One of the weird things about my lingering inability to post book reviews with any sort of consistency is that I have continued to read; often quite a lot. Last year I read/listened to 100 books!
One of those was Before You Wake: Life Lessons from a Father to His Children
by Erick Erickson. Like so many, I never got around to posting a review of the book here. Well, today is his birthday so I got the idea that maybe I should finally offer my thoughts on his book.
It is not easy to review books by people you consider friends; even if the friendship is mostly online rather than in person. I have known Erick for many years, and consider him a friend even if we have met only on a couple of occasions. Although our politics are both conservative, we bring quite different perspectives to blogging and politics. But I have always appreciated the passion and insight Erick brings. Plus, he is famous and I am not … So take that for whatever it is worth.
What struck me about this book was how personal it is. It has the flavor of a memoir rather than an advice book. And then there are recipes at the end. But it makes sense somehow because you can tell how much joy cooking, eating and entertaining give to Erick.
Erick offers insight into how he became the person he is today not in terms of his political philosophy but in terms of personality and interests. His childhood, in the US and in the Middle East, made a big impression on him. He recalls with relish and joy his experiences. At times you might wonder what it all means and how it ties together. But I think it is just something that Erick believes made hims who he is. And he is trying to capture that for his children and for readers who might be interested.
The other aspect that comes through is how increasingly Erick is viewing his life through the lens of his faith and his community rather than through politics and elections. He stresses over and over again that what he wants for his children is that they love God, love their family and seek to be part of a community that reflects the Creator; that they love their neighbors and serve others.
This is not a radical idea from a Christian perspective, but for those who only know Erick from partisan politics, and the world of talking heads and talk radio, this might seem oddly communitarian and localist. As tribalism, and with it a toxic public square, has come to dominate our politics Erick has clearly felt called to something different. Admittedly, he struggles with how that looks like day-to-day but his preference for something different comes through clearly in this short book.
His family’s medical challenges, his career path in the often unstable world of political commentary, and his growing fame online, on TV and on the radio, all provide opportunities to learn and grown. Erick walks the reader through these events and seeks to pull our pearls of wisdom to offer his children. There is nothing particularly profound but there is also plenty of advice worth taking.
I always used to joke online that the biggest secret about Erick was that he was a really nice guy involved in an often ugly business. This book brings that “secret” out into the open. Erick’s mantra might be boiled down to faith, family, friends and food. Seek community and connection in these, he tells his children, and you will find purpose and meaning.
I doubt a lot of people who disagree with Erick’s politics have or will read this book. Which is a shame because we could do with a world where more people got to know each other who disagree. And this book will help you understand Erick Erickson the person rather than Erick the talking head or Erick the radio host. It won’t change your mind but it might change how you see pundits and those in the news.
Plus, if you happen to be a foodie or cook, you get the added bonus of what sound like a bunch of delicious recipes.