Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Wonderful Highway Accident

When Esther and I are planning a trip north to Arcata (Humboldt County) to visit our grandson (and his parents), I go to the library and pull three books-on-CD off the shelf. I do my best to pick something well-written and entertaining, but frankly it's a crapshoot. Whoever said you can't tell a book by its cover blurb was right. They all sound like the greatest things ever published.

In August of this year, I went through my usual routine. This time, I selected two novels, plus one nonfiction book I thought might have potential. But biblical nonfiction? As we approached the Benicia Bridge, northbound, Esther chose a novel--no surprise--and popped it into the CD player. By the time we reached Petaluma, we had both decided it was soooo boring. Trust me, that one which shall remain titleless didn't dance with the stars.

Somewhere in the Highway 101 portion of the Sonoma wine country, she inserted Disc 1 of the second novel. Clunker #2! After a couple of discs, we scrapped it. Two down and, with only the biblical nonfiction book in our entertainment bag, the several-hour drive ahead looked longer than ever.

"What the heck?" we said in desperation and opened up Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler. Another loser? Not at all. For the rest of our drive to Arcata and all the way back to our home, we sat mesmerized as the youthful author related his personal quest to find out just who this man was who is claimed as common ancestor by the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This Jewish author's excitement for his subject and his great respect for all three traditions made listening to the book an inspirational learning experience. Though a lifelong student and practitioner of religion and the Bible, I had one "Wow!" moment after another. Several times I had to turn off the CD and exclaim, "That's really good stuff!"

Since returning home, I have purchased my own copy of Abraham and am now reading Feiler's Where God Was Born: A Daring Adventure Through the Bible's Greatest Stories. My reaction to this book is the same except, instead of having a steering wheel in my hand, I carry a yellow highlighter to capture my many "Wow!" moments.

Finding author Bruce Feiler was one of the highlights of my summer, and it all resulted from an "accident" on Highway 101.


  1. It's nice to know that serendipity and moments of inspiration come even on a California freeway.

    Thanks for the great recommendation, Al.


  2. Great recommendation. I love the endorsement for books on tape. Sadly WHERE GOD WAS BORN, is listed as an e-book at the library, so I can't listen to it this weekend on my way to the Central Coast Book Festival in San Luis Obispo.

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers