Living Life in the Zone

Title: Living Life in the Zone

Author: Kyle Rote Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided to me free of charge by Thomas Nelson, Inc. through the BookSneeze program in exchange for preparing a book review and posting it to this blog.  The content of this review is solely my own words and not influenced by receiving the book as compensation.

Summary: The book is a 40-day study for men.  The book provides a short chapter for each of the 40 days.  Each chapter includes citations of relevant bible verses, a profile of a sports or business figure and how they have applied that life principle in their life, three self-assessment questions, and an assignment to put the lesson into practice that day.

The subjects discussed include a man’s relationship to God, improving your relationship with your wife, being a more effective father, you role as friend to your fellow man, and being a Christian man in your workplace.

Review: The lives up to its description as a spiritual game plan for men.  While many self-improvement books provide only limited spiritual content, Living Life in the Zone is replete with spiritual discussions and biblical references.  The book describes “the zone” it is teaching men to live in as not just a period of higher productivity, but higher effectiveness.  It encourages self-examination to help men redefine their role as husband, father, friend, employee, manager, and spiritual leader.

The part of the book I found most helpful is the biographical sketch included in each day’s reading.  Under the subtitle Playmaker, this section uses a notable man’s real life experience to illustrate the spiritual principle being at work in real life.  Most of the men profiled are notable in the world of sports, like Tom Landry or Kurt Warner.  Some of them are notable from the world of business, like David Green of Hobby Lobby or Mike Glenn of FedEx.  Not all the examples are those of men who used the spiritual principle to succeed, nor are any of the stories too Pollyanna or unrealistic.  Even though I was familiar with many of the men profiled, I learn something new from each Playmaker section.  The authors have described their lives with details not covered in typical media coverage of athletes and coaches.

If you want to know more about these notable men from sports and business, something that reflects how their spirit and their relationship with God affected their lives, this book is a must read.  You want to explore how you can have a deeper understanding of spiritual issues, if you are looking for a guide familiar with sports, business, and politics in the modern world, this book will deliver.  This book is a fun read while providing a meaningful message.  It is enjoyable and educational.  I highly recommend this book for any man with a wife, a child, a job, and a relationship with God.


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Tithing by Douglas Leblanc

Title: Tithing Test Me in This

Author: Douglas Leblanc

Rating: Good for you if…

Reason for Reading: I received this book as a part of the BookSneeze program by Thomas Nelson publishers. I chose it over other books, because I’m a person who tithes and I wanted to read others’ views of tithing.

Summary: The book Tithing is a religious journalist’s view of the ancient practice of tithing. Through the stories of many people across the country, Leblanc tells the benefits of tithing. He uses real-life examples of people associated (or formerly associated) with the Episcopal Church to bring a face to tithing.

Leblanc uses the stories of these people to encourage the reader to return to the “ancient practice of tithing.” The concepts of living simply and being generous are thoroughly discussed as well.

Review: As a practicing tither, I was excited by the possibilities presented in a book dedicated to the subject.

Though the book is interesting and fairly easy to read, it deals more with the politics of the Episcopal Church than tithing. Many of the biographies and anecdotes in the book don’t even mention tithe or giving.

Unfortunately, I was bogged down enough by the church politics and so distracted by the numerous off-topic anecdotes that after 3 hours of reading over half of the book, I couldn’t finish. The author gave a good effort, but the result fell far short of my hopes.

This book is good for you if…you are interested in Episcopal views of tithing, or just want to read various random people’s thoughts on tithing and giving.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Why read these books?

Reading’s been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My parents were both word people, working in journalism, writing, editing, presenting, crafting language to be efficient and effective.  My father had collected over many years a library of reference material on all kinds of subjects.  One of my favorite memories from my school days is getting assigned a topic for a history paper one day, then coming home from school the next finding out that my dad had pulled several relevant books from our family library.  Not only were the books out on the table, but open to important pages, with little marks for pages and photos he wanted me to read.  This is the day after the paper has been assigned, and probably three weeks before it is due, but my dad can not wait to get into these books with me, finding something too obscure for the other students to notice, but important enough to impress the teacher.

But it wasn’t just books.  Dad was a voracious reader of newspapers, being a journalist at heart.  He’d read the local newspaper of whatever town to which his travels took him.  After I moved away from home, I could regularly expect an envelope stuffed with newspaper clippings from him.  Something he read he just had to share with me.  After a few years of this, right about the time he died, I came to realize he wasn’t just reading the paper, he was digesting it.  He was finding some meaning in it.  With every story, every person interviewed, he discovered something important.  I wouldn’t have paid particular attention to those stories if he hadn’t shared them with me.  In doing so, he taught me how much there is to learn from reading.

