Book Notes: Wild at Heart John Eldredge

In 2001, we published Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that books for men don’t sell. Boy, were we wrong. Since that time it has sold more than 3 million copies. It is still one of my very favorites.

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If you walk into the average church, you will notice lots of bored men. For the last several decades, men have been taught that they can’t keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children.

But if they try really hard, they can reach the lofty summit of becoming—are you ready for this—a really nice guy. No wonder men are bored.

This is hardly the stuff that young boys dream of. They don’t aspire to grow up and become some version of “Mr. Rogers.”

Instead, boys and men long for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. That is how men bear the image of God; that is how God has made them. In this book, John invites his readers to discover the masculine heart and he unique role they play in God’s story.

I should also point out that this is not just a book for men. It is a book for anyone who wants to understand men, including wives and mothers of sons.

Question: If you have read Wild at Heart, what impact did it have on you?
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  • http://twitter.com/carybrans @carybrans

    An honor to be able to post a comment. I wake early, obviously, and this review of Wild At Heart is a great way to start the day. Wild At Heart seems to be the book that broke open the flood of books, retreats, and resources re: men's Christian journey. Reading it helps us embrace those elements of manhood long denied by many of us who follow Jesus. Adventure, Excitement , Risk, Danger, all those things that we learned to suppress as adults have an integral part in our faith journey. Wild at Heart calls us to pull those into our lives of faith. Many of us find Wild at Heart a continuing help in the lifelong journey to Christian manhood. Our wild hearts find a place in the wild heart of Jesus. Thnx for the video review. More like this (and I'll add "please" just to be "nice".

  • http://Www.springhillacademy.net Perry coghlan

    Reminded me that God created males for dominion. It is “hard wired” in us.

  • http://tmason47.typepad.com Tim

    I first read wild at heart at a point where I was putting my life together again. It gave me a roadmap to a journey that I am living out today. i knew somehow that a nice guy wasn't what i was suposed to be,but in lieu of that I had no idea whatsoever what the alternatives were besides drinking and running around with women. Devil may care, I guess was my only other viable option.

    Wild at Heart Changed that for me. I spent a year with 5 other men working through the book, one chapter a month, meticulously, and then spent a few weeks at the end of that year in the very literal wilderness of the high rockies, in prayer, waiting for God, to know his will for my life and to recieve the power to carry that out.

    Nice has never served any man well, because it isn't who we are meant to be. God, make me into a wild ass of a man, if that is who you will have me be.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      This is a really great book for a men's study group. In fact, I can't think of a better book to use to start a group.

      • http://tmason47.typepad.com Tim

        We used this one and then followed up with The Way of the Wild at Heart. For a mens group, this book is a challenge worth taking IMHO.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WCP WCP

    Wild at Heart is an outstanding book for men and anyone wanting to understand how men tick. It's a real counter-message to the popular men bashing that goes on daily in our culture. Eldredge gave me a new way to look at masculinity and a new manly perspective of Jesus.

  • http://robert.epictales.org Robert Treskillard

    Thanks, Mike, for promoting this book so long after you published it. Wild at Heart has been an important book for me and my spiritual walk.

    With the knowledge that us guys are looking for battles, adventure, and ‘beauty’, how can you market fiction better to guys? I know that’s been a hard thing, historically, in the CBA.

    This is one of the reasons I love Christian fantasy, and I’m looking forward to Stephen Lawhead’s new series you’ll be publishing soon.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think Fiction is such a good way to reach men, especially fantasy. I have also found that biographies and history are good, because they are full of heroes and adventure.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

      Stephen Lawhead ahas a new series coming out?

      Now THAT's something I'll get excited about! I'm now going to have to go web searching to find out more!

    • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

      Stephen Lawhead has a new series coming out?

      Now THAT's something I'll get excited about! I'm now going to have to go web searching to find out more!

  • http://www.facebook.com/emuelle1 Eric S. Mueller

    I read Wild at Heart in 2007, and followed it by The Way of the WIld Heart, which came out about the same time. I taught Wild At Heart at my church, following a class on Raising a Modern Day Knight. The two books complimented each other very well.

    I appreciated John Eldridge's message a lot. I noticed from some of the reviews on Amazon and even a few participants in my class that some people just can't get past the mountain climbing and other activities John talks about to see the greater message of the book.

