of my favorite living authors. A poet at heart, Wilson challenges us to reconsider life and death. Weaving lovely tales of ordinary life with his wife and children with heart-wrenching remembrances of his grandparents alongside philosophical reflections in a book that will cause you to chuckle on one page and tear up on the next.

Read this book because it will call you to the carpet for your lack of courage. Read it because it
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is just like all of Nate's other Fairy Tales; its' loud, visceral, fast, honest, humble, convicting, full of sensory delights, death, resurrection, faith, hope, joy, feasting and love. And just like all of Nate's other Fairy Tales; it's true.

Second read in honor of Nate's surgery. I am proud of him and honored to have the chance to be edified by his words. Jesus always shows us why we should of had faith all along.
Barnabas Piper
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wilson's non-fiction work is few and far between, but it's worth the wait. He is insightful and ingenious, equal parts poetic and pointed. He is blunt but also meandering. In the end the effect on the reader is expand the mind and heart of a bigger view of God and His world.
Sydney Kirsch
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First read in August 2016. Read again in March 2018.

Five stars for always.
April Thrush
Aug 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
I know it's harsh, but I couldn't bear reading this anymore. I now have a pet peeve that exists for a certain style of books that seems to be popular to publish now, and that is making a book out of something that should stay on your blog or journal, because that's how it reads. I also felt this way about 1000 gifts and did not want to finish that one either for the same reason.
Logan Thune
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Up to this point in life, I do not recall a book that has made me laugh or cry more. Artistically refreshing and thoughtfully provoking. Main point: Live after the example of the Savior: Empty yourself, give, trust, laugh, love, cry—exhaust your life, leave nothing unspent, sacrifice, die, be planted, and then....resurrect.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Great Book 1 24 Jan 31, 2013 05:45AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal With It
  • Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants
  • Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End
  • Nine Marks of a Healthy Church
  • Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making
  • Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
  • Why Children Matter
  • Rules for Reformers
  • Blood-Bought World
  • Learning Contentment
  • Galatians for You (God's Word for You)
  • Inteligência humilhada
  • Art & the Bible
  • Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
  • Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity
  • Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament
  • Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion
  • The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
See similar books…
“Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain-they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter. With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), I have around 250,00 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end.” 33 likes
“When Job lifted his face to the Storm, when he asked and was answered, he learned that he was very small. He learned that his life was a story. He spoke with the Author, and learned that the genre had not been an accident. God tells stories that make Sunday school teachers sweat and mothers write their children permission slips excusing them from encountering reality.” 26 likes
More quotes…