What People Say about ‘The Listening Books’
David Coffey, Global Ambassador for BMS World Mission
I enjoy reading James Webb, not just because he is a gifted and imaginative storyteller, but because he provides nourishing soul food for the journeys we all make through the deserts of life. With his creative imagination he provokes a range of emotions in the reader and I invite you to step inside and be prepared to find something for which your soul has cried out.
A thoughtful and inspiring read from beginning to end, “The Listening Book: The Soul Painting & Other Stories” is especially commended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.
There are very few books I read that can make me laugh and think profoundly at the same time. This book however is one of them. As a child I used to watch Tales of the Unexpected and loved the twists at the end – James’ book easily surpasses them. It is very easy to read and yet worthwhile at the same time as each story contains spiritual truths ( which aren’t at all preachy and sometimes not obvious! ). This is a book you have to try – you won’t regret it.
Sophie Duffy, Author of ‘Bright Stars’, ‘The Generation Game’ and ‘This Holey Life’.
This is a beautiful book, in words and images, and will appeal to old and young and all those in between. As the title suggests, the stories are perfect for reading aloud and could be used in a range of settings. The delicate images add another dimension. From fables to folk tales, from stories told around the camp fire to John Lewis Christmas ads, humankind responds to the power of story and to the meaning that narratives give us.
Steve Divall, Senior Pastor, St Helen’s Church, North Kensington.
Job 28 pictures the search for wisdom as digging for gold. The Listening Book has numerous nuggets to mine, embedded in stories that will help you to remember them.
Webb proves himself to be a skilled and often inspired storyteller. Some of his tales are evocative of folklore or fantasy, featuring throne rooms (‘Urges to be Killed (One)’, ‘The Sister and the King’) and talking animals (‘Rufus and the Troll’, ‘On the Perils of Having a High Estimation of Artistic Talent’). Others imply allegory with characters having names such as Misfit (‘By the Riverbank’), Easy Life (‘Knock and the Door shall be Opened’), the Artist (‘The Soul Painting’), and Dogma (‘Lunchtime’). Quite a few stories employ imagery drawn from the natural world (‘Mustard Seed’, ‘Old Fool’, ‘Flowers and Weeds’), while others are first-person narratives (‘The Note’, ‘Hidden Things’, ‘Treasure’). There are also a couple of pieces that seem more like commentary than stories proper (‘Sofa’, ‘Un Dieu Défini est un Dieu Fini’). Three stories particularly stand out to me: ‘The Boy who Held God’, which suggests value in maintaining faith in God’s presence even when God seems absent; ‘Gifts’, with its important message that ‘a gift is supposed to be a burden’ (p. 61); and ‘Pride’, about not being obsessed with our deficiencies. Of course, these things may not have been what Webb sought to communicate in these particular pieces; but, if I have been listening attentively, these are the meanings it seems God has spoken to me through these texts.
Two books of intriguing short stories, penned by a gifted storyteller, give us glimpses of the Gospel.
Reading the stories in the Listening Books is a little like snacking – you get a lot of ‘flavour’ in small bites. Similarly, reading one can leave you wanting the next, and the next.
Some of the stories are very short, but all are thought-provoking. The style can vary. Narrow Road, in the Second Book, for example, might be described as destined for a teenage audience although the content is applicable to any age. Others might be reminiscent of Aesop’s Fables. The first story in the Second Book, Loaded Question, features a squirrel, and is highly amusing.
Tamara Wilhite: US Blogger (reviewed via CSPA BookCrash)
The Second Listening Book presents its points in thoughtful, short parables that are universally accessible. The only weaknesses are multiple parables trying to reiterate the same lessons and several parables that aren’t clear in their message. However, it is a good read to help you think about the temptations and challenges of being a Christian in a predominantly secular, often hostile society. Read full review…
Philip Cole: US Blogger (reviewed via CSPA BookCrash) New way to look at Biblical truths
If you have been a Christian for a while, or been around them for a while, it is common to hear the same Biblical concepts over and over. This can lead to your eyes glazing over and you thinking of something else instead of listening. In The Second Listening Book, James Webb adds a twists in the telling of these truths to stop the glossing over effect.
From time to time, we all need to step back and look at what we are doing, to see if we’ve comprised on our beliefs. A book like this can help with that. Each story presents a truth or moral that we should live by, but they are presented in a unique way. Humor is also mixed into the stories, which makes reading it enjoyable, even if your toes are stepped on.
What I like about The Second Listening Book is that you can easily see his point, but are caught off guard with some of them. You think to yourself, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not like… oh, wait.” The pretenses we put up are broken through, and we’re left with the truth of the matter. James Webb has done a great job with a book that is simple, yet full of things to think about.
A beautiful book to look at thanks to the gorgeous photos – but the real beauty is in the texts: modern parables that are as touching and poetic as they are thought-provoking. The tone is eclectic, from soothing to light-hearted, to puzzling – but can also ‘pack a punch’. Readers of Adrian Plass, Max Lucado or Walter Wangerin will feel on familiar territory, but there is a real uniqueness to James Webb’s style. These stories are quick to read but will stay with you for a long time.
The stories so far read each tell a lesson and are thought provoking and one is apt to read them a second time and ponder for a while. It is a well written and enjoyable book with beautiful illustrations. A great book to keep by the coffee table and one that will be read again and again.
Inspiration, joy and laughter are to be found in here, along with a sense of the dreadful and captivating mystery of God. The ‘God’ we meet in here is a living and understanding being who likes us humans but who also patiently lays siege to our pride and leads us to places of hope. This book is a ‘must read’ for cynics, families at their dinner tables, chaplains at school devotions, and—interestingly—those who would write philosophical and theological essays.
It’s hard to define this book. It was described to me in several ways: a coffee table book; a book of modern-day parables; a book with stories that could be told to children; a book that gently points out shortcomings in aspects of awkward, longstanding, evangelical church culture. Certainly, there are stories that children could happily splash in, such as Rufus and the Troll or Flowers and Weeds. Yet, there are others, like Lunchtime or Hidden Things that would leave many mature Christians pondering the depths of the illustrations involved. Other stories still, like Death and Look on the Bright Side, reminded me of Orthodox folk tales. To have these combined into a book that can happily accompany a coffee table comes as a good surprise.
I would give five stars simply on the basis that it packs far more punch than any coffee table book I know and the anthology combines well. Moreover, some of the rebukes made concerning modern day Christianity are well-deserved and need to be said. At the same time, as stories such as Look on the Bright Side remind us, all is not lost here, “there’s always hope”
Other Things People Say
The Listening Book:…
…Hard to get sparrows and blackbirds out of your head
…I am loving it! So great for pondering! Cant wait for the next one
…Elegant but edgy
…Surprisingly high death count for a coffee table book
…25 stories for reading out loud
…Parables that pack a punch
…Shame its white, because coffee actually stains it
…More or less troll-free
…If you’re sitting comfortably you might not be by the end
…Looks like one of those adult colouring books, but someone has already completed it.