My whole life, I can’t remember my father reading fiction, but he always had a book he was reading.  It became an easy Christmas and birthday present to find a new release on a topic that interested him.  Before my father’s death almost 10 years ago, I read fiction almost exclusively.  Since then, I find myself reading almost nothing but non-fiction.

My mother is a reader, too.  Though she’s more of the fiction and literature reader of the family.  So, when it comes to crafting a compelling narrative, she’s got a wealth of insight into how different authors paint a picture with words.  I think my love of poetic language or a dramatic story arc comes from Mom.

But, my focused reading-for-a-purpose really started about two years ago.  As I was exposed to the work of Dave Ramsey, I was moved by how passionately he recommends not just reading, but reading like it is important.  Reading has always been just something I did, like watching TV or listening to the radio.  But when Dave starting talking about reading as a way to shape your destiny, well, that got me thinking about what and how I read.  Dave cites in his presentations a finding by Dr. Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Next Door that the typical millionaire reads a non-fiction book a month.  Dave often recommends to the callers on his radio show books by other authors he finds of particular value, such as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend or 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  He even has on his website a listing of books he recommends his listeners read.  You’ll probably notice that many of the books I review will be from this list, but I have other selections as well.

This inspiration from Dave was further reinforced by serendipity.  Dawn had recommended that I read The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, saying I would really enjoy it.  I stupidly did not heed her advise, though I don’t know why.  She certainly knows me well enough for me to take her suggestion as right on the mark.  A few days later, Dave Ramsey offered a $10 grab bag on his website, where you could purchase sight unseen various things Dave was unloading.  We’d loved everything we’d ever gotten from Dave, so what was the risk?  When the package arrived, included was a hardback copy of The Traveler’s Gift.  I decided this was God’s way of telling me I should have listened to her the first time.  So, I read it and loved it, just like she predicted.

Anyway, the Second Decision of Personal Success in The Traveler’s Gift is, “I will seek wisdom.”  It mentions how what someone reads and listens to affects them.  We are programed by what we are exposed to, whether we like it or not.  I even saw Andy Andrews demonstrate this live by reciting the entire theme song to an Underdog cartoon.  Everyone in the audience knew he was correct, too.  So, part of living the Second Decision is reading books and listening to recordings that improve our relationships with and understanding of other people.  While sometimes this is passive reading or listening, also expected is reading with pen and paper for taking notes, and a highlighter for marking key passages.

The topics on our reading list will be fairly varied, but they should all be something that will attempt to grow the reader to a greater level of understanding, fostering growth in your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives.  If you are interested in reading for a purpose, reading as one tool you are using to be more and do more, look at our reviews and consider putting these books on your reading list.

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Why this blog?

One reason for this blog is that there are so many books out there, especially in the self-help, personal growth, leadership genres.  Many of them claim to have some magic paradigm that will break you free from whatever is holding you back, or make you rich, or make you whatever you’ve always dreamed of being.  There are a ton of things out there to read, and only so much time any of us has to read them.  We all have other things to do, myself included.

So, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?  How can we tell what books are too shallow or too narrow to be valuable?  Which really have the depth to speak to your soul?  Which have enough applicability to affect your thoughts, and consequently your actions, in the days after you set it down?  Which are good for everyone to read, good for just a narrow audience, and which are not worth the effort for most everyone?  Our hope is that this blog is a resource for those looking for something to read that will be meaningful in their life, that we can point them in the direction of a book that might otherwise have gotten lost in a crowded bookshelf at a library, bookstore, or online retailer.

Why else?  Well, as I mentioned, there is a benefit to active reading.  As opposed to passive reading, this is where the reader’s focus is producing something, new thoughts that will change their actions, their performance, and consequently, the quality of their life.  This kind of reading involves taking notes, highlighting passages, perhaps even writing a report on the material to share with a group.  By having to share my thoughts with you, I find I have greater focus on the material, and it means more to me.  If it will help you, please make use of the comments feature on this blog, or the ability to post a review at online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Why seek out wisdom?

One of my favorite quotes is from Sam Levinson, “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”  This makes seeking out wisdom seem so logical.  Compare two people, one who learns only from his own mistakes, and one who learns from both his and those of others.  Which would you prefer as a counselor?  Which would you prefer to have your life in his hands?  Which would you prefer to be?  Whether you are selecting a book to read, a friend to ask for advice, a class to take, or a leader to follow, seeking wisdom is a key step to your success.  No one really is a self-made man.  Everyone has learned from what they have been exposed to.  So, expose yourself to that which improve your likelihood of success.

Another quote from Albert Einstein states that we can’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Doing the best we could so far got us here.  Want to go someplace else?  That will require doing better.  How can we do better in the future than what was our best was in the past?  It requires greater thinking.  Not necessarily bigger, but better.  Think that you are as good now as you’ll ever be?  Think again.  You mind, your emotional awareness, your spirit can grow, be strengthened, and find hope.  You are right now growing and changing into what you will become.  You can determine what you’ll become by deciding how you’ll change.  We believe reading to be a key ingredient in this process.

