Customer Reviews: To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father
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I am a non-Christian woman with a father, and I picked this book up because I really enjoyed Blue Like Jazz and love Donald Miller's writing style. Miller writes from the heart, and so even though his childhood experience wasn't like my own, I felt a lot of connection with and interest in his story.

First, this is definitely a book aimed at Christians or those people who at the very least do not mind people talking about God and the nature of our relationship with God. Miller's particular journey led him to allow God to father him in a sense, and for him, letting go of some of the anger and resentment he felt for being fatherless involved thinking about the things which boys and men get from fathers and trying to allow God to provide for him in those ways.

Miller talks about his journey towards maturity and manhood and what those things mean to him. He tells us about the men in his life who have mentored him and talks about the lessons and gifts he has recieved from each experience with these mentors.

He keeps it very personal and doesn't try to tell everyone else what will work for them; this isn't a self-help book, rather a personal exploration of what manhood means to a Christian, and how he personally got through some of the minefields and tough times and grew into Godly manhood.

The way he kept it so personal made it a good read for anyone. Many of us have parents who didn't provide for our every emotional need or who sometimes had problems of their own, and Miller's experiences and insights are broadly interesting enough to make it a good read for anybody.

If you aren't a fatherless man, though, I'd recommend Blue Like Jazz as your introduction to Miller's work - read this one second.
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on February 24, 2007
There came a point in "To Own a Dragon" that I had to stop reading and put the book down for about a week. There was too much that was being stirred up within myself that needed to be processed before I could finish the book. I have never experienced such a profoundly moving read.

Though my life experience is not an exact duplicate of Miller's, there was much that I still gleaned from what he had to say. I lost track of how many times Miller was able to put words to feelings and "mental fogs" that I had been living with, but have never voiced for myself.

Miller's writing style is simple, and his candor is refreshing (for instance, his definition of a "real man"). His words are compelling and inspiring. I would recommend reading it not only to anyone who knows what it is to be fatherless, but to anyone who is doing life with such a person. It is an eye-opening, hope-renewing work, and I am deeply grateful to Mr. Miller for having written it...
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on April 29, 2006
Donald Miller, with trademark warmth and honesty, serves up a wonderful book on the issue of fatherless children/adults and the struggles they face. The epidemic of broken homes is dealt with here in a loving, yet forthright manner. We all deal with the consequences, whether first or secondhand.

Written with a breezy style aimed for male readers, "To Own a Dragon" examines the effects that such a childhood had on Miller. I grew up with a loving, caring father--and yet he left our family when I was a teenager. This changed our family forever, leaving me with many of the struggles this book depicts.

Miller never seems to shy from the truth in the issues he addresses, but he does seem to pull back a bit in certain areas. For example, he glosses over the sexual effects, never even exploring the issue of homosexuality and its possible connections. I'm not saying he needed to address such things, but it would've given this book the punch it needed to do the greatest good. He is a writer with the ability to pull it off.

Despite this caveat, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. "To Own a Dragon" is a necessary prescription in the life of thousands of boys and men who face these questions. It's also a glimpse into the male heart and mind for those women who decide to dive into these pages.
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on January 18, 2007
I think that other reviewers have misinterpretted the intentions of Donald Miller in this book. The subtitle is "Reflections On Growing Up Without A Father". This is an individual who is sharing the lessons that he has learned from his experience, to expect something more than that is shifting the author's role from narrative to self-help (God help us if Donald Miller starts writing self-help books!)

That being said, this book is heartfelt and honest. Miller talks about how he learned lessons later in life that he felt others had grown up knowing. There are times when his writing is piercing and other times when its humorous. Expect typical Donald Miller (slightly meandering but honest) with a tinge of extraction of life lessons.

I've recommended this to several of my male friends who also grew up without fathers and am wholeheartedly recommending it to you.
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on July 10, 2006
The best authors take our half-formed thoughts on an issue and animate them with their words, and here Donald Miller does it again. The strength of TOaD flows from Don's ability to vulnerably and creatively display the wrestling of his own life through the issues of coming of age in a dad-depleted home/society(see the stats in the back of the book). He doesn't leave us hanging in the angst of growing up without a father, however, but instead delivers tremendous hope to young men (young being relative) in the context of his experiential Father-Son relationship with God. His reflections do not appear fluffy, but solidly won, and invite us therefore into our own intimate communion with God our perfect Father, an analogy God can live up to when given the chance.

I agree with Jeff Foxworthy: this book spoke to a place deep inside me, and helped me wrestle with how I relate to God as my Dad. This book is not therapy nor is it an in-depth theological study of the "Father" aspects of God. It is one man's testimony of his journey from arrogant victim to wounded healer. I would highly recommend this important book, then, not only to young men but to men and women of all ages desiring maturity in Life and communion with God.
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on March 24, 2006
Donald Miller's latest project will unfortunately hit home for a great number of people. Miller's writing isn't unfortunate, it's actually direct, poignant, and much needed. The unfortunate part is that there are countless people in our world who have either grown up without a father, or are in the process of braving their childhood alone. Miller opens his life for the reader and traces the uncertainty and anger that mark the life of many who have no father to anchor their lives. Miller's words are encouraging and never preachy. "To Own a Dragon" is a not only a great read for those working through issues relating to their fathers, but for those aspiring to be influential father themselves.
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on July 12, 2007
In To Own a Dragon, Donald Miller writes to men, and reflects on his experience of growing up without a father. The book is co-authored by John McMurray, a Bible teacher slash photographer slash married father of three from Portland who took a 20-something Donald Miller into his home to show him the workings of a functional family.

His forth consecutive yearly release, Donald Miller continues a form of writing that has made him very popular with Millennial and Y Christians. In his books, Miller seemingly writes with ruthless honesty about himself, to almost a self-deprecating extent. It has sort of become his trademark. Don't expect to read anything by Donald Miller without him criticizing his own physique, intelligence, and/or spiritual shortcomings. He will write that he is immature, that he lies, lusts, drinks, transfers his roommate's laundry from the drier directly onto the basement floor, covets, and that he needs abundant and continual grace. This is a breath of fresh air. In having the courage to reveal himself, Miller manages something other Christian writers can't. He connects with his readers! And whether he is being completely honest, or is just really good at pretending to be honest, it's brilliant.

While authors today strive to adopt a more conversational writing style, Donald Miller takes it to the next level. He somehow convinces readers that he knows them. I, for one, am induced to believe Miller can recall my name, where I live, my favorite food. He probably has my cell phone number. If I ever see him in person, I'll pretty much expect him to recognize me (it's a bit of voodoo to be sure). Moreover, Miller's words are so casual, so unforced, you get the impression that he's writing down his thoughts as they come, or that he's free associating the whole book, or that he's making the whole thing up as he goes along! If you read enough of his writings you'll notice his ideas have a consistent ebb and flow that goes something like: "I'm Donald. I used to think things were like this: [insert ludicrous assertion here], but now I see that they are actually [insert spiritual reflection here]."

In addition, Miller is unique in that he forsakes the status quo of making clear and concise points. He repeats himself, and then he repeats himself again, something I have to give kudos to the editors at Navpress for not destroying. Let me give you an example; here Miller talks about the focus of To Own a Dragon: " writing some thoughts about a father, or not having a father, I feel as though I am writing a book about a dragon or troll under a bridge. For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don't remember feeling that a father existed for me." Miller writes the word father six times in two sentences. Six times in two sentences Miller writes the word father (see, it doesn't work when I do it)!

Donald Miller rejects formulaic approaches. There are no 10 steps to recovery from a fatherless childhood. In fact, Miller doesn't really prescribe a path to healing and growth as much as he describes a problematic situation and tells you how he himself handled it, or is still in its midst. Miller writes in the introduction "this book has been healing for me to get on paper. A writer learns more from what he writes than the reader, and often applies the perspectives after the book is written. We're a depraved group in that way. As for the healing, I hope something like my experience in writing this book happens to you in the reading." Hence, Miller doesn't seem to want to preach as much as he wants to share his experience. Other Christian writers should be taking notes.

So, if you're a man and interested in the topic of father absence, or interested in how father absence affects men, read the book (Note: I really don't think the book will be that helpful to women dealing with father absence issues; the experience seems too qualitatively different). If you're not so interested in the topic, Miller's book Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality is the bestseller that catalyzed his popularity and it still stands as his best work to date. It's really good. I've read it no less than three times. I've gifted no less than five copies.

One more thing: Miller is not just writing about how father absence affects men, he's doing something about it. Donald is Founder of The Belmont Foundation, a not-for-profit which partners with local churches to create mentoring programs for young men growing up without fathers. You can read more about it at [...]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 16, 2006
Long before BLUE LIKE JAZZ became a huge sensational hit and established Donald Miller as a leading Christian writer, I became acquainted with Miller through his first book PRAYER AND THE ART OF VOLKSWAGON MAINTENANCE (as much as I like BLUE LIKE JAZZ, PRAYER is my favorite). Apparently the book didn't sell very well, but I knew after reading it Miller would be someone to watch. I especially loved his flowing, prose-as-speech style of writing. It reminded me of my own writings.

TO OWN A DRAGON is Miller's latest work. It's aimed at Christian men who grew up without a father in their life, but the book has a much broader appeal. Miller tells about growing up without his dad and how that affected him and how those wounds were never allowed to begin to heal until he met John MacMurray. Though the book is aimed at fatherless Christian men, the book has a great deal to say and advice for men in general and there are several points that anyone could relate.

As usual, there are ideas and statements that Miller makes that I don't agree with. There aren't many, but they are there. Nevertheless, these disagreements with Miller's philosophy did not prevent me from enjoying this book. He writes in a very personal way that normal people can relate to (though there are a few gems every now and again for those of a scholarly bent). WILD AT HEART has been marketed as a handbook for Christian men, but TO OWN A DRAGON illustrates another facet of being male that doesn't make a guy feel guilty for not being an expert fisherman or for never having been hunting. I highly recommend this for all Christian men and especially for those who lost their fathers (whether through death, divorce, or abandonment). There are some women who will probably enjoy reading this book, too, but it's oriented more towards men.
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on February 15, 2006
it's not quite as good as SFGKW, which would get 5 stars from me in a heartbeat. I'd really give TOAD 4.5 stars. Pick it up and read's short and a pretty quick read. Even if you did grow up with a father, it is a book that applies to everyone's life. It can also really help give insights into guys struggles who didn't grow up with fathers. The chapters on education and work were excellent. Keep 'em coming Don.
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on May 26, 2006
I picked up this book (and Blue Like Jazz) as soon as I heard Don's interview on Relevant magazine's podcast. His way of expressing his thoughts is very refreshing and forces you to recognize God as more personal than you may think. Miller speaks from the heart, from a genuine desire to connect with God. This book was entertaining from beginning, giving very raw emotions about how we are a fatherless generation in which fathers are both physically and mentally absent. This book is made relevant to men both christian and non-christian because it is not so much delved in Scripture as it is in Don's honesty to understand God's position in our lives.
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