Saturday, March 6, 2010

Let's Go Sailing Between the Stars

by Dina Sleiman

Those of you who are faithful Inkettes should know by now that Saturday is book review day at Inkwell Inspirations. However, what you don’t know, is that we’ve had some interesting conversations going on behind the scenes this week. Here are some of the questions we’ve been asking. Should authors be book reviewers? Isn’t that like a chef being a food critic? Should Christians write bad reviews about books penned by fellow believers? If we don’t, how can we expect anyone to trust us or take us seriously? Should we rename them Promos or Book Recommendations? Dare we use the “f” word: favorite? Won’t that hurt the feelings of our other author friends? Come back on Monday when our newest Inky, Narelle Atkins, will expound on this subject.

For this week’s review/promo, I decided to do a nonfiction book, to which I can without a moment’s hesitation give my very highest recommendation. I first discovered this book after attending the Blue Ridge Novelist retreat last fall and taking classes with its author, Steven James. I read very little nonfiction. I don't want people to just tell me stuff. I want to experience a story and learn and grow alongside my characters. But that is precisely what James allows me to do in this exquisite book.

By the time I finished the first chapter of Sailing Between the Stars: Musings on the Mysteries of Faith, I knew I had found a treasure. Once I came to the end, I realized I had discovered a new favorite nonfiction book, which I would cherish and read over and over again. However it wasn’t until I witnessed the way it had the wheels spinning in the mind of my teenaged daughter that I fully understood the power and scope of this exquisite work.

Steven James is a master storyteller, and through his simple yet profound tales, he provides startling insights into the wonder and mystery of God. This interwoven collection of personal stories, reflections, and poems will have you laughing and crying. It will challenge and provoke you toward a deeper relationship with God. The book covers some of the most complex yet basic paradoxes of our faith. From pint-sized strippers who eat q-tips, to joy on the front of his pants, to literally sailing through a pool of stars, James will entertain and delight you while illuminating timeless truths and facing some of life’s toughest issues.

James is better known as the 2009 Christy award-winner for his inspirational thriller novel, The Rook, and while I do enjoy his fiction, I find myself more drawn to his introspective works. I think his nonfiction will appeal to all true spiritual seekers who desire a sincere and vibrant relationship with God.

The subtitle of this book, Musings on the Mysteries of Faith, says it all. Unlike typical Christian nonfiction, this book does not attempt to give absolute answers. Rather, it is an exploration into subjects of faith that will spark your mind and spirit to come to their own rich conclusions. This new style of postmodern nonfiction made famous by authors like Donald Miller and Anne Lamott is by far my favorite variety. But for me, Steven James tops them all with his depth of spiritual understanding. I will read this book again and again searching out every nugget of truth.

I adore the way James weaves poetry into his book. As I’ve mentioned before, poetry is far too often a lost art in our contemporary culture. As a trained poet myself, I must confess that he does occasionally mix his metaphors, but in the most enlightening sort of way, tying them into the mystery and grandeur of God. The poems are written in an open, inviting manner that provides raw and honest peeks into his soul and his own struggles.

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, or even the truest form of critique. This book inspired me to do something I never imagined attempting: pen my own work of postmodern nonfiction. I wrote the first draft in six days based largely on the inspiration I received while reading Sailing Between the Stars. Yes, laundry and cooking (not to mention sleeping and bathing) were put on the side for a week. This stunning collection had my mind working on overdrive. So without a doubt, I was more inspired and changed by Sailing Between the Stars than by any other single book I have ever read.

Simply put, Sailing Between the Stars will enrich and beautify your life. What better recommendation can I give it than that?

To visit Steven's Website click here.
To oder Sailing Between the Stars from Amazon click here.

Leave a comment and your email for a chance to win Sailing Between the Stars. (No, not my autographed copy. You'd have to rip that out of my cold, dead fingers :)

What’s your favorite nonfiction book of all time? What sort of books and subjects inspire you? Tell us about a book that changed you in some significant way.


  1. I'm more of a non fiction guy. I recently read the Son of Hamas book and it is very well written. I liked the ladder example and how it described the different levels in Islam having Jihad on the top.
    Books are the food of the mind, they nurish or poison...