    I would say that the books helped me to better understand myself as a man, and my responsibilities as a father to two boys.

  • Chris0605

    When I was a youth pastor, I started leading a group of boys through the book based on a recommendation from others. When I got into the meat of the book, I was kind of disappointed. I felt like John used a lot of psychology and not much scripture. At some points when he did quote scripture, I felt like he took many passages completely out of context in order to prove or support a point. Needless to say, I was deeply discouraged and regretted using it as a tool for young men.

  • http://twitter.com/LegacyLearning @LegacyLearning

    I read Wild At Heart as a wife and a mother of two boys. It is one of the most influential reads of my life. As my boys get older I see that heart emerge more and more and it is my desire to see that warrior spirit fanned into flame. I happen to agree with Abigail Adams that "if we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women." To learned women everywhere, add Wild At Heart to your to read list. You will come away with an appreciation for the men in your life that will in birth in you a desire to be the kind of woman God designed you to be.

  • http://forrestlongart.com Forrest Long

    Always appreciate your book recommendations. Haven't read this one but after reading your post I need to. I agree- there are alot of bored men in churches today, who need ways to live out their faith that will challenge and excite them. Thanks Michael.

  • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    Wild at Heart might be summed up as a How-To manual on this quote from pg. 169:

    "The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death. All men die; few men ever really live</>."

    Once any man or woman reads Wild at Heart though, the message isn't complete until he or she reads the sister book, <Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. Both are listed in my profile as favorites because of the impact they've had on my perception of men as men and women as women.

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  • Alica Vaughn

    There is no doubt that Wild at Heart has somehow resonated with men, considering the millions of copies that have been sold. There is something about what Eldridge is saying that tugs at the heart of men.

    However, after reading the book, I couldn't help but be distracted by many of Eldridge's references to Scripture that were taken out of context and used to justify his argument. I believe that, essentially, all truth is God's truth. And I think Eldridge hints at some aspects of God's truth. But, I was disappointed to see that Eldridge started with his own idea of God and used Scripture as a support instead of using Scripture to shape his understanding of God.

    • Chris0605

      I strongly agree Alicia. Had Eldridge started with a biblical view of God in this book, a view that is determined by scripture, the book would have been much better. I got the feeling from the book (not to make any assumptions or accusations against John) that a view of God was created with scriptures hand-picked and taken out of context to show "evidence". The guys on our pastoral staff read the book and came to the same conclusions independently.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Could you provide an example? I thought the book was very biblical.

      • Aaron

        It's been at least two years since I read this book. I have to say it was incredible and changed my thinking quite a bit about how to raise a boy. (I now have one!)

        I remember a few things where I wasn't quite sure whether I agreed with his interpretation of what the Bible was saying on a particular subject, but I think it's easy to be hypertechnical about that. I certainly didn't read anything blatantly unbiblical in it.

        Biblical truth is plenty important enough for us to stand up for, but I think you have to judge every fallible written work (which is every written work except the Bible) by a matter of degrees. If Wild at Heart is off by a few degrees in a couple of places, it's dead on most of the time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/strongfathers Strong Fathers Strong Families

      I used the concepts of the book and added my own scripture because it is a book and a guide. Look up warrior scriptures and bring those ideas in WAH to life. The "wild man" speech has inspired both sons during hard times and I will use it again. YOU should have used scriptures instead of getting disappointed in a good resource. Our sons need this message and it is our job to bring more scripture to the discussion. As well, who has a complete understanding of God? It has to come to scripture but Christianity calls for discussion, discourse, and the Bible as truth. Also, if you are a female, you should teach young men, but not about manhood.

  • http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com Jeannie Campbell

    While I was still single, several guys prompted me to read this book. I even ended up with three copies given to me! But when my husband said I should read it, I did, and it finally helped me understand him! His need to be out in the wilderness doing dangerous (to me) things. His desire to hang outside the door of a helicopter for the US Coast Guard and rescue people. Yikes! This book resonated with him and made him feel like he wasn't alone in how he viewed the world. And as a woman, after reading it, I thought maybe my husband wasn't crazy. :-)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That's what I am talking about. Fortunately, my wife had four brothers. (She was the only girl.) We have five daughters, so John's book was a helpful guide for them in understanding men.

