Posted by: Tim | September 3, 2011

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway

I picked up a copy of To Be Perfectly Honest at Three Hills Books as one of three books for my summer reading (the other two were The Destruction of the Bismarck and Gallipoli, but that’s for another post). Phil lives in Three Hills so I see him around, most often at Subway, and sometimes when he is doing some stand-up comedy/MCing at Prairie events, but I’ve never read one of his books until now. He is one of the funniest people I know, and when I saw this book and the idea behind it, I had to pick it up.

The idea that hooked me is that Phil commits to not lying for a whole  year and then writing about it. The results are hilarious! What made it even more enjoyable for me is that I know many of the people he talks about and local places he describes so I can often vividly imagine what is happening. And as a bonus it helped me to verify that Phil was indeed telling the truth. In fact the very same day I read a part about one local person who will remain nameless who was telling Phil cat jokes, I happened to be out for a bike ride with Carol and we found this person contributing to making a cat’s life a little more challenging out on the street by Phil’s house! It was a little bit too honest! And early on in the book he mentions that the church he attended growing up had some peculiarities that did not always encourage honesty ( producing conversations such as how you doing Phil? Well I’m really struggling with memorizing the gospel of John…). I’ve been trying to figure out what church he might have attended growing up – maybe someone around here will know…

But let me be clear, you don’t have to live in Three Hills to enjoy this book. Phil writes in a daily diary format and there is a great rhythm to it as he goes to church each Sunday and always has funny thoughts during the service and amusing conversations with people. There is one man in his church who always tells him a joke every time he sees him (I often have the unfortunate urge to do that when I see Phil, so I could relate), and another person who always finds a way to throw a spiritual guilt trip on him. And he doesn’t seem to hear much of Pastor Rod’s sermons as his mind wanders to other funny thoughts. I loved it because it so real!  Phil and his wife Ramona have some great honest interactions as well and there is a serious part as Phil deals with his elderly mother’s decaying health and mind through the course of the year.

While the book is officially about honesty, it’s also a book about God’s grace, as Phil is brutally honest about his efforts to be holy, to witness, to be nice, and also to get rich, to get even, and to win at golf.  I appreciated how Phil kept pointing to God’s grace in his life and found it moving and uplifting.

As I was reading it I was constantly turning to Carol and reading parts to her that made me laugh out loud. It got to the point where I would be laughing and she would say stop it and I would try to tell her and she would say that’s enough and I’d say just one more…and I would tell her yet another laugh in Phil’s honesty adventure.

This is a great book to read for yourself, and a great book to give to a friend who needs a laugh as they learn more about honesty and God’s grace. There probably isn’t near enough laughter in church, but I think there is going to be a lot of laughter in heaven, and a lot of praise and joy for God’s grace in saving sinners like me, and Phil points our hearts in the right direction.

You can find To Be Perfectly Honest on Amazon, or at Three Hills Books like I did (where the price is better too)!


  1. Thanks for this, haven’t read one of Phil’s books for a while. It may be time to pick up another one!

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