A Million Miles in A Thousand Years is about how Donald Miller learned to tell a better story with his life. Even after writing a best-selling book, he found his life was boring and felt meaningless. A couple filmmakers stepped in to create a screenplay about his memoir, and Don discovered the same elements that go into creating a great story can also work to create a great life. So he quit writing for a while and rode his bike across America. He started a mentoring program because he had become a selfish jerk, and he chased a girl and got his heart ripped open and run through a meat grinder. But he lived to tell about it. So the question is, when the credits roll in your life, are people going to think your story sucked? If there’s any chance of that happening, read this book and start living a better story.
Here’s a great review from Chris Brogan. Thanks Chris!
Blue Like Jazz has now sold well over a million copies, and spent more than forty weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Hundreds of thousands of people point to this book as the surprise find that helped them understand and define their Christian faith. Of the book, Donald Miller says:
“When I started writing this book I just wanted to end up with something like Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, because in Traveling Mercies it felt like she was free, free to be herself, to tell her story, to just vent, to rant, to speak as if she were talking to a friend. Traveling Mercies helped me write this book, and in a way, for a while, Anne will be “The Beatles” of spiritual writers, because she has influenced so many of us. I definitely feel as though I got permission from Anne Lamott, permission to be human and to interact with God without all of the mind-melt that comes with growing up in a religious family. I never believed it would be published, and so I was pretty open in this book. My career was dead when I started this thing, so I felt like I was just talking to myself, or to the little reading group that met at my house.
Sting has this song where he says that he is alone on an island and puts a message in a bottle and throws it into the ocean, only to wake the next morning and have a hundred million bottles washed upon his shore. He sings “I guess I’m not alone at being alone,” and I think that sums up how I feel about Blue Like Jazz. It feels like I thought I was alone but woke up one morning to discover nothing could be further from the truth. And people have been incredibly kind.”
I learned to tie a tie when I was twelve. The guy at the big-and-tall store taught me. We stood between racks of oversized shirts and sport coats so big you could use them to cover a Jet Ski in winter. We stood there as my mother watched and I learned the little end goes back through the opening. I could tell you a thousand stories just like that, about guys teaching me things my father should have taught me.
Recently, I read through the grand jury testimony regarding a young man who was shot to death by police here in Portland. The young man was at his girlfriends house, and was told to come out with his hands behind his head, walking backwards toward the police who had their guns drawn. The man talked back to the police, telling them to shoot him. He then took off running, hid behind a car and when he reached inside his sweatshirt he was shot to death.
As I read the testimony, I kept wondering what would happen if an older man who shared his blood and his name had been in his life how different things would have been. Mistakes were made on both sides of the event in Portland, but I kept thinking about how different things would be if there might have been a father involved. It’s amazing how different we become when there is somebody in our lives who might be ashamed of us, somebody who also provides food and a roof and love.
Father Fiction is a book about growing up without a father. It’s a book about all the things I’ve had to learn second hand, a laundry list of character traits kids who grew up without dads need to develop, and a lot of affirmation and validation in with the advice.
In the book, I tell the story of a wildlife refuge in Africa where a group of orphaned elephants entered into adolescence on their own, the males becoming violent because their mustch cycles were oddly sustained beyond the natural norm for elephants. It was only when older, male elephants were introduce to the refuge that the mustch cycled ended and the elephants continued their healthy lives. It was just the simple presence of an older male that settled the elephants down, both in behavior and biochemically. I believe something similar is true for humans, too.
After writing Father Fiction, I realized the issue needed more than a book and so I started an organization called The Mentoring Project which partners young men growing up without dads with positive male role models. Our goal is to see thousands of kids enter into relationships with somebody who would be let down if they screwed up, and ecstatic when they succeed.
I’m grateful to, both with Father Fiction and The Mentoring Project, be working with people who are telling a better story, who are entering into the story of fatherlessness and changing the plot. I should have put a chapter in there about tying a tie, but maybe we can all do that one in person.
Hysterically funny, wryly provocative, and disquietingly insightful, Searching for God Knows What invites readers to examine their deep need for redemption, to feel it, know it, and live like it is true in their lives.
Miller weaves phenomenal characters and true-to-life spectacles into his acclaimed memoir style to enrich, inspire, entertain, and ultimately challenge readers to see life in a new way. He shows that one of the greatest desires of every person is the desire for redemption, to have brokenness repaired. Instead of the chaotic relationships, self-hatred, wreckless consumerism, and anxiety that overrun a life without redemption, Miller uncovers the beauty and power of the Gospel to fulfill one of our deepest needs.
“Through Painted Deserts will always be close to my heart,” Don says. “I think an author always likes his or her first book for very sentimental reasons. I wrote it about five years ago and printed it with a conservative publishing company that, because of their market, needed to edit out some of the more authentic events and dialogue that took place on the road trip the book chronicled. In the rewrite, I put most of this stuff back. I took the rewrite pretty seriously, going so far as to get in my car and spend three months (longer than the actual trip itself) going back and visiting old haunts. I dont know if that helped the book very much, but it was definately fun. I have even wondered if a book about rewriting the book might be appropriate. In the second trip, I was dealing with a lot of forgiveness issues/identity issues that might make for interesting introspection. But I am a bit tired of writing about myself, so that might need to wait a few years.
What you will find in Through Painted Deserts is the begining of a long trail of walking away from home, from religion and from an american version of Christianity. You will also be introduced to Paul Harris, who, to this day, is my best friend in this world. Paul and I were strangers when we left Houston together, and so its a book about the begining of a friendship as much as it is about leaving different things.
I was reading a lot of Steinbeck and Hemingway when I wrote it the first time, and had moved on to Annie Dillard and more poetic voices in the rewrite. I found the combination interesting, although I think Steinbeck would roll over in his grave if he knew somebody was trying to imitate him, only adding poetics.
Rewriting the old book brought back some terrific memories. I even felt old crushes again as I wrote about some of the characters I had feelings for, and I missed the woods. I had just bought a house in Portland when I wrapped up the book and have begun to ache for the woods again, for freedom. I think it is very easy for us to think that life is just life, that beauty is something you go see every few years on family vacation. That’s a lie, it turns out. The invitation is always open.”
A Review from The Dallas Morning News:
If you’re a Donald Miller fan, this one’s an update of his relatively unknown first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, a hilarious yet poignant all-American road trip.
Mr. Miller and a friend take a 1971 Volkswagen van from Texas to Oregon: two guys on a pilgrimage to do life in a simpler way and find God in shared conversations and America’s scenery. It’s hardly a religious book, and yet Mr. Miller, true to his Blue Like Jazz style, calls his readers and himself to contemplate life’s “why” instead of “how.”
Through Mr. Miller’s raw vulnerability and vivid writing, the book is an engaging tale.
Warning: Could cause unquenchable wanderlust and a sudden urge to search eBay for a used VW van.
-Dallas Morning News