Book Review: Grace Notes – Philip Yancey


“A friend of mine once said to me, “The words you write, the books you publish, they’re like your children.  You do the best you can with them, but eventually they go out there and take on a life of their own.  You cannot control where they go or what impact they have.”

So says Philip Yancy in the introduction to Grace Notes: Daily Reading with a Fellow Pilgrim. Philip Yancey’s words have indeed taken on a life of their own in my life, so when I got an e-mail from Zondervan asking if I was interested in reviewing the new Philip Yancey book, I immediately replied in the affirmative.

Now this is a little different from most other Yancey reads (Yancey is one of my all time favourite authors by the way), it is actually a collection of 366 excerpts from previous books, articles and even  a few unpublished pieces.  It took only a few minutes of scanning to realize that most of what appears in this book I have already read.  Some of it more than once.  More than a couple of stories have even appeared in sermons preached by me.

Now does that make this any less of a great book?  Absolutely not!  This is a brilliant gift for either the already a Yancey fan or the soon to become a Yancey fan.

The one thing that I do not enjoy about these “reading for every day of the year” type books though is that I have a sneaking suspicion that some people read the book instead of the Bible.  I would prefer they read both…

I guess I will use this book a bit different – this is what I would call the perfect “toilet book”.  The kind of book you can just pick up and read a few pages at a time while you are otherwise occupied.  Perhaps it could also come in useful in waiting rooms or between appointments.

What do I love about?  Everything that I love about the rest of Yancey’s writings.  Yancey has the ability to look at life and the church from a whole new, refreshing and challenging angle.  He never gives you trite or boxed answers.  If you need to know that someone else has doubts, or does not buy the neat packaged presentation we sometimes pass off as Christianity then Yancey is your man.  He will explore every doubt, every question with integrity, ruthlessness and openness.

But yet there is not a Yancey book that you will finish in which you are not more amazed by the wonder of the gospel, the majesty of God and weakness of human beings.  If you like real stories about real people, sometimes a bit edgy, a bit gritty but always authentic then you will love Yancey.  Yancey is not a professional theologian, he is a journalist – so questions and stories rather than heavy academic -theological debate are his strengths and he plays to these brilliantly.

I admit I have not read it cover to cover (yet!) but I have probably read 95% of this material, in its previous guises already.  And as I browsed around rediscovering some old favourites  and enjoying some new treasures I knew I would have no trouble telling you to buy this and give it away this Christmas, get one for yourself  and everyone you know.

Rating 10/10

~ by John on October 21, 2009.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Grace Notes – Philip Yancey”

  1. […] 8. Book Review: Grace Notes: Philip Yancey […]

  2. I am on my second year with this book and it continues to feed me anew each day. Thank you so much for filling my life with new meaning each day.

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