When Your Life is on Fire by Erik Kolbell


Synopsis –    

In this book, Erik Kolbell interviews 13 people and asks them the question “What would you save if your life was on fire?” This question is not just for physical items that might be owned but also the intangibles in your life.  He wants the interviewees to look at the sum of their thoughts, traits, and achievements.  It gets down to a question of being able to save ONE THING to represent your entire life. The thirteen people that he interviews are as follows: (the classifications are from the book)

SEEKERS-           Arthur Waskow, Mariah Britton, Kenjitsu Nakagaki

ARTISTS-              Alan Alda,John Alexander,Regina Carter,Christopher Lim

ICONOCLASTS-   Fred Newman,Tao Porchon-Lynch,Cathrine Kellison

SURVIVORS-        Jane Pauley,Don Lang,Brenda Berkman

 Review –

When I started this book, I had not heard of the author or 11 of the people on the list. I think that the book starts out very strong with Rabbi Waskow. While his background was interesting, the conversation in the book caused me to think about spirituality.

“Written in Hebrew there are no vowels, so if you read this passage in appropriately, the book of Exodus, this name of God has no vowels.  Not “Yahweh” not “Jehovah”.  It is simply spelled Y- H- W- H.”…

“God’s name is not “Yahweh”. Or “Lord”.  God’s name is not name. It is simply breath.  It is what we all must have to stay alive What we animals breath in is what the plants breathe out, and what we breathe out is what the plants breathe in.  All of God’s creation is complicit in this.  We are alway speaking God’s name!”                                                  Arthur Waskow,When your Life is on Fire

I was impressed with the spectrum of people and their openness about their lives. The interviews were mini-biographies, as they had to be to explain the choices, and that made the choices understandable and interesting.Overall, I thought that 11 of the 13 interviews were very interesting. The least interesting interviews to me were Kenjitsu Nakagaki  (it was very short and seemed a bit abrupt), and Jane Pauley (it seemed more from the interviewer than interviewee).

Due to the nature of the question and the interviewees, this is a very spiritual book.

While I was unfamiliar with Erik Kolbell, he has been on television and this is the fifth book he has written.  On his website, he states

“If you’ve looked around my website you’ve probably figured out a common theme in my writing and speaking is the relationship between ethical living, spirituality, common sense, and a connection to those around us.”

This is certainly not a beach read. The book is serious and is worth attention and thoughtfulness. It is a book to read when you have some time to spend thinking about what the interviewees have to say and how it applies to your life. You may not feel compelled to read it all at once.  You could read a chapter and then come back between other books.


I wish you a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend! Please take a moment and give thanks for the men and women who serve and have served this country.

Thanks for reading!

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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2 Responses to When Your Life is on Fire by Erik Kolbell

  1. Sounds fascinating and worth the read. I love the quote: “God’s name is not name. It is simply breath.”

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