Featured Reviews, VOLUME 6

Julia Scatliff O’Grady – Good Busy [Feature Review]

Page 2: Julia Scatliff O’Grady – Good Busy



As O’Grady articulates her vision of good busy, I hear echoes of the creational rhythms:

Good busy is not an oxymoron.  The phrase represents the experience of the moments in everyday life when our actions come close to matching our intentions for ourselves and for the world around us.  While the experience of good busy is not always present in the ebb and flow of everyday life, we can be patient and carry on in its absence, while planning for its return.  My point is that good busy, a balance between action and reflection in our everyday lives, is always possible. We get better at it as we go.

To frame each of her ten ideas that point us in the direction of good busy, O’Grady tells the story of a different person who healthfully embodies that idea in their own particular situation.  Beyond the overall vision of this project, what I appreciated most was its warm inclusiveness.   Good Busy is not just a book for highly motivated businesspeople, it is for everyone, and the breadth of the stories that O’Grady tells drives home this point.  She tells the stories of both women and men, who work in a vast array of careers from a bus-driver to a farmer to a teacher to bartender to a businesswoman to a recording engineer to (my favorite story) a close co-worker of Fred Rogers – a story which, not surprisingly, ends up being more about Mr. Rogers than his co-worker.  O’Grady spends substantial amounts of time with each of the people whose story is featured here, observing them and interviewing them about one particular facet of good busy.  Her attentive observation and pointed interviewing leave the reader with a clear and captivating sense of what each idea means.


You need to read this book, to immerse yourself in the stories that O’Grady tells and to reflect on what they might mean for you in your own situation.   Thus, I will not say too much about any one of the ideas she proposes, but I do feel compelled to offer here the tiniest grain of what she intends for each idea:


1)      Buffer – Build in a margin around your activities

2)     Routine – Create order in your life

3)     Mirror (think rear-view mirrors here) – Pay attention the variables unfolding around you.

4)     Tunnel – Barrel through the seasons of challenge and imbalance

5)     Sliver – Move beyond procrastination by carving out small chunks of time to get a task done

6)     Geological – Take the long view

7)     Sequence – Make a playlist to order your daily work

8)     Gungee – Recognize “that there is hardship in life that we can’t control”

9)     Milk (your cows) – Reckon with your responsibilities

10)   Hunt – Discover the source of your busyness


Good Busy is an extraordinary book, richly contemplative and yet deeply rooted in the practicalities of everyday life!  It is essential reading for our health and flourishing as humanity, offering not quick-fix prescriptions, but rather offering us practices that will form and guide us on the long journey toward well-being.  There are undoubtedly powers at work in the world that bear down on us and drive us into unhealthy patterns of work and leisure. However, I believe that we can slowly and mindfully loosen their grip on us and grow toward healthier patterns of good busyness.  O’Grady is a wise guide whose work will energize us for this journey, and particularly, Julia Scatliff O’Grady’s Good Busy stirs our imaginations with the possibilities of what it might mean for us to make peace with time in our own personal lives.


C. Christopher Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books, and author of several books including most recently The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities (Patheos Press 2012). He is currently co-writing a book with John Pattison entitled Slow Church (IVP Books 2013).


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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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