Book Review: “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist

I feel as though I need to begin this book review with a disclaimer: this is the first title I’ve read from this popular author. I also am reviewing the audiobook version that I checked out from the Libby library app. 

Shauna narrates her book, which always makes it more personable. As you listen, you get the sense that she is reading to you from a journal, because each chapter is short. However, all the chapters point toward her discovery, which is that her wild, overloaded, and people-pleasing life can transition to a peaceful, satisfying life with better choices and higher priorities. 

shauna book
Shauna is honest and transparent, which will allow many readers to quickly identify with her. Those who may not relate are stay-at-home moms who are seeking balance in their lives and single moms with less financial means than the author has. This content would appeal more to a woman who is working outside of the home and struggling with career priorities. It was inspiring, however, to hear how Shauna identified her struggle, learned to say no to distractions, and walked through to a more positive outcome. She gives hope.  


As I listened, there were a couple of things that made me go “hmm.”  It’s likely this was done to purposefully draw in a secular audience (her forward is by Brene Brown after all). I must say that I always hesitate when someone who says they are a Christian will share about their pursuit of finding themselves or wanting to discover their purpose, yet do not lean into what the Bible says for encouragement. It is also troubling when Christians mention how they experimented and incorporated facets from other denominations to “expand” their spirituality,” which Shauna does in this book.

Shauna talks about her Jesuit “spiritual director” (more of a New Age term instead of simply saying “counselor”) with whom she had counseling and directional sessions instead of someone who had more similar religious beliefs. She also talks about how she and her husband created an interfaith type of worship service at the mega church, Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. This new worship service includes rituals of the Catholic faith and other faiths. This rang bells for me. It all seemed intended to be experimental and mystic. It was like combining ingredients to find the right recipe and get the right spiritual high — instead of merely allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the worship service. 

Again, this narrative could be directed more to a secular audience, evident by her use of Scripture. The few verses used seemed to be added as an afterthought while putting together the book. There were no exciting revelations she discovered from the Bible that led her to a closer relationship with God and provided the route to the better choices and balance she finally experienced. It just seemed more like the message was, “I figured this out” instead of “look what God has shown me or done through me.” 

The ending was anti-climactic. Because this book was more like a memoir, I didn’t feel satisfied after finishing the book. I had hoped for more depth, more concrete concepts that I could apply in my own journey toward a God-centered, balanced life. 

Did the book deliver what was promised? Yes. She shares her discovery of how balance comes with being more present with family and home, saying no to those things that distract her and create stress and struggle.  

Would I recommend this title to someone I know who is struggling, yet doesn’t go to church? No. For someone who is searching, reading this book about someone else who was searching isn’t going to provide answers. 

Would I recommend this book to the Christian, the churchgoer, the Bible study girl? No. Why? Because if you are looking for Bible-based encouragement, you won’t get it here. The practices she describes are disturbing to see and it sways to progressive Christianity. 

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