361 of 365 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2001
I started this book by looking at the Table of Contents. In the Beginning. A Voice from the Past. The Gift of Work. The Gift of Money. The Gift of Friends.
What is this? Is this the kind of book I want to read?
I flipped to the back cover of the book for insight to the contents. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to read the last will and testament of Howard 'Red' Stevens.." "Red Steves was a self-made man who gave his family everything-and ruined them in the process. Now, as his estate of oil companies and cattle ranches is divided among the greedy and self-serving relatives, one member is singled out for something special: Red's great-nephew, Jason. In a darkened room, isolated from the rest of his family, Jason is confronted by the image of deceased great uncle on a video monitor . . ."
I began Chapter One out of curiosity. It was a story, not a touchy-feely book, like I feared. The narrative comes from an eighty-year old attorney who is reading the will of a very successful long-term client who had become a close, dear friend. As part of the inheritance, the old man's grand-nephew, a spoiled brat sort of young man, is given a special bequest. Each month he is to return to the attorney's office for a learning assignment. If he stays with the program successfully, meeting the approval of the attorney, he gains the Ultimate Gift. If he quits or doesn't meet the grade at any time, he loses his opportunity for the Ultimate Gift.
As the book progresses through the chapters, the young man, Jason, transforms from an insolent know-it-all to a much different person. The series of learnings, prescribed each month by the old man by videotape, gives a new meaning to Jason's life. Each of the gifts, a learning, is described in Jason's words as he gains new realizations.
I found myself surprisingly captivated by this book. I couldn't put it down. No, it's not a mystery or thriller, but it certainly held my attention. I can think of a number of people I know who would surely benefit from this book. One will receive my copy shortly as a very meaningful gift.
A word about the author. Jim Stovall has overcome blindness to become a national champion Olympic weightlifter, a successful investment broker, and entrepreneur. He is co-founder and president of the Narrative Television Network, which makes movies and television accessible to our nation's 13 million blind and visually impaired and their families. With revealing more about this man's incredible background (see page 124), I "got" that this is a man to be listened to. You'll gain the same feeling as you read The Ultimate Gift.
77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
I received this book as a gift shortly after watching the movie by the same name - I was greatly impressed with the movie and anxious to read the book (since everyone knows that the book is always better than the movie). This book is no exception to that rule - an outstanding read and it was as easy to read as the movie was to watch. This is a novel, a work of fiction that drives home some real life points! The premise of the book is about what's really important in life - is it what we build with our hands or the money and worldly success we achieve, or is it something more than that, something that isn't tangible and can't be bought or sold for any amount of money? In his final will, a dying wealthy man tries to communicate from the grave the true meaning of life to a family member who up until this point hasn't got a clue!
I would think that this book could probably be read to children in upper elementary school and could be read by 7th or 8th graders on their own. The book should be read by parents first so that they can engage their children in conversation along the way. While the book isn't overtly Christian, you'll find that the lessons taught in this novel are very similar to the wisdom shared in the Book of Proverbs and throughout Scripture. Stovall isn't preaching, but he sure can drive a point home with this story; and these twelve "gifts" passed from one generation to the next are essential for each and every one of us to learn as well.
While some say that the movie isn't as good as the book, I say that they are a pretty good compliment of each other. The movie takes various liberties with the book to get this message on screen, but you won't be disappointed with either. The book is written to provoke thought and discussion and families should use them as tools to teach valuable life lessons to their children - Red Stevens would have wanted it that way!
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2007
The Ultimate Gift teases it's readers on the front cover (of this edition at least) by asking "What would you be willing to do in order to inherit one billiion dollars...Jason Stevens is about to find out" ...it's a novel but reads like a true life story. Written by inspirational speaker Jim Stovall who is much more than an author - an athlete, investment broker and co-founder and prsident of the Narrative Television Network (NTN) which makes TV accessible for 13 million blind and visually impaired people. Yes, the author is blind. But not about life. He is a true humanitarian who found an amazing tale to tell to let us know about what the ultimate gift really is. Basically Jason Stevens the nephew of Red learns of his uncle's death and is at the lawyers for the reading of the will. One by one the beneficiaries receive their just desserts and portions of the multi-billioin dollar estate. Jason instead receives a challenge to a year long quest of discovery. And as the table of contents says...a voice from the past challenges him to discover about The Gift of Work, the Gift of Money, The Gift of Friends, The GIFt of Learning, The Gift of Problems (yes, problems), The Gift of Family, The Gift of Laughter, The GIft of Dreams, The Gift of Giving, The GIft of Gratitude, the Gift of a Day, The Gift of Love, and of course the Ultimate gift. The adventure takes him to a cattle ranch, to a diner, to a hospital and beyond and the people he meet along the way are fascinating. What is more important though is Jason's discoveries. A cross between The People You'll Meet in Heaven and The Secret this is an amazing book. And I have to tell you the movie adaptation is fabulous...okay some reviewers say it is like a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV special-- but it is more special than TV. This book is especially appropriate at a crossroads in life. It is th perfect high school or college graduation gift. It is a great retirement gift. It is a terrific gift for someone who got laid off or fired. It's a great gift for a widow or a widower. And of course for a favorite nice or newphew. Lovely sepia tone illustrations add to the wonder of this edition. A look indepth into others lives and souls. Amazing tale....start reading this on a tough day ...or any day -- maybe now ! Enjoy! James Garner stars in the movie and he's terrific!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2000
In clear simple language the storyteller leads the reader through a process of discovery in a quest for life's great gifts. This book is heart stuff and head food; it beseeches the reader to read it fully and then again "as needed", which will probably be often.
