Regular readers here know that I choose the books I review, which means that I have an obvious bias before scanning the first page. Often, I am already familiar with the authors from their online work. Generally, you get the impression that I never met a book I didn’t like.
But this one was a bit frustrating. Stan Guthrie’s God’s Story in 66 Verses: Understanding the Entire Bible by Focusing on Just One Verse in Each Book looked like it was going to be an interesting focus on some key passages, but I have to admit, I was taking the title (and subtitle) of the book very, very literally, so that once I got into the first few chapters, I felt I wasn’t getting what the book promised.
Yes, there are 66 chapters, running three to four pages each; and yes, each begins with a key verse from each book in the Protestant canon. But in providing context for these verses, many others are invoked and instead of commentary on the key verse, or why it means so much to the author, we are simply given a retelling of the story.
Of course that’s very important. Bible handbooks provide great overviews for people looking for a companion reference product. Honestly, I think everyone should have one lying around the house somewhere. (Haley’s Bible Handbook is a longtime bestseller; younger readers might enjoy Zondervan’s The Map.) This is especially helpful if your Bible is a basic text edition without chapter introductions, or you have a friend who is just starting out on their spiritual journey and say they already have a Bible, but you want to give them something to help them get started.
But one thing God’s Story… is not is a product presenting the Bible story arc as one, single unified story, despite the similarity of the title to another product line by the very same publisher. Rather, each chapter is discussed somewhat in isolation of the others, which on the plus side, means you can indeed use the book for reference, or read the chapters in any order. Perhaps that stands as a healthy contrast to the former type of product which seem to be proliferating rather quickly.
Of course, if your favorite verses match the ones contained here, then this is a great product for people who might be called upon to give a very short devotional talk on a verse that has been of great benefit to them over the years. Or if there’s one of the minor prophets you tend to skim over, this will draw you into the text and help you understand that book’s significance. (Reading lengths are somewhat equal: Nahum is given more space than Hebrews.)
Bottom line for me however was that the book offers a premise that it doesn’t deliver. It’s a great handbook, and bringing in the context provides a great set-up for the key verse that is inevitably reiterated in the reading, but the title left me expecting something more devotional. Hey, maybe it’s just me.
So here’s my conclusion: 18-24 months from now Thomas Nelson will reissue this product under a different name. Getting to Know Every Book in The Book is my suggestion. And it will do even better under the second title, whatever is chosen.
Available now from Thomas Nelson, 240 pages, in paperback at $16.99 US