In lieu of a typical book review, as is my habit from time to time, allow me to mention half a dozen things I greatly appreciated about this book. It will definitely make the list for my “Favorite Books of the Year.”
This is the seventh book I’ve read by Smith. All of them made me think in fresh and provocative ways. How (Not) to be Secular was my favorite. It now comes in a close second to Smith’s latest. On the Road with Saint Augustine is now my favorite.
So here are a half dozen things I appreciated about this book:
*There is elegant writing combined with keen insights. It is no surprise that On the Road with Saint Augustine received a coveted starred review by Publishers Weekly.
*It makes a compelling case for why Augustine is the ideal travel partner as we make our way through life. For me, both Augustine and Bunyan (there are others) have been indispenable to have as my vagabond friends.
*There is a thick realism in this book (take note Joel Osteen), but Smith always keeps this tethered to a compelling hope.
*Smith has a good nose for the telling quote or captivating illustration. HIs wide-reading across various disciplines showcases the brilliance of Augustine.
*In my own teaching, and especially in my ministry of discipleship with men, this is the kind of book that I can use as a gateway of sorts to the riches of Christian history.
*I’ve always found that great books help me clarify important issues. My marginalia reflects this reality in On the Road with Saint Augustine. For example, in the chapter on friendship, Smith’s interaction with Heidegger resulted in my marginal comment of “Molds are everywhere, so it is impossible to break out of every single mold.” In other words, autonomous individuals don’t exist because they can’t exist.
Whenever the time comes that sales begin to dwindle for this book, I would recommend Brazos making booklets out of some chapters. For example, the chapter on freedom is one I would love to give to any thoughtful person, irrespective of whether they are a Christian.