  • Jeff Dobbins

    When Wild at Heart first released in 2001, I was leading a small group of men in weekly Bible Study. This was two years before I came to work at Thomas Nelson and a friend working at a Christian bookstore recommended the book to me. I fell in love with it and created my own "curriculum" to use with the men in my group. That was the best 8 weeks we spent together as we explored finding the heart that God created in every man. Then just last year, we led 40 men in our church in the DVD curriculum (much better than what I had done on my own several years before). The testimonies of lives changed, hearts restored, and marriages mended were tremendous.
    All this to say, I love Wild at Heart!

    P.S. Thanks to Eldredge's comment in the book about wives letting their husbands get that motorcyle he wants, I did.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Some guys will go to great lenths to get a motorcycle. ;-)

  • Lynn Rush

    Right on. Our church just did a series a few months ago that focused on men being WARRIORS…yep. It touched on a lot of these points that you mentioned in your video.

    Thanks for this. I'm putting this book on the to be read list. The more I can learn about how God has made my hubby, the more I can be his helpmate!!

    • Aaron

      Two others that might make your list — which I haven't completed yet, so can't fully endorse, but I'm loving them so far — are Tender Warrior by Stu Weber and Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis.

      Both would have been great Thomas Nelson books, but I guess our favorite publishing company can't publish everything. :)

  • http://twitter.com/AudraKrell @AudraKrell

    As wife to an amazing man and mother of three boys, reading Wild at Heart changed my life and praise God changed theirs! I was so busy controlling the small adventures that I would "let" them have, that I wasn't available to be a part of the adventure.
    I gave up control, learned to respect their godly hearts and support all of their adventures as best I can. The relief has been tremendous for me and we are all finally really living. It is one of the greatest joys of my life to watch them shake off cultural definitions of who they should be and to pursue their wildest dreams.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kleicester kleicester

    The first time I read Wild At Heart I wept through most of it. I immediately turned around and read it a second time, weeping through some of it. I read it a third time and made it through without bawling, except maybe once. The book grabbed my heart in a very very deep place. Even though John is talking about men, it touched me deeply as a woman. The wildness; the longing to be as God intended us; the longing to have someone to fight for me is profound. Finally, someone wrote about it in a way that made it authentic and real.

    I have recommended this book to every woman and man I know. It is profound and powerful. I also commend you to randomedheart.com, and to read anything John has written. All are good.

  • Mark B

    I did enjoy Wild at Heart; however, I do find it interesting that it seems like nearly a decade has gone by with few other titles as popular as this one. Sure, we can list some books aimed primarily at men, but few (if any?) that have had the popularity of Eldridge's book. Maybe Arterburn's Everyman books? Other thoughts on this?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt michaelhyatt

      I think that's write. It's hard to improve on this book.

  • http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/ Rebecca LuElla Miller

    Michael, your post is very encouraging. As a teacher, I soon learned that guys needed “guy books.” Girls are happy to read them too, but guys want nothing to do with the boring stuff girls like. ;-)

    Men are no different. So I chose to write a Christian fantasy with a male protagonist, only to find out after the fact that publishers weren’t buying such stories.

    How exciting to see a bit of a shift.

    Becky

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    i read an article on Church Marketing Sucks this morning…A Man Has Needs….
    and based on current situations in our body…i think we are missing the mark when in comes to ministering to men…thanks for the book info…

  • http://donnafrank.blogspot.com Donna Frank

    I loved Wild at Heart!!! I started it hoping to get a better understanding of men; I finished with a better understanding of God and of myself. The same voice that tells men they should be nice tells women we should be independent. I don't want to carry the load. (Okay, maybe it's taken me a few decades to realize this, but I made it!)
    God made men warriors and women princesses…I'm pretty certain He knew what He was doing. Thank God John Eldredge wrote a book encouraging us to remember the fairy tale, and to dare to dream it again.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/juliepb juliepb

    Michael, Wild at Heart as well as Steve Farrar's, Finishing Strong, were both purchased by me for my husband neither made it to his side of the night stand. These men both tapped into the unrelenting desire so many of us have (male AND female) to be living in and out a passionate pursuit of Christ. For me, John and Steve's words were life as I felt at the time there was a dearth of material for women like me; those who ached to live dangerously (adventurously!) in the hands of God and were frustrated by the choice of books geared toward us as a purchasing market. Both authors profoundly shaped my thinking those 8-10 years back and a I'm pouring the fruit of said pursuit into a broad ministry which I pray will spur another generation of women and men to follow hard after Jesus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jtimothymorrison Tim Morrison

