Nelson, Coupland or Alice: The Future of Books?

With a hat tip to Dave Delaney, IDEO, a global design and innovation consultancy, has produced a video showcasing their vision on three potential scenarios for the future of books.

The common thread among the three seems to center around encouraging discussion, interaction and community among readers.  As an avid reader, I’m intrigued to say the least.

Do you see a future here, or are simpler e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook more than adequate at doing the job?  What about the iPad?

The Portable Patriot: A Book Review

While Independence Day may be behind us, that doesn’t mean we have to put our patriotism on the shelf until next year.  A recent e-mail I received from a PR agent tipped me off to a new book from Thomas Nelson Publishers called The Portable Patriot: Documents, Speeches, and Sermons That Compose the American Soul and edited by Joel J. Miller and Kristen Parrish.  It is one I recommend highly.

If you, like me, are fascinated by stories of our country’s origins, especially when they come straight from those who lived them, then this is definitely a book you’ll want to consider reading.  From the first settlers in the early 1600s to our country’s founding, the stories recounted here are remarkable.

I found the book thought-provoking and a definite page-turner, especially when engaged in stories like the one early in the book from late 1600s settler Mary Rowlandson as she harrowingly recounts having been taken captive – a three-month ordeal – by Native Americans and the many losses suffered along the way.  Still, her faith gave her the strength to push on in the face of innumerable obstacles.

Faith is the common strand that threads these many stories together.  In each of them, you see what was once commonplace in our communities: a complete and natural reliance on God for our future.  Or, as our forefathers put it, “…a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

The Portable Patriot is my own “little library of foundational documents” and a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham: A Review

fysl_cover_fullOkay, I’ll just come out and say it. It’s been really hard to Find My Strongest Anything lately.  There have been two deaths in my family in the last week,  yesterday my one and only laptop hard drive crashed (I’m on a borrowed one now) and, I realized just moments ago that this review is actually due today, October 5th, and not tomorrow, October 6th, as I’d thought.  Me, strongest life?  Hardly.

On the other hand, one could argue the timing of this book in my life couldn’t be better.  In a moment, I’ll tell you how you can get a free copy all your very own.  But first, my impressions of the book.

The complete title is actually Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that was so obviously not geared to me.  Despite this though, I found it to be quite fascinating.  Here’s a quick 90-second video intro to the book from the author:

What the book ultimately tries to do is to teach you to identify your life’s “strong moments,” those moments that really get your juices flowing.  Sounds pretty remedial, right?  But, for me at least, it’s so easy to let these moments go by unnoticed.  Reading the book, I realized I’d been doing exactly that for a long time.  Even as I thought about the last couple of weeks, as Buckingham suggests doing, and tried to pick them out, I kept coming up empty. 

What Find Your Strongest Life helped me to do was pinpoint them so that I can now, going forward, focus my attention on them.  I discovered, for example, that my Lead Role is as an “Advisor” (You’ll learn where you fit after taking the simple test at StrongLifeTest.com.  The questions are geared to women, but I didn’t find it difficult to think of each one in terms of my male role in life).  I must say that, as I read the “strongest moments” associated with this trait, I became really excited.

One of them – someone calls you up out of the blue and relies on your opinion – reminded me of two real-life examples from just a few days ago.  When I thought back to these two moments, I was instantly reminded of how much I enjoyed these conversations.  Is it possible, I thought, to make a living advising people?  Duh!?!  Of course it is you dolt.  People do it every day. 

But other than a few brief flashes, I hadn’t much thought about my desires in this area.  Find Your Strongest Life helped me understand the importance of not treating these flashes so lightly.  In short, I came to realize there’s nothing I enjoy more than being relied upon for my opinion.  In other words, as Marcus writes, to clarify a complex issue for someone who acts upon what I’ve told them and to see them succeed upon doing so.   

Whether you find you’re an Advisor, a Motivator, a Weaver, a Care-Taker, I think you’ll find new motivation and the direction you’re looking for in this new book.

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Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I have four (4) copies of Find Your Strongest Life to give away.  For a chance at snagging one, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you’d like this book.  I really want to know.  I might even get to know you better.
  2. Fill out this special form. I have set up a separate form to make it convenient for you to provide your mailing address.  Please do not include your address with your comment.  This will automatically disqualify you.
  3. Twitter a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.  Please copy and paste the following into your tweet/update:

Reading: A book review of Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. @THEjeffbrown is giving away copies! http://wp.me/poeTz-mR

Yes, I know if more people read this, it will hurt your chances of getting a copy yourself.  But the only incentive the publisher has to provide books to giveaway is the free publicity you and I collectively provide.

On Thursday, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of the comments, I will select the winners. If you are selected, I will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do want a copy of this book?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Whether you win a copy or purchase this book from one of the above links, I thought you might enjoy sampling a few pages first.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller: A Review

Don Miller Book CoverIf you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.  You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen.  The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.

