(Reviewed by Lynett Cue White, October 26, 2015)
The Touchstone Tools, Building your way to an inspired life by Joseph Holland, Grand Harbor Press, Grand Haven, takes the high road to teaching tried and true principles by which to live. The cover design is simplistic in nature with its bright, yellow sunburst rays against a turquoise background, capitalizes on the word “Tools” in bold letters. I could even enjoy seeing the “Building Your Way to an Inspired Life” in bold letters as well.
Having met the author earlier this year and found him to be in person as he is in this book — ever looking deeper into the personalities of those with whom he comes in contact. True to his craft as an attorney, he searches for a character trait, a word, or statement that he can equate with a Bible character when he puts on his minister cap. His earlier book From Harlem With Love1, resembles this one in style and content.
The Touchstone Tools is interesting, and original. The real-life encounters in the 176 pages, are based on first-hand knowledge. The book is about a group of 1980s Harlem down-and-out men who have not used their full capabilities. They are challenged by Holland, a privileged Harvard educated lawyer, to improve their lives by subscribing to certain tried and true principles and not blame others for their lot in life. The reader might, as I did, quickly weave in and out of their own life experiences to examine if they have ever used any of the excuses the Harlem subjects use for not achieving their full potential. The book is a good read not just for the down-and-out; but for the up and about.
Written in the first person, the writing style, in quite a few instances is lofty and high brow on Holland’s part, but down-to-earth when his subjects speak which balances out the dialogue. In the Reckon with your ghosts section under the planning tool, the statement such as “His [Chip’s] myopia foredoomed his rise”, [page 82] is one such example of Holland’s Ivy League vocabulary. It is quite interesting how Holland’s students were able to teach him some points on the ways of the world as lived by those who were not accustomed to an affluent upbringing.
Holland seizes a variety of teachable moment by summarizing major Bible themes and the personalities behind them from both Old and New Testaments and explains them to his disciples for application to their lives. I so much enjoyed the book that I purchased several copies for family and friends.
1Holland, Joseph H., (A Memoir) “From Harlem With Love, An Ivy Leaguer’s Inner-City Odyssey”. Lantern Books. New York. A Division of Booklight Inc., 2012.