"The Ultimate Gift" is designed for the motivated and unmotivated, for the believer and non-believer, for the cynic and the optimist, for the lost and for the found, for those who "don't need this kind of thing" and for those who know they do. The people who don't need this will love reading it and tout its benefits and those who do need it will benefit from it whether they read it or not.
We all know people who have more than they deserve because everything was given to them, depriving them of the value of appreciating, the strength from adversity, the empathy from wisdom and the love from unselfishness. "The Ultimate Gift" offers a plan for them and for all of us to affirm or find the insights that come with efforts to improve. You will think of ways you can apply it to those who need its lessons. You will give it away to those you know so they may revel in its rush of revelation, savor its simple solutions and offer its gifts to others too. Give several away!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2008
"The Ultimate Gift" is a literary gem! Author Jim Stovall packs 12 simple and profound life lessons (gifts) in this wonderful, "quick-read" novel. The fun story line feels interactive as I related to the main character, Jason, who goes on a year long quest, full of multiple tests that lead him to the Ultimate Gift...well-being.
I was touched by the "gift of friends" as Jason discovers that "when you just worry about yourself, you are always disappointed. But when you think about others & their well-being first, everything works out best for you and for them". I love this lesson! When I take my attention off myself, I'm available to take care of others around me. This action alone gets me out of my thoughts and brings me into the present moment.
Another entertaining and fun book that leads its' readers to the ultimate gift of well-being is Ariel & Shya Kane's Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment. There are priceless gifts of wisdom in each story of this book where enlightenment is easy for all of us to access. Enlightenment is not only for the Gurus of today - it is for all of us to explore and experience. It's fun to find authors that entertain & share gems of wisdom at the same time. Hats off to Jim Stovall and Ariel & Shya Kane! Thanks for sharing the fun of magic!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2008
Everyone got a piece of the pie when Red Stevens died- a portion of his multibillion dollar estate- except for Jason, the 24 year old fictional character in Jim Stovall's "the Ultimate Gift". Born with a silver spoon and never having worked a day in his life, Jason was eager to find out what he would inherit from his late great uncle. You could imagine how disturbed he was when he learned he had to accomplish twelve tasks (in the name of "gifts") to win the ultimate prize; what he hoped would be a giant fortune! The story unfolded as I unwrapped these surprising "gifts" along with Jason, one by one. It was surely a fun ride!
Read this book if you are interested in discovering the real gifts in life! Jim Stovall is a great storyteller you don't want to miss. Also if you love exploring infinite possibilities and want to lead a happy and satisfying life, check out this amazing book by Ariel and Shya Kane, "Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment". The stories in this book are so sweet, profound and life-altering! The Kanes are masters in communicating their messages across in fun and inspiring ways. I read it repeatedly and am still pretty amazed each time I picked it up. Don't miss their other books as well: "Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Can Instantaneously Transform Your Life" and "How to Create a Magical Relationship". I recommend all of them!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2006
I agree with the other reviewers -- this is a powerful inspirational story.
I would like to point out a curiosity. This book is different from many other similar books because of what it leaves out!
There is no mention of Faith or Hope in the book. There is no mention of God (except incidentally). There is no mention of any religion or moral code, yet it is a deeply moral and spiritual story. There is no discussion of the afterlife, although Death is central to the plot (i.e. the death and Will of Red Stevens) and also the subject of a chapter ("the Gift of a Day"). Also, the concept of Love is integral to the story, and also the subject of a chapter.
As a result, this book is accessible to people of any religious background, and also to non-religious readers. An atheist, agnostic, or humanist should be inspired just as much as any Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.
I highly recommend this book to any reader of any age or background.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2003
Everyone NEEDS to read this book! Thought provoking and life changing. This should be the gift book everyone GIVES to loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, and just about anyone and everyone! What a different world we would live in if everyone would take this simple message to heart and live each and every day according to this very simple, clear message regarding the gift of living and how we relate to others in our life. It simply is what fulfillment on this earth is all about...plain and simple! Read it and find out how to start each day with your own "Golden List"...promise...life changing!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2008
I bought the book and its sequel because I loved the movie. After seeing the movie, I bought copies of it for everyone in my extended family. I'm thankful I didn't buy them the book. The book left out the learning process. The best part of a trip is the journey, not the destination. In this book, all we got was the beginning and end of each lesson. How the lessons were learned was missing.
See the movie. It is amazing!!! The only thing better about the book was the end, but it isn't worth reading the whole thing to get there.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2007
This book is a good book for any age, but I think that it would be specifically helpful with mid-schoolers, ages 11-14. I'm an adult and I read it in an hour and a half. This is a light morality tale , if you get my meaning. Written to illustrate our need for life's basic values, this book is presented as a series of "lessons" for a young man, aged 23 or 24. Apparently, this main character will not recieve an inheritance if he does not perform 12 months of education, education mind you that his rich uncle has outlined for him. He must learn a new lesson every month. So, it's predictable and one wonders, "It only takes this kid 30 days to learn a huge life lesson? C'mon." But remember, it is fiction, so suspend your disbelief. All of the lessons the young man learns are definitely worth while and necessary, and they are lessons that are missing in today's typical teen toolbox. The message is easy to get within the first 3 pages of the book. Nothing is really held back and you'll have probably figured out the ending by chapter 4. A young teen, however, might find this book to be very interesting and an inspiration. I did enjoy it. I felt it was entertaining, but I also found it to be a bit of a cliche. Do read it, however, and pass it along to a young person in your life. Then give them a copy of the "Once and Future King". That's a book that will entertain young people and teach them many values, also. Now that's a book! And, it's one that an adult will enjoy too.