Unlike her bestselling devotional Savor (Zondervan, 2015), Shauna Niequist’s newest book, Present over Perfect (Zondervan, Aug.), doesn’t have any recipes. Instead it offers plenty of food for thought about the demands and decisions women face today. In a series of thematically organized reflections, Niequist’s fifth book in a decade describes her spiritual development over the past three years, moving from the “frantic” of the subtitle (Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living) to spiritual peace and quiet.
“This book is so much about being alone,” Niequist told PW. “So much of my spiritual journey has been into silence and reflection.”
Niequist, who has over 100,000 combined followers on Facebook and Instagram, is one of a growing roster of female Christian authors whose observations on life and its quotidian concerns and relationships speak to a sizeable readership. Faith-driven books written for women continue to gain traction, with authors such as Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, and Priscilla Shirer regularly showing up on general market bestseller lists. According to Niequist’s publisher, Zondervan, Savor racked up more than 100,000 sales in less than a year, and Niequist’s four books together, beginning with Cold Tangerines (Zondervan, 2007), have sold more than 400,000 copies.
In Present Over Perfect, Niequist reflects on the stress-induced migraines, vertigo, and withdrawn personality she experienced before acknowledging the need for change: “I need a new way to live,” she writes at the outset of the book. Compared to her previous books, “it’s a little more intense,” she said. There’s less humor, “less about the tribe of people I walk with,” she said.
Niequist’s old way of living involved a lot of “fake-resting”—doing housework in pajamas while her family relaxed on the couch—and traveling to promote her books. She did more than 100 events to promote Cold Tangerines, and 50 in connection with the follow-up Bittersweet. “The traveling and speaking wasn’t good-hard,” she said. “It was bad-hard. I had to get to a point where I said, ‘That’s not the kind of career I want.’”
Work also dominated Niequist's childhood; she was raised to think of ministry as a way of life requiring time, dedication, and travel. She regularly traveled with her father, Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Church, the institution that helped to define the contemporary megachurch movement. Today, Niequist does less traveling and public speaking than she did for earlier books.
She and Aaron, her husband of 15 years, have two children, Henry and Mac; the family lives in suburban Chicago. “The more you put into [family life], the richer it is,” she told PW. “I had been paying the minimum balance for a long time. Now I am more conscious of being connected, being there for bedtime.”
Sharing her experiences in Present Over Perfect, Niequist comes to know more clearly who she is and what she wants: a slower, simpler life. She hopes the book invites others “to leave behind the heavy weight of comparison, competition, and exhaustion, and recraft a life marked by meaning, connection, and unconditional love,” she said.
A national Christian and mainstream publicity campaign is planned for Present Over Perfect, including coverage in Relevant, Success Magazine, and Homecoming Magazine. A pre-order incentive includes a free 28-day devotional journal download, e-book copies of Niequist’s previous books, and laptop and phone screensavers.