‘It’s All Too Much’ by Peter Walsh 📚

The first book I finished for my goal of 35 books in 2015 was 'It's All Too Much' by Peter Walsh. I never would have chosen this book on my own. From the cheesy cover to the author's sweet spot of helping hoarders, it strikes me as a book I just don't need to read. Enter Merlin Mann, gentleman about the Internet.

In Back to Work episode #202, Merlin mentioned this book along with 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen as the two books that influence him greatly and he continues to recommend to everyone. Being a big fan of Merlin and the other book, I immediately ordered this one from Amazon. It was a good call.

This book could help anyone, provided you realize one thing: clutter in your life is everyone's problem, not just the hoarders on TV. If you can open this book with an honest intent to listen, there is good stuff to be found here.

First, Walsh's philosophy will sound very familiar to Christians. His basic premises are:

  • We all have too much stuff
  • The stuff you own, will end up owning you
  • Clutter is not about your stuff, but about how you see your stuff

This is true. Mankind is bent to love created things more than the Creator. This leads to disordered views of possessions, which is what drives the clutter in our homes. Walsh's best contribution is giving us tools, questions and patterns to think through the emotions, thoughts and issues behind our junk.

Walsh's recommendations for how to approach the home are good across the board, and they will benefit everyone. The chapters that walk through the average home and provide strategies for de-cluttering and organizing are helpful. But it's the chapters that reveal how we think about our stuff, and how we need to process our emotions relating to our clutter, that really carry the water in this book.

We already had a plan in place to do some purging in the new year, and this book provided a clearer way to think through it than I had before. It honestly helped me get started on our plans, and in a more productive way than I previously had in mind. It was well worth it.

The one note of redirection I will add for my fellow Christians is simple: the control over possessions and environment that Walsh advocates is crucial for reorganizing your life, but it's not the answer. Walsh tells us to ask ourselves "do my possessions will help me have the life I envision?". But, instead we should ask, "do my possessions help me have a life that glorifies God and seeks to see him glorified?"

With that one minor redirection in place, I can heartily recommend this book to anyone. It's definitely better than the cover suggests.


15 books every storyteller and writer should read 📚

A good storyteller should always be looking for stories of all kinds. Knowledge is fundamental to the creative process. Whether it is an understanding of process and medium, knowledge of what others are doing in your field, or something completely unrelated to the work in front of you, we bring all of it to bear on the challenge of telling moving stories. Your path to growth runs directly through the work of other artists.

In light of this, I'd like to share my list of 15 books that I think every storyteller and writer should read:

Storytelling

  • The Elements of Story - Francis Flaherty
  • Save the Cat! - Blake Snyder
  • Story - Robert McKee

Writing

  • The Elements of Style - Strunk & White
  • Wordsmithy - Doug Wilson

Selected fiction, and a memoir

  • Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
  • East of Eden - John Steinbeck
  • High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  • The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
  • The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming – Rod Dreher

On being, and working as, a creative

  • Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon
  • Manage Your Day to Day - 99U
  • Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality - Scott Belsky

Did I leave something off the list? Did I make a terrible choice? Let me know in the comments below.


‘Jack’ by George Sayers

I finished Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayers earlier this week, and I genuinely loved it. This book should have already joined the many biographies in my library. Honestly, I cannot say why I have not read it earlier, because it was right up my alley.

Sayers was a pupil of Lewis at Oxford, and subsequently became a close friend. This depiction of Lewis benefits from his first hand knowledge of the man. It paints an intimate picture of the man, complete with his flaws and foibles as well as his virtues. To my eyes it is not an unctuous portrayal that seeks to polish a friend's reputation, but rather a measured view of the man through research, seasoned with personal knowledge. It was delightful.

My wife always measures how much I love a book by how often I rush to her side to read excerpts. She can testify that the last week or so was filled with these outbursts. Amongst my favorites were the depictions of the man in plain terms, descriptions that showed who he really was. Such as,

From that time on, he found it difficult to spend more than the minimum amount on himself or more than a necessary amount on anyone or anything. His only personal luxuries were beer, whiskey, and tobacco, the first and last of which he regarded as almost necessities. He seems to have never owned a watch or a good fountain pen. What he gained from those years was a complete freedom from the snobbery based on possessions, and a sympathy with and understanding of poor people. The many thousands of pounds he was to give away in the years ahead were nearly always bestowed on those short of money.

As I said before, the depictions are not always so flattering. Jack had a rough early life. He lost his mother at a young age, and the family never quite recovered. As a child and teen, Jack bounced moved through several boarding schools, one of which subjected its students to conditions that read like a small school in a third world country, not what you think of when you hear "English boarding school". These events and more left scars on Lewis that persisted until his conversion.

Sayers paints a great picture of the state of Lewis' soul before conversion, and then powerfully shows how full that change of heart and mind really were. He ushers you into the very presence of Lewis to see what a changed life looks like, and it is a great encouragement.

Sayers does not linger on accounts of Lewis writing his famous works, but he does not short change these periods either. To me, these accounts read like well-portioned side dishes accompanying the meat of the story, which is Lewis as he was. What is covered is insightful and helped me gain a fuller picture of the context of each work, allowing me to examine them from a better vantage point. For the avid Lewis reader, this may be the books greatest trait, even if it is not the entrée.

For anyone who want to get to know C.S. Lewis this book is first-rate. I found that this account also gave me real insight into his works, looking at his books after this biography is an exercise in expanded perception. It did not change my readings of his works, it illuminated their depths in a new, and encouraging, way. It's a fantastic account of a unique man. For that alone it is worth your time.