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A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Easy to read and thought provoking

    I was recently at a mental health provider's retreat and another participant mentioned this book. She made a reference to one point in the story that the author talks about in which he discusses why people in Denmark are so happy. He points out that people there have lower expectations than any other countries in the world. Donald Miller does a great job of talking about improving one's life story by living it instead of just observing and writing about it. He puts himself in situations he might not otherwise have participated in including going on a cross country bike tour, helping his friend with a school he was building in Uganda, and finally reconnecting with the father he never knew. The book makes you really think a bit more deeply about your own life and what kinds of things you're doing to create a better "story." He spends a lot of time talking about what it takes to create a meaningful experience in your life by trying to do it himself. I love how he opens up the book (which completely drew me in ) by saying that most of us don't remember half our lives and he has one friend who maintains a log of all his memories on a daily basis, even the mundane ones. It's a great, easy read but with very deep thought provoking information to reflect upon. I consider it a great summer book for guys and gals alike. It does include references to god in it, but doesn't leave you feeling pressured in any way to believe any specific dogma. You can just tell that he brings spiritually into it without trying to impose any particular beliefs on his readers. Great book and highly recommended!

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Donald Miller's new book lives up to his previous work: Creative, daring, and movingly lyrical.

    In a daring quest to live outside of his comfort zone and make his life mean something, Donald Miller, with detailed theories backed by personal experience and colorful character descriptions, doesn't just write a good story. It's a story about stories, about people who make their lives worth being told as a story. As he shares his own tale, Miller lays a road behind him for the reader to follow. Very good for those looking for thought provoking ideas, soul searching quotes, or anyone who has ever wondered if their life would make a good movie. As an actor/playwrite I was able to apply his ideas to both my work and my life. The first few chapters are a little slow moving and self contemplative, but after Miller gets to his point, applicable and worth the time it takes to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Honest, thought provoking, loved it!

    After finishg this book, I immediately ran to get Blue Like Jazz. Good stuff. I admire his ability to share such real life thoughts and struggles in the context of larger views on faith, morality, even politics-and still keep it engaging and relevant. Plus, anyone who is reviewd as "the male version of Anne Lamott" gets my vote instantly! Consider me a definite Donald Miller fan.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Donald, who just wrote his autobiography, is offered to help co-write a script for a movie based on his book. It gives him a chance to edit his life.

    Donald, who just wrote his autobiography, is offered to help co-write a script for a movie based on his book. The new project gives him a chance - as he puts it - to edit his life, look at it from a new perspective and make decisions about life's priorities for years to come. In the process he finds he can still become a protagonist capable of overcoming conflict to achieve what he always wanted.

    The story itself is not a page turner - but for all the right reasons. Following Donald's reflections and life edits I felt compelled to scribble on the margins and put the book aside for a while to think about my life and necessary "edits". One of the biggest advantages of the story is how various colorful characters, by virtue of their lives crossing Donald's path, influence the protagonist to constantly edit his best self, to drop the assumption of himself having arrived at some final version of life. All in all, by the process of putting together the movie version of his autobiography, Donald successfully drops his "couch potato" lifestyle and embarks on a bike trip across the Southern US. Somewhere between the start and the finish lines, he arrives at better himself - of all audiences: mostly for his own sake.

    I'm thankful to Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book.

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  • Posted February 19, 2010

    Another great book by a wonderful author

    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller is a wonderful book that I would recommend to everyone. He's the author who wrote one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz, so I was really excited to read his newest book.

    Just like Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles definitely leaves you with many thought provoking ideas. From the very first chapter, he has you trying to wrap your head around the concept that we don't really remember most all of our childhood. We start out life and for the first third of it, we have very minimal recollection if any. Interesting, no? This thought definitely grabbed me from the get go and I continued throughout the rest of the book being very intrigued.

    Millers writing style is a little unusual if you aren't used to it. This book it was particularly prevalent. He does break the book up into chapters like most writers do, but within those chapters, his writing can get a little choppy as he goes from one random thought to another entirely different story, then back to his main point. It can be tough to follow at times, but if you hang in through it, it's worth it.

