Thinking It Through: N.D. Wilson’s book, Death by Living

downloadI read a lot of books. I am almost embarrassed to buy new books for the incredulous tone I will hear in my wife’s voice as she exclaims “more books!?!”

Almost.

Not quite. So, I go on with my buying. Now I have encountered many great books throughout my life. Here is a brief list of the ones that stand out in my mind.

  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken for the beauty of his writing and the profundity both of his life experience and his correspondence with C.S. Lewis.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis for the joy of discovering allegory as a little child.
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for introducing me to the intellectual rigor supporting the Christian faith.
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey for helping me learn to handle responsibilities as a leader.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for exposing my 15 year old self to the power of story in promoting philosophy.
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Anthem by Ayn Rand for showing how perspective and language can engage a reader.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for giving me my first grasp of pluralism, long before pluralism was cool.
  • The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling for awakening me to the incredible, world building power of imagination.
  • John Grisham for thrilling me, and Dean Koontz for scaring me.
  • Desiring God by John Piper for redirecting my perception of God, and forever changing my pursuit of him (this one is a must read if you have not).
  • The myriad of classics and all the virtues, counter-virtues, and character traits they teach: 1984, Lord of the Flies, Dracula, The Odyssey, Edith Hamilton’s Greek Mythology, Pilgrim’s Progress, and more.

These are just the ones that popped into my mind as I wrote. The list could go on and on and on. The books we read become part of our lives, and I want my life to be as big as I can make it! So I read.

A number of years ago, I stumbled upon a Christian writer by the name of G.K. Chesterton who introduced me to something I had not experienced before – the power of artful prose. Chesterton was a master of blending humor with profound insight through witty and winsome turns of phrase. His writing was artful. It was delightful. Chesterton gave me an appreciation for the unique voice of a truly gifted writer. It was a step that led me to appreciate the book I will be writing about for the next few posts: Death By Living.

N.D. Wilson, the author of Death By Living, has the most unique voice I have ever read. I am no literary critic, so I don’t even know how to categorize his writing style other than to say it is a precisely directed stream of conscious poem written in prose. His flow of thought shifts from the present to the past, from philosophy to storytelling, from somber reflection to hilarious irony. It is one of the truly unique books I have ever read.

Aside from his writing, which is worth reading regardless of the content, the content is dumbfounding. What I mean is that Wilson walks you through the story of his life and invites you to consider your own. He sets his story firmly in the squishy middle of a much bigger story involving illiterate farm boys, WWII bomber raids, and children engrossed in Lego wars. His story also includes death, as all of ours will. He invites you to join him in considering the implications of living a life worth dying for.

In short, this book made me feel inspiration, wonder, and whimsy unlike any other book I have read. As such, I want to go back and think my way through it, which is to say, I want to write my way through it. If you have not read it, I hope my thoughts can inspire you to buy it and put it on your list.

I will leave you with an exhortation/warning of Wilson’s from his introduction to Death By Living:

Grab a rented raft, hop in the rinkiest-dinkiest sea kayak you can find. Pull on a puffy orange life vest and buckle it (rather awkwardly) between your legs. Brandish your paddle. Ignore all sunscreen. By the time we’re done, you’ll be chafed in such new and innovative ways that the familiarity of a sunburn just might be a comfort, a little tingling reassurance that you are still you.

 

 

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