This book is a gem. While the cover design is aesthetically pleasing, the pages contain great stories, and the theological prose is enjoyable and accessible, of foremost importance for the prospective reader is that in The Good and Beautiful Life we have a fantastic resource for the transformation of human character into the likeness of Christ. The second in a series of three, this book is yet another valuable resource for those on the Christian journey, and perhaps even for those outside the Christian faith seeking to learn more about where the Christian life might lead.
Throughout this series of books Smith cogently argues that "we live at the mercy of our ideas and our narratives," and it is through this lens the content of our spiritual lives is examined and then challenged. Each chapter within this installment presents a common narrative that many people hold that leads to anger, lust, lying, vindictive competitiveness, vainglory, avarice, worry, or judgmentalism, and then challenges that narrative through the life and teachings of Jesus. Smith relies on Jesus's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount as paramount for instilling the virtues that oppose these vices, reinforcing the Jesus narratives with an accompanying spiritual practice. In this book, those practices are writing a letter to God, play, hospitality, keeping the Sabbath, a media fast, silence, praying for the success of competitors, secret service, deaccumulation, prayer, a day without gossip, and living one day devotionally. The practices are simple, yet powerful, and the instructions Smith provides are very easy to follow.
I found this book to be an excellent follow up to the first volume in The Apprentice Series, building well upon the ideas presented in The Good and Beautiful God. As is the case with each of these books, the teachings contained therein are best read and lived within a community, and thus this could be an excellent resource for a book club, a small group, a Sunday school class, or even as a touchstone for a church-wide initiative. As is obvious, I strongly recommend it, believing that this book and the accompanying volumes are invaluable sources of wisdom for the building up of the church today.