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys being pushed outside of their box a little. A Million Miles makes you think about stopping to smell the roses and getting back to the basics, which I think all of us should do every so often.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    His best so far

    Confession: I thought Blue Like Jazz was decent but WAY overrated (and if, like me, the only thing you remember from it now is the confession-booth episode you know I'm right). And this one's ostensibly about a MOVIE about Blue Like Jazz, so... but it's really not. It's about -- as result of doing a movie about an increasingly fictional "Donald Miller" -- Donald confronting himself, not liking what he sees, and doing something about it. And in the process, lays his heart out on the table for all to see. Change is hard, but it's doable, and if y'r facing a transitional stage of yr own, you oughta pick this book up, see what it looked like for one man, allow yrself to feel the pain that comes with that change and get the confirmation you need that y'r gonna be a better person on the other side of it.

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Miller's message is powerful in its simplicity: Self-editing is within our power

    I read Blue Like Jazz, Miller's first and wildly successful memoir, in what seems now another life and another frame of mind. But Donald Miller is travelling with me in a freakish parallel universe. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years tracks Miller learning to view his life through a camera lens. This hook, life as a story, snagged my inner writer, pulling me through the book as Miller sharpens his point.

    The book begins as Miller is approached to edit Blue Like Jazz into a movie script, turning his (mainly internal) meanderings into events that happen to a character named Don. As a writer myself, complete with an overactive inner monologue, I appreciated the irony of Miller reshaping his memoir to translate onscreen. Reconstructing his quiet, emotional growth into visible activity seems daunting. Yet realizing that movie moments are made when the character is doing something, not when he's thinking, leads to Miller's extraordinary personal growth in A Million Miles.

    As he begins to edit, Miller posits, "My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams." Instead of continuing that story, Miller swaps it for a new one, testing out action/adventure to start (he climbs the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu while struggling with weight issues), then drama (his first serious relationship), and finally mellowing into an arthouse flick (he bikes across the country with a group of misfits) to wrap.

    A Million Miles is about the transition from an easy acceptance of life to scaring yourself out of complacency. Miller's memorable characters - particularly the vivid Bob Goff - imbue his stories with clarity and an honest, translucent feel that let readers embrace the end lesson.

    If most of life is forgettable, it follows that what we'll recall - easiest or most or fondly - are the absurd moments, the unscripted. Miller's voice has matured, maybe with age, maybe just with the change in story. His weaving, multi-layered tales build a message powerful in its simplicity: Self-editing is within our power.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    A Quiet Conversation - and Distant Thunder

    "I feel written."

    The story slowly unfolds, like a lazy morning. Like life, actually.

    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a story about stories - about the distinct moments of life we so often take for granted that define and refine us. It's a story about life, and whether that life will be memorable or meaningless. Written as a meandering walk through his own experience of transforming his life story into a movie, Miller captures the essence of our own walks through the day-to-day as we stumble to find purpose.

    Miller's voice is as comfortable as back porch conversation during a rain shower, yet provides moments that, like a sudden thunderclap, shake the ground - and a person's core. "People love to have lived a good life," he shares, and we all nod in agreement. "But few people like the work it takes to make it happen. Joy costs pain." A distant rumble sounds.

    Miller is a word painter, but not like the imagery painted by Max Lucado or other more mainstream authors. Rather, he washes words with familiarity and humor and self-deprecation. When he references the movie Rocky, it's easy to envision the beautiful frailty of the main character long before he became a hero. When he writes about his failed efforts to write a fiction novel, the struggle between author and character come to life. He writes of ambition and wrong turns and dishwashing liquid and bicycles and how pain makes a story rich and full.

    Perhaps this book resonates with me in a unique way because of words spoken only recently to a group of teenage girls in an orphanage in Guatemala. They had heard my personal testimony of sexual and physical abuse, and cried as they saw the story as their own. Yet the story didn't end. The girls listened intently as the story moved to redemption and restoration - of a loving husband and a family and an adventurous life ministering to orphans just like them. "Each of you is a book, waiting to be written. The question is, who will hold the pen and craft the words of your life? You can attempt to write your story. Or you can give that pen to the One who knows the life you were created to live. When God takes that pen, your story is forever changed. You are given hope that does not disappoint."

    "The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories." In his latest book, Miller shares a depth of character found only in living life fully. And he challenges us to do the same. Take the time to sit and listen - to both the conversation and the distant rumble.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Donald Miller: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years _ Review

    In this book, Miller reflects on his life as he rewrites his life for film, giving his character a captivating story while he questions how his own story has played out. Throughout the novel, the author challenges himself with advice and insight from close friends and random strangers. Miller hopes to change his story into a better one.

