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Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  9,241 ratings  ·  467 reviews
Follow Don and Paul as they dive headlong into the deepest of human questions and find answers outside words?answers that have to be experienced to be believed.

Day 1: "Trips  like ours are greener grass left unknown for fear of believing trite sayings; sayings that are sometimes true. But our friends back home live an existence under the weight and awareness of times; a pl
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 14th 2005 by Thomas Nelson (first published August 1st 2005)
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Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I first read this book, it was entitled "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance", and I picked it up because of the obvious allusion to Robert Pirsig's classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (not that I had ever read it, mind you). I read it, really enjoyed it, and then had a friend tell me about Blue Like Jazz well over a year later; I actually did not make the connection that it was Miller's story until well into BLJ when he made an oblique mention to his trip. At any r ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My new favorite author Donald Miller (he wrote Blue Like Jazz) and his friend Paul take a road trip from Texas to Oregon. Miller believes all of us must leave home at some point to discover who we are really meant to be. This book is a part of his journey towards himself and God.

Miller feels most of us get caught asking "how" in life. How do I get a good job? How do I find a good wife? How do I buy a nice house? Yet Miller asks the "why" questions, which make his life more difficult. Why do I ne
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
About life. Great story. Real.

Only complaint is unrealistic dialogue (humans talk in contractions). However, the adventures and messages in the book more than make up for that one continuous error.

Debated about putting on Favorites shelf, but if I have to debate about it, then it's probably not a Favorite. Close, though.
Trevor Dailey
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
Through Painted Deserts is an autobiographical account of Miller driving with his friend Paul from Texas up to Oregon in a Volkswagen camper van. In many ways this book is a idealistic escape recounting an idealistic escape. To summarize, Don and Paul slowly make their way up to Portland, OR, sleeping in their van (mostly) the entire way. The friends encounter vehicular issues during their journey, sometimes as simple as a carburetor gas-cap but sometimes much more. I don't want to give too much ...more
B.J. Richardson
Donald Miller has written some absolutely amazing books. I remember thinking when I first read Blue Like Jazz, "This is the best Christian book I have ever read" (outside the Bible of course, and I probably would not think the same today) Other phenomenal books I have read from Miller are Searching for God Knows What and A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. This book here, however, does not even begin to compare with those.

To be fair, I understand that this was actually his first book revised an
Jonah Twiddy
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Donald Miller has a way of putting life's most complex profundities into matter-of-fact experiences that make you wonder why you take life so seriously. The "spiritual pilgrimage" he takes in this book had me journeying right along with him, as if I were the third passenger in their hollow shell of a hippie van, posing my own questions about the great Why of life and finding answers in the simple day-to-day experience of living. Stories like these speak to the longing for wonder we are all so we ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I can't believe that the guy who wrote this book (specifically emphasizing not feeling like you have to buy things to be happy) now runs a marketing company for a living.
At any rate, this is early Donald Miller, and you can see the roots of what became the phenomenon of "Blue Like Jazz." This book is about a road trip. It's pretty good, but I found it all a bit funny when I thought about the actual timeline of the events in the book: you get Donald riffing deep about how hard it is to integrate
Lavinia Curletta
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love the beauty of this man's writing - his choice of words, the imagery, the humor, the sincerity. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a travelogue, and to anyone thinking deeply and searchingly about this life.
I've started a fourth Donald Miller book today. Can't get enough.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
The story of a muti-state trip that gives clarity to life and God.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Donald miller is great at making the simplicities of life significant and writing that in detail
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Midway through the book I was not enjoying the book terribly much, it was good, but it wasn't comparing to A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It wasn't too deep and I hadn't been awed by any truths yet, it was simply telling of the adventures Don and Paul had on their trip to Oregon, nothing too spiritually or otherwise deep. Then I was reading it before class one day and the girl next to me excitedly exclaims, "I love that book! Doesn't it just make you want to go on a road trip?". And since ...more
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had to put this book down. I loved Blue Like Jazz, and saw this book for $5 at a used bookstore right before a long bus trip. This book was great, while I was on the bus. All the feelings of traveling and doing something new, hopes, dreams etc...make this book enjoyable. That is when you might actually care about all the "fluff" that this book contains about Miller's own road trip with his friend. I found that once I got home and tried to read it, I felt like it was a waste of time. reading fo ...more
Samantha Kurtz
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I purposely chose to read this book last out of all the Donald Miller books. I knew it would be my favorite and it did not disappoint. I’ve always been attracted to Miller’s writing style; something about it really resonates with me. It's more of a conversational style of writing. This book is about a road trip that Miller and a friend (Paul) take from Houston, TX to Portland, OR. I think the subtitle to this book perfectly sums up the story. “Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road.” I really e ...more
Elizabeth Hernandez
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
After reading this I really want to read the other books in his repertoire. It was a nice light read that made me thing about the plans I had originally made for my life. Plans to see more of the world than I've seen so far and plans that didn't involve settling down in one location. I like the idea that while God doesn't always give us all that we ask for He does give according to our needs and that the life He gave us is meant to be enjoyed with all His simple blessings. We don't need much to ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book made me want to sell everything, buy a VW van, get my own dog and travel the country with no agenda. Essentially, "the entitled rich kid's after college dream." Some day I will get there. A great book about traveling, God, and big questions. One of the things that will stick with me from this book is at a point where he talks about Marriage as this beautiful companionship. He was able to describe marriage as I have always thought about it. It is pretty amazing to experience that now wi ...more
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Since I've wanted to be friends with Donald Miller for quite some time, it was a pleasure to take a road trip with him and be reminded that God is dazzling us. I feel like anytime I read Miller's writings, I'm reminded of what is important - not necessarily the specifics but the major ideas that make something worth the while. Definitely a book I'd recommend, really to anyone. Even if you aren't interested in spirituality at all.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
It's an alright travelogue, but I like Miller's other work more.
Della Tingle
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Maybe travel books aren’t my thing. I like historical fiction. I like fantasy. I like Christian fiction, but I just don’t know about travel books. While I read this cover to cover, I can’t say that I ever really got into it, engrossed in it. I love figurative language, I do. I teach figurative language, and similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and personification are nothing but FUN! However, the constant stream of figurative language in this book was downright overwhelming and was si ...more
Percival Buncab
This is the revision of Don’s debut book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. Compared to Blue Like Jazz and his other NY Times bestsellers, it wasn’t a hit. So he revised it after he gained many fans.

