Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson



When I first saw this book on my book review queue, I was really excited. I have long been an admirer of Eugene Peterson’s Message Bible. I have always appreciated how he has taken abstract ideas and translated them into practical Jane Doe language and application. 

As an art nerd, I was even more excited when I saw the amazing artwork done on the cover; blues, reds, and purples doing a watercolor dance. The image was a juxtaposition of the nonchalant and the calculated; the colors dripping down, obeying gravity’s commands, but carefully placed to reveal the metaphorical glimpses of the contents of the book. Kingfishers swoop under and emobssed dragonfly wing, as Eugene Peterson pensively sits, no doubt pondering the revelations he has aquired over the 30 year friendship with God. 

This is a good book, but it took me a little bit to get there. It didn’t take me more than 2 chapters for the disappointment to set in. It was so...theological. And abstract….I was hoping for something a little more...gritty. 

I take my job as a book reviewer seriously, so I set a goal of reading about one to two chapters on the weekend, leaving some time to ponder the contents of the book. But it quickly became a chore as I found myself bored to tears as I picked up the book. Disappointment was an understatement. But the art on teh cover. I laughed and scolded myself for literally judging the book by its cover, and then shoved it in my nightstand for 6 months. 

But let me redeem this book. I finally picked it up again a few months ago. This is a 370 page compilation of Peterson’s personal revelations on the Christian life, used as his sermons when he was a pastor of a church in Maryland. The book is divided into “preaching in the company” of different characters in the bibles. First Moses, then David, then Isaish, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John of Patmos. 

This is not a casual read. Or at least you may need to be fully mentally present to draw all that there is available from this book. I think that’s what it was for me. I couldn’t quite get the connections he was making, or I wasn’t interested. But at some point, it clicked and it became amazing. I even started using it as my daily devotional side book, taking notes on the deep wisdom that is hidden in the pages. 

For the writers or publishers reading this, I found little to no errors. The design of the chapter headings and font were all beautiful. If you are an aspiring writer, this is super important. The last thing you want is for people to not read your work because of a practicality like bad font or lack of page margin. 

It took a total of 9 months to actually read this book, but I really do believe it was me now. It’s a good reminder that we should give “bad books” a second chance. 

Have you read this book?
What was your experience of it?
What is important to you in a “good book”?

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