We recommend you look through our blog for books that speak to you, that sound like they have some wisdom to impart.  Then read them, actively.  Dig into them with focus.  Take notes.  Highlight.  Find a friend to share them with.  You don’t have to purchase them.  There are good libraries all over the place where you can get these books for free, or next to nothing on inter-library loan.  Some you may want to purchase, so you can keep them in your library, or pass them along to a friend.  Request them as gifts from those people who ask you what you want.  Find a used bookstore where you can get a dogeared copy that someone else has already highlighted.  One of the books I’ll blog about cost me just 10 cents at a used book store, honestly.  There is no correlation between what a book costs and how valuable you’ll find it.  Some will pay rich rewards, no matter what you pay for them.

We will always cite why we decided to read the books we review, and where we acquired a copy.  Some books are from our personal library, some we’ve checked out of our local library, some we’ve gotten for free in exchange for an honest review of the material.  We’ll always let you know.  Our comments belong to us, and will not be influenced by how we got the material.  We request your comments about the books we review, whether you agree with us or don’t.  We also welcome your recommendations if there is something you think we’d like to read.

Happy reading!

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The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

Title: The Traveler’s Gift

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was recommended by Dawn as one I would enjoy.  She was certainly right on three fronts.  First, it’s fun to read.  It plays like an action-adventure novel or mystery at times.  Second, it is educational.  The wisdom contained within is impossible to miss as one reads through the narrative.  And third, the traveler visits different moments in history, and I am a history buff (but that quality is not necessary to enjoy and learn from the book).  This book was purchased, and no compensation was provided for this review.

Summary: The Traveler’s Gift is the description of Andy Andrews’ Seven Decisions that determine personal success. Andy read 200-300 biographies of successful persons. From this, he identified seven principles at work int heir lives. The decisions they made led to their successes and revealed these principles. The book introduces the reader to each decision by taking the traveler, David Ponder, on a journey to meet an historical figure. These seven people of great influence each teach him a gift. Written like a novel or historical fiction, the narrative the author has composed teaches while it entertains.

Review: Not a self-help in the traditional sense of diagnosing the reader’s problem and then providing the authors prescription, The Traveler’s Gift instead walks the reader through the decisions with the protagonist, David Ponder. Unemployed  and struggling, he begins to wonder if he can find success in life, or if he’s just cursed. Through his travels, figures like Harry S. Truman, Christopher Columbus, and Anne Frank give him the decisions that determine personal success. Their advice to him is the author’s advice to the reader, though you won’t feel preached to. The advice is more like the Maltese Falcon or Holy Grail of a suspense movie or a mystery novel.  You won’t find the author suffering from a superiority complex.  Nor will you find these solutions too shallow to be followed in real life. No “visualize” or “think outside the box” directives that go nowhere in 3-dimensional life. The reader can appreciate how real these principles are to the individuals David meets. Andrew’s descriptions of them and their circumstances are compelling, even to a non-history buff.  As you read, you’ll find parallels to your own life and challenges, even if they don’t compare to the Battle of Gettysburg in historical importance.  Andrews asserts that everything you do matters, and therefore, are valuable when done well.

Reading like a novel, but educating like a self-help book, The Traveler’s Gift is a must-read for all. Brief, compelling, and insightful enough to read every year, put it in your library, or that of a friend.


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Rating System

Welcome to our book reviewing blog. Devon and I are avid readers. As such, we find that books tend to fall into three distinct categories: good, bad, or right for you if…

Good: A book with the rating “good” is a great read for anyone. Everyone can learn from its principles and applying them to life. We definitely recommend checking out a copy of the book from your local library or picking it up at a used book store. This book will be a treasure.

Bad: Some books are just bad and not fit for anyone to read. They may be written poorly, not researched well enough, or even contradictory to its own advice. Sometimes the book’s “value” just isn’t worth the time invested.  We don’t suggest the book is worth reading from cover to cover; however, you may want to skim it or use it to make your wobbly table less wobbly.

Right for you if…: The books that fall into this category are books that are good for some people, but pointless for others.  If we give a book the “right for you if…” rating, you can look at the end of the review to see under which circumstances we feel the book is “right for you”.

Please understand that these are our personal views/ratings of the books. This blog is for informational purposes only and we do not wish to ruin the careers of authors.  We are  simply offering a you a way to guide your reading.

If you disagree with a rating we give a book, feel free to leave a comment. Please make sure that the comment is well written and not accusatory, inflaming, or combative. We reserve the right to refuse to publish a comment.

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