Book Review: “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Donald Miller’s newest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life chronicles his transformation from a man living a stalled life to one seeking and embracing adventure, even when the risks have been high. With his new outlook Miller hikes the Inca Trail, rides a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic, experiences the highs and lows of falling in love, and seeks out the father he never knew. This book is a grand exhortation to choose a better life story than the one you’re living now.

All the vignettes in this book are woven around one central story. Miller is contacted by two filmmakers who want to turn his bestselling memoir Blue Like Jazz into a movie. Miller accepts and begins to work with these filmmakers as they develop a screenplay about Don, the fictionalized version of Miller. But not far into their work Miller realizes that the process is going to be much more personal than he’d originally imagined.

“I mean no disrespect, ” I said. “But what is wrong with the Don in the book?” The question came out of my mouth more personally than I wanted.

Steve sat thoughtfully and collected his ideas. He scratched his chin and collected some sympathy. “In a pure story,” he said like a professor, “there is a purpose in every scene, in every line of dialogue. A movie is going somewhere.”

That last line rang in my ear like an accusation. I felt defensive, as though the scenes in my life weren’t going anywhere. I mean, I knew they weren’t going anywhere, but it didn’t seem okay for anybody else to say it.

Miller is shaken by the reality that his life has no direction. After exploring the concept of story some more, he wonders if the same elements that make for a great story on screen might also make for a great life story. He defines the essence of story as “a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it,” and that without a targeted desire and without facing the conflict that character’s story will not move forward.

I’ve been a Donald Miller fan ever since I read Blue Like Jazz when I was in college. Jazz is a memoir about the spiritual questions Miller asked during his time at Reed College. The book gripped me because I had many of the same questions, and it was comforting and empowering to know I wasn’t the only one asking them. Here again in A Million Miles Miller and I are struggling with the same questions, and once again his writing has taken hold of me. Miller very honestly describes times when he wrestled with God, when Miller struggled to trust God as the stories of his life became difficult or seemed too daunting to undertake. And even though not each of his stories has a happy ending, Miller gets it right when he says, “It wasn’t necessary to win for the story to be great, it was only necessary to sacrifice everything.”

Do you ever wonder where your life is going, or whether it will count for something meaningful? If so, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years will give you hope and maybe even a vision for rewriting your own life story. I think you’ll love this book. I already want to reread it.

Interested? Check Out These Links

About BookSneeze

In the interest of full disclosure let me end by telling you how I’m able to write a review for a book that, at the time of this review’s posting, has only been officially available for a few hours. I am part of BookSneeze, a book review program by Thomas Nelson. I volunteered to read Donald Miller’s new book and publish a review on my blog on the book’s release date (September 29, 2009). Thomas Nelson sent me two copies of the book a few weeks before the release date, one of which I was able to give away in a contest on my website.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: Based Upon a Review Copy & Affiliate Marketing Links

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  • Alan Wong

    I heard about this book from Bulls’ Kyle Korver in Chicago Tribune – your summary was the link I chose to get more idea of the book – our church community are dealing with sudden suicide of one of our youths, 18 years old with a seemingly bright future – loving family, first year medical student, nice boyfriend, etc. Thanks for your summary esp. where Miller says the story does not have to be great so long as we sacrifice everything. My decision was and is to trust God even when the news is not good. Cheers!