March 22, 2011

Book Review: Everyday Greatness

A couple of years ago I started reviewing books for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers (now the awkwardly named BookSneeze), the grassroots marketing arm of the Christian publishing giant. The program sends free copies of their new books to bloggers in exchange for an honest review published to both a personal website and a retail product page. I posted a few reviews to my previous blog before going off to grad school and denouncing all non-required reading, leaving me a with a couple of books that never got read and reviewed. More than a year and a half later, I'm finally catching up.

Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for the Meaningful Life
by Stephen R. Covey and David K. Hatch

My rating: 2/5. Meh.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book, which seemed to promise inspiration to achieve greatness in everyday life. In reality, it is basically a compilation of short stories and quotations from Reader's Digest grouped into topical chapters. The book makes no central thesis or theme, but presents several categories of thought, each further divided into three principles for better living. Each principle includes a few short stories followed by some reflective questions, and a set of inspirational quotations from such various sources as celebrities, journalists, politicians, and ancient proverbs.

The content is nothing special really. It is full of happy endings and anecdotes with no real morals or lessons beyond the individual stories. Many of the quotations are so vague or lacking in context that it would be hard to analyze them, much less disagree with them.  I found it most disappointing that this book on living a "meaningful life" would carry no explicitly Christian meaning-rather, it is the sort of bland, feel-good philosophy that you would expect from a generic, secular self-help book. There are references to God and quotes from spiritual leaders, but the book as a whole seems to be devoid of any ultimate meaning. Everyday greatness, it seems, is just an everyday sort of thing.

The book is perfectly adequate for what it is- a coffee table artifact for those days when you may need an uplifting word and don't really care where it comes from as long as it is positive. But it is really nothing more than that. I can't say I would recommend this book for anyone seriously hoping to improving their life in any tangible way. If you're looking for greatness, pick up a Bible instead.

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