new Donald Miller: Through Painted Deserts

I just got back from the hospital–an experience I wrote briefly and poorly about in a reply to a comment from the last posting (if anybody cares about such things.) I am tired and choked up, fuzzy and unsure. Yet, this is my life–I am with my dying father-in-law and come back to the house, which is in the same building as the bookstore, and I can’t help myself. Gotta see what came in today. After 23 years, the big UPS boxes and smaller padded envelopes from the mail person, still feel a bit like Christmas.
So I have to tell ya: today was a winner. Some good stuff, brand new and nifty, stacked up all over the place. Keep checking back here as I might tell you about some.
One, though, needs blogged about here and now, late as it may be. Telling you about this may be helpful to you and it will surely lift my spirits.
Through Painted Deserts: Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller, is the long-awaited re-issue of his first book. For those who don’t know, Donald Miller is the hipster, evangelical counterpart to Anne Lamott and writes (usually) like a dream. Funny, a bit jaded, stream-of-consciousness, dripping with post-modern irony, and then not, clever, clever and then plain as day. Honest. Really, really enjoyable, and pretty insightful, too, for being 20-something. His books Blue Like Jazz (and the better, next one, Searching for God Knows What) have got the biggest buzz sort of thing going we’ve seen in years and years. Everywhere we go we hear people talking. Sometimes, people even buy them from us. And then they come back and buy more.
As well they should. I swear we were among the first to cheer for his first pretty good book–parts were truly great–that we so enjoyed. It was called Prayer and the Art of Volkswagon Maintenance and we reviewed it at our monthly book review column, back before we were ever on line. (In those days, the review was in a lovely little newsletter published mostly for the staff of the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a campus ministry outfit around Pittsburgh.) Oddly, few really knew that the title was a play on the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance so they didn’t get the pun from the git-go. And, Miller was post-moderny Gen X before evangelical-dum knew there was such a thing.
My friend Terry Glaspy is a genius reader and writer who works for a, shall we say, less than scholarly publishing house, known for cheesy gift books and bad romances. Terry gets some fine writers on board with this low-end company and has steadily made them a better house. I am glad for his fidelity there and when he called me, years ago, and said they had secured the manuscript for a guy smart enough to riff on ZatAofMM I took his word for it. I read it early, wrote about it with gusto and, despite the couple I sold to CCO staff, it went out of print. Terry, as is sometimes the case, broke a great author, and a bigger publisher–Thomas Nelson–made him famous. (He doesn’t really seem like a Word-Nelson author to me, either, but that is another story…)
Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What really are finely written, memoiristic ruminations, and a joy to behold. This brand new edition of Prayer and the Art... with its new title, is considerably re-written, expanded, revised. And the cover is a stunner. It really looks like the kind of book you ought to have laying around, if you know anybody under, like, 30. It is going to be a bohemian, Christian classic. And that isn’t a bad thing. It really is about him driving around and praying for his too-often breaking down VW van. If you want to check him out, go to or But please motor back here and order ’em from us.
Through Painted Deserts: Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road Donald Miller (Nelson) $13.99

2 thoughts on “new Donald Miller: Through Painted Deserts

  1. I love the new title! I didn’t realize this book was going to be re-issued. I simply love Donald Miller — even emailed him and told him so. He was kind enough to write me back some very nice thoughts. This was before he became wildly popular, though, and now he doesn’t even advertise his email address anymore. He was probably getting too many marriage proposals. I am STILL trying to get my Blue Like Jazz copy back from my friend, Julie, who liked it so much she ordered a copy for herself, and lent it out to her philandering boyfriend, hoping (perhaps) that it might aid in his reform. No such luck. So now he’s got HER copy, and she still has mine, and the world just isn’t fair, Byron. But I’m thinking I need to get a copy of this re-issue.Peace,Michele

  2. byron-i was one of those staff folks that bought Prayer and the Art… i enjoyed the book thoroughly (although at the time it fueled in me the urge to quit everything buy an old van and head out across the country). as i fell in love with the the book i found a small fan site that i cannot find again around the book. on that fan sight there was a message claiming to be from Robert Pirsig himself. the post was amazingly bitter about miller “ripping off” the title and spoke down about the book itself. i am not certain, but i faintly remember the mention in the post about threats of a lawsuit (?!?!) do you know anything about this and if any threats may have caused the reissuing under a different name?i am on lunch break now from my summer-graduate-student-blue collar work, so i will not write too much, but i have thought a lot about the book and my own recent studies in regards to home and place and have wondered about the responsibility of such books and their valorization of homelessness (a la walsh et bauma-predeigger).praying for you and your family in this difficult time.krm

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