    I really wasn't sure what to expect when I read this book. I mean, it sounds interesting right, editing your life? I've pictured my own movie theme plenty of times!

    I was not anticipating the roller coaster of emotions I encountered as I peeled through the pages. I laughed and I cried. Some of the stories I felt as though I was experiencing them myself, not because of circumstance but because of the raw emotion felt in those moments. These emotions caused me on various occasions to reflect on my own story a little bit and how far I've come.

    There was one phrase in particular that caused me to reflect for hours about human nature and our struggle to feel and keep bliss: 'Joy costs pain'

    In the end, after having felt as though I had been broken down completely and then built up again (which, by the way, could very rightfully so be my own empathic torment for liking a good character) I felt inspired, I felt as though... my faith had been renewed. I felt that even though, life may not always be what I am expecting it to be the potential is exists for it to be better. This book is a great read and don't be surprised if it changes you just a little bit.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Did you know God has a story to write for you?

    What makes a good story? What kind of story is God trying to write my life into? Am I cooperating with my life being a story worth reading, or am I fighting to remain in the "senseless, selfish ways of non-story"? Donald Miller wrestles through these questions in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The process of trying to turn a memoir about his life (Blue Like Jazz) into a movie script leads him to examine what makes stories work as stories. He reflects on what makes stories meaningful and then evaluates how that reflects back on the way that we live our lives. If stories are our lives with all the meaningless bits left out, is there a way to live our lives so that more of the meaningless bits are left out in the first place?

    This book was far better than I'd hoped for. I wasn't a huge fan of Blue Like Jazz, but I'm a sucker for pretty much anything that deals with story structure and meta-story and that post-modern sense of the characters and writer interacting. (Think Stranger than Fiction.) Miller has all of that, but ruthlessly brings it down to the level of personal challenge. What am I going to do, what are you going to do, to write a better story with your life? How do we infuse our lives with meaning? Miller has grown up a lot as a writer and--apparently--as a human being in the years since Blue Like Jazz was published. There's less of his ego tangled up with his prose, making both for better prose and for less of an impression of a writer who needs his ego taken down a few notches. The book is somewhat slow for the first forty pages or so--don't judge the entire book by the sample section that's up on the publisher's website. It's the weakest section of the book. After reading a few pages here and a few pages there for a couple of weeks, I read the last two hundred pages more or less in one sitting. I'll also note that reading it side by side with Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl was a great experience. The two books are dealing with some similar themes from very different angles and inform each other well. Miller's conclusions, like his beginning, is not nearly as strong as his middle . . . but the man's trying to write an ending when he's still stuck living the middle of his own story. He can hardly be blamed for not having lived far enough to see the ending clearly yet. Especially in a book about living the middle more deliberately.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Quite Blue Like Jazz

    When I read Blue Like Jazz, Don Miller's first major book, I was absolutely blown away. It was an open, honest ramble through the life of an open, honest twenty-something author. Quite literally, it changed my life.

    The opportunity to review A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Don Miller's most recent book, came with mixed feelings. The books he had written in between were nothing special. Somehow, Miller had lost his voice and judging by the sales figures from those books, no one was listening anyway.

    All the same, when I received my copy of A Million Miles, I was expecting to be disappointed but hoping that I would be changed. How did the book stand up to my expectations and hopes?

    It did ok.

    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is not Blue Like Jazz. The muses smiled on Miller when he wrote that one. All the same, it is just as open and honest as the previous book. The differences are found in Miller himself. Because he is a well-known author, he is much more traveled and distinguished than he was when he wrote Blue Like Jazz. In short, he has matured a lot, both as a writer and as a person.

    The book follows Miller's discovery of his story. In contrast to Blue Like Jazz which felt random and somewhat "Don-centered", this book reverberates with a story marching toward a definite end. Of course, in good Don Miller style, he does not give us the end. We are left hanging at the end, but we are a lot more confident about where Don is going than we were at the end of Blue Like Jazz.

    All in all, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a solid effort and a good read. It is not full of angst and struggle, but it does show us life as it is and as it should be. There's really not much more you can say about it.

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