  2. "Books are the food of the mind, they nourish or poison..."

    Ohh, deep thoughts. Couldn't agree more.

    I've read a few chapters of Son of Hamas too. Some really good stuff. I put it in our "What we're reading" widget.

  3. I have never seen this book and if I had passed it I probably wouldn't have taken a second glance but your review for it has gotten me interested in the book. I like poetry too so that makes it all the more interesting for me. gasweetheart211[at]netscape[dot]net

  4. Good, Adge, we can be poetry lovers together. It's so hard for poets to get anything published these days. Steven actually has another book called "A Heart Exposed" which is mostly poem-prayers. I just ordered it, but I've read some excerpts which were great.

  5. Well, Dina, as one who has read your non-fiction book, I am even more intrigued by this book by Steven James.

    We Inkies talk a lot about faith in our secret underground headquarters, which is one reason why I love being part of this group. Not just writer-ese or Christianese, but deep discussions on faith (through a Christian view and a writer's view).

    I wish I had more time to read both fiction and non-fiction. I will definitely look for this one soon.

  6. Thanks for sharing a book you love with us, Dina. I'd not heard of it, but it sounds interesting and I'll be looking into it.

    I do read a bit of non-fiction, as that's all my husband reads, but my non-fiction tastes run mostly toward books on prayer and Christian biographies. I appreciate when I find one which edifies, encourages, and challenges my faith.

    Happy Weekend, everyone!

  7. Great review. Now, I'm curious. One of my favorite nf books is "Blue Like Jazz" by Don Miller, and you said this was even better...hmm. I just bought Miller's "A Million miles in a 1,000 years." Another great NF that moved me is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

  8. Deb, I've been rereading Sailing because of this post, and there are way more coorelations in my book than I even realized. Of course, that was a very "stream of conciousness" intuitive sort of writing experience. I had to go back afterwards and outline and see what in the heck I did. LOL.

  9. Susanne, I think I know you well enough now to say you would looove this book. It's out of print in stores, but only $5 on amazon now. His book in stores is probably A Heart Exposed, and of course his thriller series which was just reprinted by someone big, maybe Penguin.

  10. Yes, Mary. I've read Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I had a lot of fun reading A Million Miles because its a story about story and I got a lot of writing tips out of it too.

    But Donald Miller is no Stephen James. I think Stephen is more of a theologian/philosopher, and I just really like his viewpoint too.

  11. Oh, and Mary, do you want to be entered in the drawing. Our official Inkies and spouses aren't eligible, so the odds are good. Just need your email address.

  12. Yes. on the drawing. I'd like to read this book.
    mary(dot)aalgaard at yahoo (dot) com.

  13. Dina, thanks for sharing your love for this book and how it inspired you to write your own NF book :-) 'Sailing Between the Stars' sounds like an interesting and challenging read.

  14. Actually, Narelle, while it will challenge you spiritually, it's a surprisingly light read. Steven is a very funny guy, so there's a lot of humor mixed in. Forgot to mention that in the midst of all the other wonderfulness.

  15. What's amazing is that I just drew up a personal list of books for my Beth Moore Bible study ladies to pick from for our summer meetings.

    Now I have a new one to scratch onto the list.
    The others?
    Blue Like Jazz, The Irresistible Revolution, Absolute Surrender, Crazy Love, Grace Walk: What You've Always Wanted in the Christian Life, Reaching for the Invisible God and The Jesus I never Knew by Yancy.

    However the votes go, should be a great summer!!!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  16. Patti, I heard Crazy Love is a great one too.

    My ladies group might do a different one of Steven's books this summer. Story: Recapture the Mystery. Story introduces the basic narrative of the Bible, and then Sailing goes much deeper into the paradoxes of the faith.

    I'm going with Story because sadly, some of my ladies haven't read through the whole Bible yet. Sailing would make a great Bible study book too, though. So much to discuss. I definitely would vote for it.

  17. So, sorry I forgot to do this earlier. I had sick kids last week, then I was sick over the weekend.

    Mary Aalgaard is the winner of Sailing Between the Stars.

    Mary, I will email you for your street address.


  18. Yay!! Thank you very much. Ya, I'm a winner!


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