Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

In a culture that values speed, efficiency, image, and busyness, some of us are aching for another way to live: more intentional, more connected. Simpler, slower, richer. Many of us have believed the myth that achievement and success bring us contentment, only to find it’s actually things like connection and meaning, not success and achievement, that provide true peace and
Callie

Aug 30, 2016

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1.5/5 stars.

I have never read anything by Shauna Niequist, but I see her books everywhere. So when I saw Present Over Perfect available for review, I thought, why not?

Niequist is known (to me) for her food memoir, so I knew this book would be a bit of a departure, but I was excited to give it a try. However, I would not recommend reading this book. As so many books I have read lately, I felt this one had positive and negative elements, but the negative elements definitely outweighed the positiv

I have never read anything by Shauna Niequist, but I see her books everywhere. So when I saw Present Over Perfect available for review, I thought, why not?

Niequist is known (to me) for her food memoir, so I knew this book would be a bit of a departure, but I was excited to give it a try. However, I would not recommend reading this book. As so many books I have read lately, I felt this one had positive and negative elements, but the negative elements definitely outweighed the positive for me, coming from a biblical perspective and as a new reader of Niequist’s books. Here are my thoughts.

Negatives

I started this book and about a fifth of the way through I realized I was just going to have to plow through without really enjoying it. The main reason I couldn’t enjoy it was because it felt a little schizophrenic to me – not Niequist, just the book. Was this supposed to be a memoir or a self-help book? I couldn’t figure it out. For so much of the book Niequist seemed to be just going on about her own internal struggles, like a memoir, but with little practical advice or inspiration for her readers. The book seemed selfish to me, in a way. If I had read other books by Niequist and was interested in her as a person, I might have really enjoyed getting an inside look, but mostly I was just annoyed because I had no background on the author to frame all this personal stuff. It felt like reading a stranger’s journal of innermost thoughts. There were occasional gems (I’ll quote a couple lines I liked below), but mostly I just kept thinking, “yes, but where is the value here for me?” That sounds a little selfish, but then again, as a reader I’m the one who could potentially be buying this book and spending hours of my life on it. There should be something in it for me.

I did not like this author’s mention of “centering” prayer and deep breathing. The idea of “centering” is a very New Age concept and not biblical at all. I was more likely to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant simple meditation on Scripture, but then she started talking about her “spiritual director” (shouldn’t that be God and His Word?) and “which God she prays to”, which for the author was a mix between the Father and the Holy Spirit, not Jesus. Um, what? They are all ONE God, you don’t get to pick and choose. At this and other points in the book, she uses language that suggests that God changed as her view of Him changed, and I thought the way she expressed it could be misleading. She missed the boat on communicating that no, He’s been the same good God all along, regardless of how she viewed Him before.

Overall I got a sense of a New-Age, fluid version of Christianity from this book, and it bothers me how easily we are letting New Age philosophy into our churches and lives. These ideas are not in line with the Bible, and it’s not okay. That’s another point – there was little mention of Scripture in this book, aside from a couple verses Niequest uses to explain her own journey. Definitely no explanation or reference to the Gospel, which I always find disappointing in Christian non-fiction. She quotes many people and talks about “spiritual” this and that, but she doesn’t back up any of her main points or principles with God’s Word, which is our only firm grounding in the world. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. In this book Niequist almost talks about God and Christianity as some sort of phsychological “savior”, instead of the truth – that God became a man (Jesus) and died to pay the price for our true problem (sin) and to save us, not from poor self-esteem, but from an eternity apart from God in Hell. That truth isn’t covered here.

Positives

While many of the chapters in this book felt like a waste of my time, there were a few that I actually appreciated – mainly the ones that actually related to the title of the book, giving thoughts on how to be present in our lives while letting go of our ideas of perfection. Unfortunately even on that topic there were probably only two or three chapters that I felt were somewhat valuable to me as a reader. These are a couple quotes that I thought were somewhat useful things for me to think about.

“I was faced with a dilemma—one so many of us face quite often: I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect . . . or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic.”

“I gave myself away indiscriminately. Be careful how much of yourself you give away, even with the best of intentions. There are things you cannot get back, things that God has not asked you to sacrifice.”

I thought she touched on some good points here, but it was too brief. She quickly went back to the personal reflections, which I found disappointing, because it was not what I was looking for when I started this book.

Conclusion

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. As someone who was new to this author, I did not enjoy this book, I was disappointed by the New Age undertones, and unfortunately I won’t be picking up one of her books again.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. This is my honest opinion.

Second Note: I felt a lot of the themes that I assumed Niequist was going to address in this book were things that I have already read about in other books, and they were addressed by other authors in a more effective way. Since I can’t recommend this one, I thought I’d say that “The Best Yes” by Lysa Teurkherst was really helpful to me in learning to say no; “Breathe” by Prsicilla Shirer was a really useful Bible Study on the biblical value of rest; and ironically, a secular fiction book called “What Alice Forgot” by Lianne Moriarty was a fun book (warning: some language) that really got me thinking about how busyness was affecting my life. I would recommend those ones to you if the title of “Present Over Perfect” is what interests you.
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

Another positive audiobook focused on simplifying life. Some helpful tips here and lots of acceptance.

2017 Summer Vacation Book #1 (Audio #1)