    I began reading "Wild at Heart" hoping for it to be one of those rare books that actually live up to the hype given to many in the Christian book world. Unfortunately, I came away not sure if Eldredge was following the same God as I was. Several things concerned me. First, Eldredge denies he is an open theist, but the evidence reveals the contrary. Time and time again he speaks of God in ways that can only be explained if you hold such views. “God is a person who takes immense risks (p. 30). It's not the nature of God to limit His risks and cover His bases(p.31). As with every relationship, there's a certain amount of unpredictability. God's willingness to risk is just astounding. There is definitely something wild in the heart of God (p. 32).

    God is not a God of risks. If God is omniscient, as I believe Scripture teaches Him to be, there is no risk. God knows all, therefore He knows outcomes before they ever occur. Hence, no risk. Eldredge treads very closely to Open Theism.

    Additionally, Eldredge treads very close to implying that Jesus actually failed. In speaking of Jesus' encounter with the guy who lives out in the Gerasenes tombs, tormented by a legion of spirits, the first rebuke by Jesus doesn't work. He had to get more information to really take them on (Luke 8:26-33) (p. 166). This, of course, is a complete misrepresentation of what happens in that passage.

    I, for one, have discouraged many men and students (as a Student Pastor) from reading this book.

    • http://www.facebook.com/strongfathers Strong Fathers Strong Families

      God risks our obedience every day and with every man. He put Moses in control of his chosen people and Moses disobeyed. He put Noah on the ark and Noah blew it. He knew it would happen but he risks us loving Him or rejecting him. It is risky to give us free will. He allows us to choose Him or choose us. What can be more risky. It there is not such a risk then why even evangelize? God is risking our obedience in that as well. There are great books but none of them but God's inspired word is completely true. Allow God to work through the discourse and lean on truth instead of thinking everyone who seems different to you is dangerous. The theology of Islam is wrong but you cannot doubt their zeal. I disagree and do not believe the theology of the Mormons but they have family down and are showing the rest of us how raise obedient kids. Maybe God is risking that you will learn from a different point of view, even a wrong one, or not completely true one.Demons proclaimed Jesus as the Christ. the messenger did not change the truth.

    • Josh

      I have to say I agree with both Tim and SFSF (Strong Fathers Strong Families) here. Tim's right that the first part of the book–the theological framework–was largely a wreck. God as a divine risk-taker is, as Tim points out, dangerously close to open-theism and simply not supported Scripturally.

      However, much of what Eldridge has to say is tremendously helpful. The quotes above by Mike Hyatt are a great sampling of some of the gripping truths facing the church.

      So as Tim points out, some Christians may need guidance to wade through this book to sort out theological error but embrace the strong, much-needed truths in this book.

      But as SFSF mentions, we shouldn't "throw out the baby with the bath-water". For example, I love reading books by Greg Boyd for his keen analysis of Scripture and articulation of the spiritual warfare motif found in the Bible. But, again siding with Tim, I would use discretion to decide who to recommend the book to. Someone with the maturity & ability to discern could handle it just fine, whereas new or immature Christians may need help wading through such a work.

    • Rocco

      We are going to get to Heaven and God is going to have a big gut laugh at all our "Theologies". Words made by man to control God and put Him in a box.

  • Bill Meeks

    Excellent book for any man. I read it on my IPhone as a download through the Kindle app. I liked it so much I bought it for my 17 year old son to read this summer. He walks around now looking for adventure. It is awesome the impact it has had on both of us. Thank you for this book.

  • Bookjourney

    I have not read this but my husband had. I think we have two copies in the house. When Al (hubby) was on the leadership team at church one of the elders bought this for him. Al is not much for reading books but this one he did and loved. I dont know why I have not snatched it from his side of the bed and read it too. Hmmmm…

  • http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/ Sheila

    I have not read this but my husband has ans loved it. Not sure why I have not picked this up. Guess I had better. :)

  • Solveig Engh

    Women have also carried the burden of having to be nice rather than real. Wild at Heart opened me up to understanding the problem for my husabnd and sons, but also for myself. It was, actually, a watershed revelation.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    I have listened to the audio book and read the printed version and have come to the same conclusion with both:

    Not all men are the same.

