Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End” as Want to Read:
Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  350 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Only by keeping the end in mind can a person truly learn how to live in the here and now. Living in light of our death reorients us to our limitations as creatures and helps us see God’s good gifts right in front of us—enabling us to live wisely, freely, and generously. Drawing on wisdom from the book of Ecclesiastes, David Gibson teaches us to embrace this countercultural ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published July 31st 2017 by Crossway Books
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 Living Life Backward, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Living Life Backward

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  350 ratings  ·  90 reviews

More filters
Sort order
First sentence (from the preface): I am going to die.

Premise/plot: Living Life Backward is a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. David Gibson addresses the contents of each chapter focusing on the big themes of the book. (It isn't exactly a verse-by-verse commentary. But all the big ideas of the book of Ecclesiastes are discussed and the text of Ecclesiastes is included so I don't hesitate to call it a commentary.) The main premise of this one is simple. Gibson writes, "I am convinced that o
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, although it indeed at times felt very much like "goads from the Shepherd" to my soul. It is a sobering look at the reality of our coming death, which is the only thing in life that is certain for us all. Gibson shows how Ecclesiastes teaches us to stop pretending and ignoring the fact that death is coming, and how to live a joyful and intentional life in light of that truth.
Porter Sprigg
This is an excellent book that explains Ecclesiastes in a fascinating and accessible way. It has made me think about death and dying a lot more than I usually do. But that's a good thing, a main goal of Qohelet himself! The reality of death should not be one I ignore in denial but one I face and then make decisions in light of. Gibson is a great writer and I highly recommend this book.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I put this on my to-read list thanks to it being WORLD Magazine’s accessible theology book of the year. In this book, Gibson presents well-organized analysis, examples, and practical applications about the truth and themes found in the book of Ecclesiastes - most importantly, he explores the question how do you live the “good life” now knowing that you will inevitably die? Gibson’s writing style was structured and readable and occasionally comic; I particularly liked chapters 7 and 8. My only c ...more
Nick Gibson
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A winsome defense of Ecclesiastes as a manual for joyous, responsible Christian living rooted in realism about death and the hope of future life. Gibson is easy to read, warm in tone, and pulls together thoughts from a broad range of thinkers. Excellent for reading aloud.
Scott Sauls
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Compelling treatment of a challenging book of the Bible. Highly recommend for any pastor, teacher, or learner wanting to delve more deeply.
Wes Van Fleet
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! Gibson takes his readers on the joyful and sorrowful words of Ecclesiastes. I can not recommend this book more highly. I found myself reading as if Gibson knew me personally and was shining the light into all the dark and hidden places of my heart. But I also felt like a hand was on my shoulder reassuring me that God is present in the struggles of this life and will complete the work he started. Fantastic book. Rich, challenging, and comforting.
Akash Ahuja
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ecclesiastes can be hard to approach, but David Gibson does a very good job of it. His writing may not be perfect, but his understanding of what temptations humans typically fall into and our general feelings towards our mortality is communicated very well and sets up the reader to be ready to listen to what he has to say. In short- he gets it. This book challenged me and I’m sure I’ll be reading it again at some point later on in the future.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scripture
Excellent. Every Christian should be familiar with the message of Ecclesiastes, and Gibson is a worthy guide.
Andy Huette
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is probably in my top ten all time reads. It’s an explanation of Ecclesiastes in relatively short, understandable, and applicable terms. The author argues, on the basis of Ecclesiastes, the the secret to living well and enjoying God’s gifts in life is understanding that life is short and we will die. It’s blunt, direct, and wonderfully helpful. This is probably the best Christian Living book I’ve read in the past ten years. I highly recommend it!
Becky Pliego
Loved it, especially these chapters: Doing Time, From Death to Depth, and One Foot in the Grave.
Thanks to my dear friend Robin Z for recommending it to me. Our discussion afterwards was really good. This is a wonderful book to read with a group friends (each chapter ends with some discussion questions -that I didn't do).
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
To die well means I realize death is not simply something that happens to me; it happens to me because I am a sinner. I realize that in a sense I cause my own death. To die well means I realize that every time I see a coffin, it preaches to me that the world is broken and fallen and under the curse of death-and I am a part of it. It means I realize that I am not owed three score years and ten by God. It is only because of his mercy that I am not consumed today. To die well means realizing that f ...more
Beth Diaz
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This isn’t the kind of book you can simply read, finish, and think “hm, that was nice.” Reading it requires rumination (which I am very thankful the author included reflection questions for) and the kind of steady pace and endurance you’d need to maintain while swimming in a sea of mud (I use the term “mud” not for its imagery of dirt, but for its thickness. Perhaps “swimming in a sea of honey” would have been a more pleasant visual? But this book is far from excessively sweet. What’s both sweet ...more
Braley Chambers
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ecclesiastes has always been my favorite book in the entire Bible. This is due to the fact that Ecclesiastes is so spot on when it comes to the apparent vanity in the world around us. Gibson does an amazing job of distilling the books’ major themes in a readable and relevant way. We’re all going to die and most likely no one will remember who we even were(Ecclesiastes 1). How should that impact how we live? Gibson helpfully shows us that Qoheleth is just as relevant today as he was a few thousan ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not what I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing.

The main point is this: every single person is going to die one day. How does that knowledge impact how we live now?