And so begins the new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like JazzIn a moment, I’ll tell you how you can get a free copy. For a taste of what’s in store, as well as information on Miller’s 65-city speaking tour, interviews and more, see my previous post.

Miller asserts that a big part of living a better and more rewarding and fulfilling life is about creating meaningful stories within which to live it.  He cautions though that, The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

If you’re like me, you find it difficult to be motivated by words written on a page.  I don’t know why I’m wired that way.  It may explain why only in the last several years have I become an avid reader.  But despite this personal quirk, I found A Million Miles to be filled with thought-provoking and motivational moments.  One of my favorites:

I’ve never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless.  I only thought the movie I walked out on was meaningless.  I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they’ve chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us.

If you’re aware change is needed but are struggling with the motivation to make that change, you might appreciate this:

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life.  It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it.  It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life.  People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.  But joy costs pain.

He goes on to write that, because of this, we often have to force ourselves to create these stories:

We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river.  We have to write the poem and deliver it in person.  We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill.  We have to put on our suits, we have to dance at weddings.

As I read the book during a recent trip to visit my ailing grandfather, I couldn’t help but think about how little time we all have to create meaningful stories.  My grandfather, at 91, was facing the end and I, if fortunate enough to live as long, was nearly half-way there myself, I thought.  What was I going to do differently?  What changes would I make?

That was three weeks ago.  Since that time I’m glad to say that, while probably considered baby steps, I’ve begun a few new stories in my life.  Both my wife and I, if we’re not careful, can make a weekend of laying around and doing nothing (me much more so than her).  Already, we’ve discussed the need to change this habit along with specific goals toward which to shoot.  Just one example, but there are others.  Like I said, baby steps.

Meanwhile, my grandfather’s funeral is tomorrow.  And while he may be gone, I’m glad to have shared a few meaningful stories with him along the way.  The stories he fostered are what will live on beyond tomorrow.  Your meaningful stories and mine, if we choose, can begin today.

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Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I have a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years to give away.  And if Chaffee Management comes through, I may even have several more (Update: 5 more copies for giveaway have just been made available).  For a chance at snagging one, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you’d like this book.  I really want to know.  I might even get to know you better.
  2. Fill out this special form. I have set up a separate contact form to make it convenient for you to provide your mailing address.  Please do not include your address with your comment.  This will automatically disqualify you.
  3. Twitter a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.  Please copy and paste the following into your tweet/update:

Reading: A book review of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. @THEjeffbrown is giving away copies! http://bit.ly/oju0P

Yes, I know if more people read this, it will hurt your chances of getting a copy yourself.  But the only incentive the publisher (or author’s manager) has to provide books to giveaway is the free publicity you and I collectively provide.

On Thursday, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of the comments, I will select a winner(s). If you are selected, I will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do want a copy of this book?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Don Miller: Tour and New Book

I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time.  88.7 WAY-FM is partnering with Chaffee Management Group to bring author Donald Miller to Nashville to speak in November.  He’s probably best known for his New York Times best-selling book Blue Like Jazz.

As a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers, I also confirmed today I’ll be receiving one of just 250 review copies of his new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – a review of which you’ll find here on September 29th, the same day the book hits store shelves.

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In the meantime, I thought I’d pass along to you a bit of a sneak peak into what’s in store from Don’s new book.  Feel free to share these materials with your network and, if you’re in the Nashville area, stay tuned to 88.7 WAY-FM for more on where and when you’ll find Don Miller speaking.

Let’s Get Viral

First, Thomas Nelson has taken the liberty of uploading the first 20 pages or so of the book to ScribdScribd is a website that brings the concept of “social” to publishing and describes itself as “the website where more than 60 million people each month discover and share original writings and documents.”

I’ve embedded the Scribd preview below, but you can also visit the site itself (just click the link at the bottom of the Scribd frame or the one in this sentence).  You can also share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and more than 30 other social networking sites.

Next comes a three-part YouTube video interview Donald did with Michael Hyatt, CEO at Thomas Nelson.  Don, not to mention Michael, comes across as just a regular, very down-to-earth guy.  If you have dreams of being a writer some day, let Don inspire you to not let go of that dream.



Additionally, there’s this really cool video widget you may have seen me share a few weeks back if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook.  In addition to Facebook, it can be added to your blog’s sidebar, shared via Twitter and as many as a few dozen other places you might frequent online.

The widget also allows you to download and preview an audio chapter from the book.  If  you prefer, you can even listen right now by linking to my Chirbit profile.

Officially, tickets for Don’s Nashville appearance are set to go on sale from the 88.7 WAY-FM website beginning September 20th.  However, I’m toying with the idea of sneaking the ticket link out a little early either through our Facebook Page, our Twitter account, this blog or all three simultaneously.  Stay Tuned!

