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Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road Paperback – August 16, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785209824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785209829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A record of a classic road trip. Miller's tale is full of serendipitous adventures and thoughtful Christian reflection . . . offering the sort of deep-thought wanderings into meaning and significance that are the meat of college-age existence . . . a reminder that life was meant to be lived, not just gotten through -- Publisher's Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Donald Miller is a speaker, founder of The Mentoring Project, and author of A Million Miles in a Thousand YearsBlue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts, and Father Fiction. He lives in Nashvlle, TN.

More About the Author

Donald Miller grew up in Houston, Texas. Leaving home at the age of 21, he traveled across the country until he ran out of money in Portland, Oregon, where he lives today.

Harvest House Publishers released his first book, PRAYER AND THE ART OF VOLKSWAGEN MAINTENANCE, in 2000. Two years later, after having audited classes at Portland's Reed College, Don wrote BLUE LIKE JAZZ, which would slowly become a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller.

In 2004 Don released SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT, a book about how the Gospel of Jesus explains the human personality. SEARCHING has become required reading at numerous colleges across the country. In 2005 he released THROUGH PAINTED DESERTS, the story of his and a friend's road trip across the country. Don's most recent release was a book about growing up without a father called TO OWN A DRAGON.

Don has teamed up with Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson to write the screenplay for BLUE LIKE JAZZ, which will be filmed in Portland and Nashville in 2009 and released thereafter.

Don is the founder of The Belmont Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation which is working to recruit 10,000 mentors through 1,000 churches as an answer to the crisis of fatherlessness in America.

A sought-after speaker, Don has delivered lectures to a wide range of audiences, including the Women of Faith Conference, the Veritas Forum at Harvard University, and the Veritas Forum at Cal Poly. In 2008 Don was asked to deliver the closing prayer on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Don's next book, A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS, humorously and tenderly chronicles Don's experience with filmmakers as they edit his life for the screen, hoping to make it less boring. He then shares the principles storytellers use to make a story meaningful and exciting, exploring their effects when he applies those principles to his actual life.

Of his new book, Don says: "It might be the greatest book ever written. I don't think anybody is going to read a book again after they read my new one. I think God is proud of me. I am going to make a killing off this thing, and I'm going to use the money to go to space."

Customer Reviews

He writes with a fresh and eye-opening style.
If you want a book on Christianity I wouldn't recommend this book, but if you're like me and you love old school roadtrip books then this is a great read.
Last year both my friend and I read this book and were struck with the idea that we should go on a road trip.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on August 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was a big fan of this book's original form, "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance (PAVM)," when it came out in 2000. Either way, the premise remains the same: Donald Miller and his friend Paul leave Texas in a beat-up Volkswagen van to seek their destiny in Oregon. Along the way they experience cool places, meet interesting people, and wrestle with various life issues. I'm a Christian who loves to travel, so I liked the combination of a literal and spiritual journey. Five years later, Donald Miller has achieved a measure of fame by writing a couple of other Gen-X Christian bestsellers. Perhaps that gave him the clout to pull a Stephen King and rework a previously published book into "Through Painted Deserts." I read somewhere that his purpose this time around was to tell the real story of how the trip went. But there are no momentous revelations - only added flowery exposition, a new anecdote or two, and some cruder male bonding episodes (I sold my copy of "PAVM" awhile back, so I couldn't do a thorough comparison between the two).

The somewhat lofty new title (I liked the old one better) reflects a high-minded literary bent I don't remember from the first time around. There's a serious helping of purple prose about life, nature, and spirituality, especially in the first half or so. It got to be a bit much at times; the writer's admonition to "kill your darlings" came to mind. And some political comments, coupled with a favorable comparison of Northwest women vs. their Texan counterparts, indicate that he's become the Oregonian "granola" Paul accused him of being even before he got here. Between such banter (and a tiff or two), they get serious and discuss deeper Christian guy stuff about what they want in a wife, the meaning of a God-centered life, and so on.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Benson on March 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Retitled and re-released after Donald Miller's more recent and more successful books, this is a chronicle of a road trip taken by a young, searching person (the author) and his friend. They patch together a Volkswagon bus and hit the road, without a timeframe or a destination in mind. Their adventures are recounted here, and even though as far as adventures go they're pretty tame, the journey itself is the real point.

The book's message is powerful and struck me on a personal level: Just leave. Most of us don't see how small our lives are, how much we cling to the known, and how much we miss when we limit our horizons to the safe, to what common wisdom tells us is secure. It awakens something in me, the opening preamble of a wistful thought that has not yet found completion. Perhaps it's related to my turning 30 earlier in the year, but here it is, my favorite part and the introductory paragraph that told me I had to take the book home and begin reading it that night.

"Leave. ... Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on July 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
In this volume, Miller gently reminds the modernist that, in the final analysis, the big questions -- the 'why' questions -- determine whether the 'how' questions are important. Gently is the operative adverb.

Although I am not of the generation to whom this books is most naturally directed (older teens through thirty-somethings), and although I am an admitted so-called modernist (which is neither strictly good nor bad, but simply describes most westerners of the past three centuries), I find Donald Miller's observations to be important, consistently valid, and persistently fun. Here's a clip from the second chapter, which should give you a sense for Miller's prose:

"The trouble with you and me is that we are used to what is happening to us. We grew into our lives . . . never able to process the enigma of our composition. Think about this for a moment: if you weren't a baby and you came to earth as a human with a fully developed brain and had the full weight of the molecular experience occur to you at once, you would hardly have the capacity to respond in any cognitive way to your experience. But because we were born as babies and had to be taught to speak and to pee in a toilet, we think all of this is normal. Well, it isn't normal. Nothing is normal. It is all rather odd, isn't it, our eyes in our heads . . . the capacity to understand beauty, to feel love, to feel pain.
"If I do lose faith, that is if I do let go of my metaphysical explanations for the human experience, it will not be at the hands of science. I went to a Stephen Hawking lecture not long ago and wondered about why he thought we get born and why we die and what it means, but I left with nothing, save a brief mention of aliens as a possible solution to the question of origin.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wolfe Moffat on November 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sometimes you hear the cruel, yet funny comment about when a person comes to Christ, it's AFTER they've sung 28 verses of "Just As I Am". I know when I've heard it said like that, a laugh usually resounds through the crowd of people you happen to be with. That's either because it's the same old story, or because people have heard it one too many times. But every so often, the right person just might sing "Just As I Am", and you can't believe it is the same song, because it is sung so beautifully. That's how this played out for me. You hear stories of roadtrips, but they wear thin after a time, and unless the right person tells the story, you kind of think, "Who cares?" But along comes Donald Miller and he makes an ordinary road trip, from Texas to Oregon into a pretty neat read.

And so, you spend a few days on the road, eating beans and rice. The Volkswagon breaks down every so often. You run into some interesting adventures. Don and Paul, two friends, traveling. One thing that strikes me is that they never do it alone, they are with each other the whole time. You come across crazy things, such as Don putting chewing gum over the dash where the check engine light is blazing. You feel the triumph of visiting the Grand Canyon, and the simple celebration of it with a bowl of Raisin Bran with ice cold milk. The simple joy of living life. The thought of just having "eggs over easy with a flour tortilla," as the Lyle Lovett songs speaks of.

Donald Miller speaks of truely living life, not just getting through it. It reminded me in some spots of a Gary Paulsen read. If you've ever read Paulsen, you can't compare too many writers to him. But this had it's moments, and that was worth something, at least 4 stars to me! So, take this pilgrimage for yourself, and get through the bumpy spots. You'll be glad you took the ride!
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