Gibson takes a point that we build nothing, we leave no legacy, and our achievements and work fall apart after we die. Yes and no. I think that God allows things to endure that have Kingdom benefit. We all have stories of people who have touched our lives, in their life or maybe even after their death. We leave a legacy by our i
Misael G
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Top 10 Christian books I've read, for sure. Helped me to see how to better appreciate the gift of everyday life and the beauty of the ordinary.
Ryan Spillers
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a great book! Understand life by understanding death. I highly recommend it to all.
Ryan Cronin
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great expositional walk through and commentary on an often mis-interpreted book of Wisdom from the Old Testament. Appreciate the author's honest, urgent, yet loving approach to discussing the reality of death and its impact on how we live life today.
Richard Klueg
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I reserve 5 stars for exceptionally good books, and I was not long into this book before I figured this would fall into that category. Gibson's explanation and application of the Bible's book of Ecclesiastes moved my understanding of and appreciation for that book up to an new level. The idea of living life in the light of one's coming death does not come across as morbid or fatalistic. On the contrary, I found myself encouraged and challenged to live a a life of joy and purpose in the presence ...more
Ben Chidester
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian-life
The content fostered good discussion in a small group, but it was the discussion that was more memorable than the content itself. I was disappointed that Gibson didn't tie Ecclesiastes, with its despairing of the vanity of life, into the Gospel much at all. I guess he was trying to focus on Ecclesiastes in itself, but it felt strange as a Christian book to not make such ties.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
2017 Book of the year for me. Monumental truth for every Christian to grasp in everyday life. Theological and practical. Will return to this book often.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Solid, practical look at the benefit of a difficult book like Ecclesiastes.
Caitlin Allen
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson 4 ☆’s

Thank you to Crossway publishing for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions in this blog are my own.

I haven’t blogged in a while because I haven’t been reading. For the past three weeks, my life has revolved around moving. Now that my life is back to semi-normalcy, I decided to pick up where I had left off. I did read this book in two sections – before and after the move.

This book is s
Sydney Avey
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Living Life Backwards is a bracing read.  It's like splashing cold water on your face and examining your reflection in the mirror with this question in mind: In light of the fact that I will age and die, how am I doing? Many people go only skin deep with that question. (How am I holding up compared to my peers?) The writer of Ecclesiastes invites us to consider the heart of the matter. How does the fact that, despite our best efforts, all earthly life ends in death affect the way we live?

When I
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I must say that this book has been one of the best I have read regarding faith growth. The author discusses the Book of Ecclesiastes in a very understandable way. The author explains that the Preacher in this Book is telling us that nothing is new under the sun. That is, patterns in our lives are no different than patterns that have existed since the beginning of man. We act today no differently than our ancestors acted. That may be a difficult concept to accept at first, but in the core charact ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is tough. Gibson starts strong by unabashedly forcing us to examine death, and it's only then that we can examine life. And there were some passages in here that have really given me something to think about. But, those were sparse, and ultimately, I found this book lacking in depth. And perhaps that is my problem; not Gibson's. Perhaps he wrote this specifically as an introductory overview and it's my expectations that are out of line.

One of my favorite sections was a brief study of nostal
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A walk through the challenging beauty of Ecclesiastes, "Living Life Backward" has reframed and refined some of my own impressions of that biblical book in ways that make it even more beautiful as a component of God's word. Less commentary than Derek Kidner's or Iain Provan's books on the same, David Gibson's book is well-written, accessible, and thought-provoking. The author revisits his primary thesis--we are all going to die, and this should have something to say about the way we live--through ...more
Mark Schisler
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great read that will make you think more deeply about what you want out of life and why.

Ecclesiastes teaches us that our main frustration with life is that we are not God, and that the one who is has left us with unanswered questions.

This gives us a lot to think about, and if we aren't careful, we can get lost and think we have the answers. Paradoxically, it's precisely when we think we have the answers, that we should be most concerned.

As a good friend of mine wrote in my yearbook in 1999, "
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding, thoughtful work meditating on the message of Ecclesiastes. The author sums up the view of life that the Preacher gives as life is "gift, not gain". Very persuasive, and very convicting in many ways. It has made me want to, with fear and trembling, preach through the book in the future. I plan to re-read this to remind myself of the truths of Ecclesiastes and the Biblical worldview it imparts. As the closing lines of the book say: "We can labor for Christ while we live, and we can li ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Living Life Backwards" is a must-read for all those challenged by the Scriptures' wisdom literature found in the book of Ecclesiastes.

As one who has (proudly) thought of himself as a mature realist, this book humbled me to show me that I was nowhere near that label. And truly none of us are.

I truly needed this book: 1.) to help me set crooked priorities in my life. 2.) to help me see the chief end of my life; that is, to glorify God and enjoy him forever by accepting the hardest (yet, true and
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor
  • The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary
  • The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God's Mercy
  • How Does Sanctification Work?
  • Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength
  • Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
  • This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel
  • The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering
  • Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (Short Studies in Biblical Theology)
  • Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World
  • Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death
  • What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self
  • The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts
  • Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (Spiritual Theology #4)
  • 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Focus on the Bible Commentaries)
  • Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything
  • Finding God in My Loneliness
  • Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

David Gibson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Minister of Trinity Church in Aberdeen, Scotland. Previously he served as a staff worker for the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship (part of UCCF) and as an assistant minister at High Church, Hilton, Aberdeen. Gibson has also published a number of artic
“be neither an escapist nor a theological snob, for part of living wisely is learning to live with the limitations of wisdom itself.” 2 likes
“Stop chasing the wind! Stop thinking the future will be better and easier. Stop thinking that if only things were different you would be a better person and that one day you will be a better father. You do not know the future or what lies around the corner, whether good or ill. Perhaps these are indeed the very best days of my life. Maybe I’ll be dead tomorrow. Live the life you have now instead of longing for the life you think you will have but which you actually cannot control at all. When we realize there is a middle way between being lazy in the here and now and busting a gut for the future, we find tranquility.” 1 likes
More quotes…