What are your thoughts on sneaking the ticket link out early via our social networking sites versus a more public “heads-up” on the air?

The Noticer by Andy Andrews: A Review

The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective.

by Andy Andrews

Thomas Nelson Publishers

_200_350_book50cover1 In a matter of minutes, Jones, as he prefers to be called (no “Mr.” just Jones), can completely disarm the most stubborn stranger he encounters with little more than a few probing questions and several common sense, but often profound, answers.  Upon first meeting Jones, most find themselves asking things like, “Who is this man?  What brought him here at this place and at this time?  And why would he be the least bit interested in talking to me?”  Afterward, they’re left asking, “Where did he go?  How did I survive before he showed up? And will I ever see him again?”

Each of them is at a crossroads.  A choice must be made to either continue down the path they’re currently on or forge a brand new one.  At just the right time, whether at the end of his rope, at the point of despair, or in her greatest time of need, they each meet Jones.

A single man looking for meaning having gone through two failed marriages; a couple trying to remember what it was exactly that first drew them to one another; a seventy-something woman who’s come to the conclusion her usefulness has passed; a young businessman striving so hard for success that he fails to realize what true success really means; all these poignant stories and more make up The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective.

How many times have I wished I had just the right answer, as Jones always seems to, when talking with someone in a seemingly impossible situation.  I’m no Jones, but it’s not unusual in Christian radio (my vocation) or in the world of Christian music in general to encounter, fairly regularly, teenagers, young couples, mothers and fathers, you name it, all looking for that spark, that piece of perfect advice that will be just the dose of confidence they need, not just to function, but to start anew and to make a difference in the lives of others.

Personally, I wish I had this book years ago.  But I believe there is value to be gained from reading it regardless of where you find yourself in life.   I’m at a place now where I have the opportunity to speak into the lives of several just starting their life’s journey.  In fact, while on Facebook just last night, I was able to encourage a former intern using the principals in this very book.  Thank you Andy Andrews.  Here are some of my favorite take-aways from the book The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective:

  • Whatever you focus on increases – “If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose…But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.”
  • Every day, ask yourself this question: “What is it about me that other people would change if they could?” – “Another person’s perspective about you can sometimes be as important as your perspective is about yourself.”
  • A friend who accepts you as you are is dangerous – “A true friend holds you to a higher standard.  A true friend brings out the best in you.”
  • We judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their actions – “There is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place.”
  • And my personal favorite?  Your proof of hope – “If you’re breathing, you are still alive.  If you are alive, then you are still here, physically, on this planet.  If you are still here, then you have not completed what you were put on earth to do.  If you have not completed what you were put on earth to do…that means your very purpose has not yet been fulfilled.  If your purpose has not yet been fulfilled, then the most important part of your life has not yet been lived.  And if the most important part of your life has not yet been lived…”

You’re reading this review so I assume  you’re still breathing.  It’s time to get to work.

The Noticer Project: 5 People That Have Impacted You Most

_140_245_book50coverIf  you’re anything like me, you pretty much suck at noticing your surroundings.  Any time my wife makes a change to something within our home (a new wall hanging, rearranged furniture, a different brand of toothpaste even), it usually requires her pointing it out to me.  Let’s just say I’ve missed my share of “Your new do looks great, honey!” opportunities.

This curse especially makes itself known when I’m trying to locate a specific item around the house – by the way, why does it seem we husbands have a disproportionate amount of trouble with this?  I could be looking for cream or sugar for my coffee.  Maybe it’s a certain pair of socks.  Maybe it’s the milk (probably in the refrigerator).  Whatever it is I’m trying to find, more often than not, it’s right in front of me.  My brain, for some reason, just doesn’t see it.

I have to admit that, as I’ve grown older, I can sometimes allow this blinders-on mentality to creep into my relationships.  If I’m not making a concerted effort to pay attention, needs I should be meeting, or at least helping to meet, can go completely ignored.  And that’s certainly not a habit I want to see get a strong-hold in my life.

I couldn’t help but laugh just a little then, albeit nervously, when I realized the subject matter of the new book The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective; a book I’ve agreed to review in time for it’s release on Tuesday.

I’m especially intrigued though by a campaign the publishers are referring to as The Noticer Project. The site describes the project, in conjunction with the book, as “a worldwide movement to ‘notice’ the 5 most influential people in your life.” The description goes on to say, “Noticing those five people is meant to encourage us to step outside our busy schedules and avoid waiting until a wedding, graduation or even a funeral to take notice of the special, influential people in our lives.” How wonderful is that?

I’ll post my review of The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective tomorrow.  In the meantime, you can enjoy this special video.  It includes several in-character excerpts from the book itself.