I said it once, and I say it again: Don always writes page-turning prologues. However, in this one, the rest of the book was quite a disappointment. This is the least of Don’s memoirs. What’s worse for me is that I read this after A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which for me is his
Lindsey Beck
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will admit that when I first starting reading this book I was not sure how I felt about it. It starts off kind of slow and boring. There were times where I wasn't sure if I would finish it or not and though about starting something different. But, the book reads like a growing and deepening relationship, there is so much development, much like Don and Paul's friendship. By the time I got to chapter 7 or 8, I couldn't put it down and I found myself deeply attached to everyone in the story. If y ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
After having read Blue like Jazz about ten years ago and enjoying it, I was quite excited to find this one in the second-hand bookshop. Not only did I like the author’s writing back then, but road tripping through the USA is still on my bucket list, therefore this book seemed a perfect choice!

However, I was somewhat disappointed with this one. Obviously, this is one of the author’s earlier works and it is evident in his writing and outlook on life. I thought the story and characters (as well as
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
I love Donald Miller's way of writing, and this book is no exception. It's entertaining, captivating, and overall a fun read. I'm only giving it 4 stars (and not 5) because I don't think it's as good as some of his other books and never got me really feeling impacted. It was captivating, but not very thought-provoking. I feel like this book was a more entertaining and religiously underpinned "On the Road" since it is all about a road trip he takes "to find himself", if you will, and the people a ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I overall enjoyed reading this book - it is written as a biography, detailing a sort of "coming of age/come to Jesus" trip for the author in his young adult life. It was a good mix of the author's internal thoughts on life and a pretty exciting story of 2 young guys traveling cross country in a less-than-ideal van.

My favorite quote came at the end: "These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man's weak praise should be given God's
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've lost track of how many times I've read this book--I keep coming back to it. This was my first intro to Don Miller's work. While I prefer "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" for it's focus on writing and story, this book has a special place in my heart. I listen to the audio version on almost every roadtrip I take. Capturing Don's first major travel experience, the book chronicles the adventure he and his friend Paul take on a trip that changes their lives most meaningful t ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun balance of light-hearted road trip story and deep philosophical musings of a young Christian man who doesn't want to believe anything false. At first, possibly because of the narrator's voice, I found it a bit overdramatic. But after getting used to the voice and the style, while it is a bit immature--which is understandable for a college student on a road trip--it has some super poetic and raw descriptions of God and the world He has made for us. I definitely have some quotes/passage ...more
Tessa Klingensmith
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
A good “coming of age” memoir of the authors travels across the county. It filled me with wanderlust and the desire to go out and buy a van immediately. I found the writing a little hard to read. With too much exposition and dry dialing, it felt like he was adding extra details to make a full length novel. Overall it makes you question God and the great unknown. I recommend this novel if you love travel and are in a season of change — but be prepared cause you will want to hit the open road ASAP ...more
Brad Erickson
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was pretty lame, especially when compared with the other book of Miller's I have read, Searching For God Knows What. He attempts to be deep and thoughtful, but only comes across as shallow and thoughtless. His behavior throughout his travels are boorish and arrogant; I wouldn't want him for a travel partner, that's for sure. The most interesting part of the book was at the end where he's working at the summer camp near Sisters, Oregon, but that was short-lived.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting read for me. I could relate to the events in the book very little, however, to some extent, our minds were very similar. I really enjoyed the descriptions this author was able to give and it really placed me into the settings. I would recommend this book to anyone who just wants to relax and read a book that has no real climax but that will allow you to think about life and God and everything that's beautiful in the world.
Edwina Callan
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2019
This is a highly amusing book about two guys in their early 20s taking a long road trip in a dilapidated old van.

I've never had much interest in visiting The Grand Canyon and after reading this book my desire to ever go there has dropped from 10% to absolute zero. Walking for miles barefoot because your feet are too bloody and raw to wear shoes is NOT my idea of a good time. I breathed a sigh of relief when that episode finally came to an end.
As for the rest of the book, I really enjoyed it.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I remember Blue Like Jazz having a big impact on me when i read it about 10 years ago. I think this is a book that would have had more impact on me in my early 20s rather than now in my 40s. His faith struggle and figuring-out-life struggle just seemed really rudimentary. Not that it wasn't real in any way, but it just didn't resonate with me at this point in time. I appreciated his descriptions of people he met along the way and landscapes along the road trip.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Book #9: Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller 3 2 Jan 29, 2013 07:57AM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Donald Miller grew up in Houston, Texas. Leaving home at the age of twenty-one, he traveled across the country until he ran out of money in Portland, Oregon, where he lives today.

Harvest House Publishers released his first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, in 2000. Two years later, after havin

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Dragons, demons, kings, queens, and the occasional farm boy (with a special destiny, of course): Fantasy literature has it all! To celebrate ou...
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“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” 614 likes
“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”
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