Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

I was bit skeptical about this book, just as I was skeptical of the very idea of a gratitude journal. I stumbled on Ann Voskamp’s  blog A Holy Experience back in December when I was first exploring the idea of gratitude.  I love her beautiful photos and often find real kernels of truth in her writing but her overall style is a little flowery for my taste. I find that I get distracted by the way she writes and lose the whole point of what she is writing about. Judging from the number of her followers, I’m in the minority here. Many, many women are obviously very blessed by Ann and her blog and now by her book.

The book came out about a month ago and almost immediately I began seeing reviews about it everywhere. They were all glowing. “It changed my life.” “Destined to be a classic.” “Best book I’ve ever read.” And I have to admit that the cynic in me thought “Really?” I mean nothing can be that good, right? In my own mind I expected that this would be a lightweight book, nice and pretty and feel good but kind of shallow. Like way too many of the Christian self-help books or Women’s Bible Studies out there.

But I felt like I should read it. After all, I’m thinking and learning about gratitude this year, and partially inspired by Ann I’m keeping my own gratitude list. Plus, I’m speaking on gratitude in a couple of weeks in my church Sunday school so I thought it might help me organize my thoughts.  I’m a fast reader so I thought if nothing else it would be a light easy read.

Well.

I think it will change my life.  Destined to be a classic. One of the best books I’ve read.

I still have problems with her writing style. I appreciate that often what she writes is more poetry than prose and I can see she has a gift for conjuring up vivid visual imagery with her words. But it’s not my style and just never will be. I have problems with the incomplete sentences and overuse of metaphors. And count me among those who think the last chapter (“making love to God”) is uncomfortable and over the top.

Still. What impressed me the most about this book is how deep it is. She considers the hard questions. How to be grateful in the midst of shattering loss. How to hold on to the belief that God is good and only gives good gifts when your life is full of disappointment or suffering. She doesn’t give easy answers (or any answers) for these but I appreciate the struggle and honesty. It would have been very easy for her to ignore these kind of questions and write a very different book.

She also quotes widely from giants of the faith: Chesterton, Lewis, Sayers, Augustine, Elisabeth Elliot, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Erasmus, John Piper, and many others. She draws heavily on Scripture. I really appreciated that this book is another stop in the long tradition of writings on the practice of gratitude as opposed to being one woman’s thoughts. I think that in the end that’s what makes it such a good book.

Perhaps the highest compliment I can give it is that now that I’m finished, I plan on going back and starting over at page one.

 

8 thoughts on “Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

  1. I am glad to see this! I have the same feelings about her writing style, but I went ahead and ordered it and now I am thinking I won’t have wasted my money! : )

    • One reason I want to go back and re-read it is that I skimmed through some parts just to finish. I wanted to get it read for this talk I’m preparing for. I marked a lot of pages to go back and read and think about some more. In a lot of ways I think it’s a book that is better read slowly. It also has inspired me to want to read more of the Christian classics she draws from.

      • Yes, I think it is a book best read slowly. I read slowly, but only because I lack time to read any other way. Really, I read determinedly–I’m trying to get from the first page to the last as quickly, albeit as enjoyably, as possible. I don’t think you can read this book that way, at least not if you’re really trying to “get” it.

        I’m curious to read the last chapter now.

  2. I share a lot of your reactions. I’ll be surprised if it becomes a classic (some reviewers have said this is CS Lewis for today, and I find that a little hard to swallow). But as it did for you, it re-emphasized a spiritual path I was already on. I can have such an equivocating mind, always asking questions and sitting on the fence. But God has been challenging me with the need to affirm — who He is (“I Am”), what He has given, what He is doing.

    (The last chapter was too much for me too.)

  3. You know, I loved this book beyond belief. I really am much more of a fiction reader so when I first read the book jacket I wasn’t sure. However, I was literally glued to this book from the moment I read the first page. I find her writing style to be beautiful with such incredible depth. But I can see how someone might not like it. I loved the Ann of Green Gables books and started reading them in high school. They are written similarly to Ann’s book. I think you are right, it is a taste.

    At any rate, I love the book and appreciate your review. I have also started my own 1000 gifts list.

    Enjoy your blog. Jana http://www.adoctorandanurse.com

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting Jana! I think you will find the 1000 gifts list incredibly rewarding and challenging. At least it has been for me.

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