    This book simply doesn't describe me very well. Sure, there are elements that I can relate to but much of it I simply can't relate to at all.

    Maybe the problem is that there is nothing in it which shows me how to relate the principles it discusses to my life, to my way of thinking and to my pursuit of biblical manliness.

    It is possible that my understanding of what constitutes being 'a man' and Mr Eldredge's are not that different, it may just be down to application, but then I'm not so sure…

  • http://chriskidd.co.uk/ Chris Kidd

    If I'm honest I found it at best a disappointing read, at other times it concerned me. This is a book that I've heard a number of wise, older men whom I deeply respect recommend, and yet having read it, I don't really understand why. The gist of the book is to challenge men to be men – to be passionate, to be raw, to be strong and wild. But for me it doesn't quite make sense, I don't want to be a warrior, a fighter. I'm determined in what I do, but I'm not into being James Bond or some other superhero that is into being wild, aggressive and taking risks.

  • Chris Kidd

    … part 2:

    At one point he tells a story about his son (p. 78) where he tells him to hit someone else. I don't get that kind of advice. I spend a lot of my time challenging and encouraging young people to do the opposite. There seemed to be a distinct lack of biblical scholarship to back up his viewpoints, and he seems to ready to seemingly dismiss key disciplines such as 'quiet times', he prefers God to speak to people in other ways (through films, songs, etc.). And whilst I don't deny that God can and does (and does in my case) speak to people outside of study of the bible, I am frustrated that the book doesn't seem to encourage the regular biblical disciplines which so many young men (myself included) struggle with.

  • lindy abbott

    In 2001 my husband attended a Wild at Heart Class at church and just couldn't relate. Now my oldest is 16 and he lives to know that he is strong and a warrior at heart.

    I have talked again with my husband to ask him to read the book or even listen to the tapes I laid on his night stand. My husband did not have a dad that understood men were strong or warriors and in turn he doesn't identify with this part God made him to be.

    Two weeks ago God blessed me with a delightful fishing day with my girlfriend and her 16 yo who is quite an accomplished fisherman. He taught my son to fish and joyfully my son caught his first 16 inch brown trought at a beautiful river bank. He held the fish for a photo (best photo I have of my son) kissed the fishes cheek and tossed him back into the river. Though we would have loved to mount, fishing rules require trout to be at least 18 inches to keep.

    I was a relationship building day for my son and me. I am so grateful for the experience.

  • Peter

    I am rebuilding strength from Eldredge to take on my broken relationship again ( I had two children out of marriage with a non-christian girl while being backslidden for 5 years).

  • peter

    Much of me is broken but i am staying strong as a father for my two sons. I recently feel like this is my main battle and i will win her over for Christ and i shall treat her for the beauty that she is and pursue her with love in a holy way until she looks to Jesus for fulfillment and then i can marry her and claim my prize back from Satan and break the cycle of generational carnage against women. She is from a background of multiple fathers and rape and abuse. Nothing in her sees any beauty. I have often cried in front of her when i wasnt walking with God becuase i couldnt face the fight and looked everywhere but to God in disobedience. Nothing in her can open up to love or believe in it. It drains my energy. I was weak but

  • peter

    John Eldredge has made me strong again and i am a man who is going to be a generational man. My childrens children will get their strength from the Most High God. Some warrior spirit is alive inside of me that i knew was there but felt was to be ignored. It excites me and while i dont feel his risk comments are best put, a God who creates the wildness of a lion an eagle and a mustang definitely made us guys.

    Please pray for me and my battle to win a womans heart and save a family.

    peter

    ps this is not my only battle..getting up in the morning will be hard also..lol. Paul says we dont have to marry at all. But it makes me understand that old lady at church and that girl who isnt my partner to be of worth in my eyes and makes me look for their inner beauty to recognise as an image of the Most High.

  • http://briancaruthers.com/ Brian Caruthers

    I was looking through a Google search on Wild at Heart, looking for where my own webpage might be landing when I found this post. I have devouring the content on your website lately and I would like to thank you for all of the inspiration you have given me. I am currently doing a chapter by chapter dissection of Wild at Heart on my A Survival Guide 4 Christian Men podcast. Thank you for your book review.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Brian. You are welcome. Wild at Heart is such a terrific book. It really made a difference in my life.