Book Review: Death by Living

String together a trans-Europe road trip, the spinning of the sun, a road race and the threads of people’s lives, along with faint salt traces of a philosophy major.  Then add in the number of times that the ocean has crashed on a beach, and the undertones of a thunderstorm pressure change.

That’s sort of what reading Death by Living by N. D. Wilson feels like.

If life is indeed a tapestry, a story, a ride on a Tilt-A-Whirl as Wilson has already put forth, then what are we to do when we grasp at our threads?  Wilson answers this by diving into the nature of the story being woven around us.

He begins with the stories of others, of those named and unnamed in the spoken records of his history.  Among those he thanks are “Unknown marines for carrying a broken pilot,” and “Unknown sailor for dying in the place of many Wilsons.”  Wilson is weaving a mirror of something bigger, and thus a family trip to Rome is woven with a glimpse of a teacher in the midwest, and a frozen mountain drive.

In another one of his books, The Dragon’s Tooth, one character says to another, “Son, run faithfully to the end.  You will die, as all men do, of having lived.”  The race is hard, and wearisome: “The world never slows down so that we can better grasp the story,” he writes,  “So that we can form study groups and drill each other on the recent past until we have total retention. We have exactly one second to carve a memory of that second, to sort and file and prioritize in some attempt at preservation.”

The thread is life: every inch of it, from galaxies flung into motion to eventful airplane rides to dust notes spinning in a shaft of light.  Eyes forward, soak it all in.  Linear timeframes are not something Death by Living clings to, but rather the ebb and flow of ideas, of stories — for not all stories move at the same pace, in synchronization.

Another gem is his look at the endings.  He writes,

Because of death, we can run the good race.  We can fight the good fight.  Completion exists.

We made ourselves filthy and corrupt, and God “cursed” us with death like a mother cursing her mud-caked children with a scalding shower.  His curse swallows up our own.  Time marches us to Death, and together they strip our hands.  But there is a Man there, beside the grace, collecting all our grime…  He assembles a burden like no other.  He ran His own race.  And though He is the Son of God, He moved through time.  For three decades He ran toward death.  And when he reached it, He could say what all mortals needed said.

It is finished.

Wilson puts forth that it isn’t enough to think it, to ponder pouring yourself out, because your life is not written in thoughts.  And somehow, through the course of this book, he shows you how to live it.  He shows you a glimpse of seeing the wonders, bright things to stop and stare at, and then weaves a story through them.

Need further convincing?  Go watch this (and watch to the very end).

In all honesty, though, the best review of this book is the book itself.  If I’ve now convinced you, go read it.  If I haven’t, go read it too.  😉

(I received a copy of this book from for free in exchange for an honest review.  All quotes. unless otherwise noted, are taken from Death by Living.  If I had a star rating system, this book would be a miniature galaxy.  Or something.)


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Death by Living

  1. “We have exactly one second to carve a memory of that second, to sort and file and prioritize in some attempt at preservation.”
    This quote right here convinced me, lend the book to me some time?


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