My Lucky Life (book review)

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Dick Van Dyke has always been one of my favorite on-screen personalities. Of course, what goes on off-screen to allow someone to get on screen is often a long journey. Mr. Van Dyke recounts his journey in his memoir My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business. 

I actually listened to the audiobook for this one, and it was nice to hear Dick read his own remembrances of his small-town upbringing, the way he developed his comedy routines, the people who opened doors for him, his perseverance through some thin times, and—as the title suggests—the breaks that came his way. 

It was also a lot of fun hearing about things that didn’t end up in movies like “Mary Poppins” or in TV shows like “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Getting to go behind the scenes to hear what goes into making a hit show that lasts through the generations was very eye-opening. 

The only sad note from this memoir is one I have, unfortunately, noticed in the lives of many who have been so devoted to their show business careers: the toll on their family and personal lives. This reminds me of Solomon’s haunting conclusion in the book of Ecclesiastes that things “under the sun” turn out to be meaningless, but only what lasts for eternity has any value. 

Despite the few minor keys, My Lucky Life is an informative read, especially for those who grew up watching the TV shows and movies that featured Dick Van Dyke.  

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How I Got This Way (book review)

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Who doesn’t love Regis Philbin? Even if a morning talk show wasn’t your thing, the personality and professionalism that Regis demonstrated for over 50 years put him in a category all by himself. How did he get this way? He tells us in his entertaining memoir How I Got This Way. 

I purchased the audiobook for this one because I love hearing Regis speaking so passionately about those things that fire him up. Although he was mostly subdued in his recording, there were moments that his Irish was up! 

This book is presented in a very interesting format, with each chapter being named after a person who had a huge impact on fashioning Regis into the television icon that he became. Some names are readily recognizable, while others would be names known to only a handful of people. Since Regis would stick with this person through all of the years that he knew them, as the book progresses you will begin to see these strands intersecting with other people and forming a comprehensive picture. 

This was a delightful book! If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the television industry almost from its very beginning stages, this memoir will more than fit that bill. 

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The Hiding Place (book review)

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In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

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Talking To GOATs (book review)

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I’m a student of leadership, so I love to learn about what makes leaders “tick,” how they overcome obstacles and deal with adversity, and watch how they prepare themselves to be the best they can be. Broadcaster Jim Gray has had a front-row seat (literally!) to some of the most outstanding athletes in recent history, and he unpacks his stories about these leaders in his book Talking To GOATs. 

For those of you wondering, GOAT stands for “greatest of all time.” We’re talking about people who stand out from their peers over a long period of time, those who set the standard for everyone else, those who have so excelled that their sport has had to change things up to try to accommodate them! Superstars like Muhammad Ali, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Hank Aaron, and Michael Phelps. 

Jim Gray’s book is a behind-the-scenes look at not only the hard work he put in to produce and present interviews with these GOATs, but also insights rarely seen of the intense work these athletes put in to become the GOATs of their particular sport. Jim shows us how both he and these athletes deal with setbacks, criticism, the challenges that come with success, and their own internal drive to keep being the best. 

This book isn’t all about athletes, but it’s a bit of a memoir of Jim’s life too. I really enjoyed learning about the role that Jim’s parents, and especially his dad, played in helping Jim get into these “front row seats” to cover these amazing athletes. Jim is also very candid about how he has processed the inevitable criticism that comes from interviewing a certain athlete in a way that not every fan appreciated. It was a very enjoyable read. 

The sports fans in your life will almost certainly know who Jim Gray is, and they will love hearing what went into some of the more memorable moments in sports broadcasting. My son gave me this book as a gift and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I know that the sports fans that you love will also give you kudos if you send Talking To GOATs their way.

Miracles Out Of Somewhere (book review)

Fans of the band Kansas will recognize that the title of Kerry Livgren’s book is just a slight variation from one of the band’s well-known songs. Miracles Out Of Somewhere recognizes both the miracles and the Source of those miraculous encounters. 

For my listening enjoyment, I am always quick to pull up anything written by Kerry Livgren—his solo work, Kansas, AD, or Proto-Kaw are musical masterpieces and lyrically enriching. One of Kerry’s songs was entitled “Miracles out of nowhere,” in which we are surprised by the serendipitous occurrences that cross our paths. But in this book, Kerry makes it clear that he sees God at work in his life. 

Miracles Out Of Somewhere is a memoir spanning all of Kerry’s life. He takes us back to his boyhood home, to the pre-Kansas days, to the heyday of Kansas, and to his life since leaving the popular rock band. The book is not written in chronological order, but almost as if Kerry were sitting on the front porch and reminiscing with you. 

I have always found Kerry (and all his Kansas bandmates) to be very down-to-earth guys. They enjoyed their success without letting it go to their head. This book has that same accessible, guy-next-door feel to it, which makes it extremely engaging and enjoyable. Kerry simply shares his stories and lets the reader come to their own conclusion of what sort of miracle may (or may not) have happened. 

If you enjoy the music of Kerry Livgren, I think you will appreciate the messages in his songs even more after taking this behind-the-scenes tour with him. 

ADDED BONUS REVIEW: The band Kansas has a rockumentary about the band’s beginnings and its “miracles” that put them on top of Billboard’s greatest hits. This Miracles Out Of Nowhere DVD is very enjoyable and well worth the time of any Kansas fan. 

Book Reviews From 2020

War As I Knew It (book review)

Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting World War II soldiers who fought in the Third Army in Europe. I’ve said to them, “Oh, so you were Patton’s man.” And the response is always the same, “Yes sir!” they proudly respond with a smile. General George Patton was a unique military leader, and his memoirs called War As I Knew It capture his uniqueness. 

George Patton lived as if he were always in pursuit of something big. He always pushed himself, those under his command, and even those in leadership over him, to keep moving forward. His memoirs cover the final 2+ years of World War II, from the time he landed his troops in Africa until Germany surrendered. 

Patton’s Third Army was an unstoppable force! They covered more ground, took more territory, captured or killed more enemy combatants, liberated more cities, and destroyed more enemy material than any other army in US history! This was because of Patton’s drive, and because of his strenuous personal preparation before the war even started. 

These memoirs record Patton’s successes, but he also is transparent enough to list where he miscalculated and where he was simply a beneficiary of good fortune. 

For students of leadership, US history, or military history, War As I Knew It is a very insightful book. 

Book Reviews From 2019

The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon (book review)

For a man who preached up to 10 times per week for nearly 40 years, you would think that people knew all about Charles Spurgeon’s personal life. Although he frequently used some small personal examples in his sermons, he still kept much of his personal life personal. In reading Spurgeon’s Autobiography, I expected to get an inside look, but that was not what I found. 

Like his sermons, Spurgeon’s Autobiography was fascinating. Like his sermons, his recollections of his past are thoroughly steeped in Scripture. I love this! This shows us that this Prince of Preachers didn’t just put on a performance when he stepped into his pulpit, nor did he simply teach Christian principles for others to apply only to their lives; instead, we see a man who truly patterned his life after the Bible. 

I also love the honesty in Spurgeon’s stories. He tells of his struggles before and after his conversion. He talks openly of his disagreements with some “church” people that didn’t behave very Christ-like. He discusses his battles with depression, and with those who were outright critics of his ministry. In other words, Spurgeon reveals himself without putting himself on some sort of pedestal. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are always a delight to read, but I think you will find in his Autobiography a living sermon that we can all emulate. 

Book Reviews From 2018

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