That Sounds Fun - Critical summary review - Annie F. Downs

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That Sounds Fun - critical summary review

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Biographies & Memoirs

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: 

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 0800738748

Publisher: Revell

Critical summary review

Since it deals with fun, we can regard the book ‘’That Sounds Fun’’ as a special edition of the famous podcast of the same name by Annie Downs. Throughout her personal stories and reflections on life, Downs tries to prove why fun is essential and presents what it looks like, how you can find it and why we long for it. So, get ready to discover why you shouldn’t be afraid to be an amateur, why hobbies matter and, of course, how to have fun!

Why do we need fun in our lives?

We all know what sounds fun to us and what the things we do for fun are. However, once we start asking ourselves why we need fun in our lives, the answers do not come that quickly, right? Think about it. How often do you do things only for the sake of fun, and how often do you use fun as escapism - to run away from the problems or the need to face yourself and answer some of the deep questions that bother you? It is not surprising that the need to redefine fun for Downs came during the COVID-19 pandemic when she could not simply go to another place to have fun and make herself feel better.  

As a host of a podcast in which she talks with her guests about the things that make them feel fun, Downs is probably a good person to tell you why we all feel like we need fun in our lives. Maybe you expect her answer to include pleasure, enjoyment, or entertainment. However, the reason behind our need for fun is sometimes much more complex than these words. Do you sometimes feel you do things only to fill the void inside or find something you used to have? What is that thing? What are we missing that makes us feel its loss? 

According to the Bible, Eden was our first home. People worked there, cared for the plants and animals, and loved each other without shame. ‘’And it was how things were always meant to be,’’ Downs notes. However, we have lost peaceful Eden, which was our ‘’foundation upon which genuine fun can be built.’’ That is why we have a feeling we lack something and chase fun since it reminds us of the place of perfect happiness. ‘’I think when we go looking for fun what we are actually looking for is home,’’ Downs writes. ‘’We are looking for peace. We are looking for simplicity, something to fill that spot that has been left by growing up or growing out or moving on. While we think we want fun, what we really want is Eden.’’ An unusual take on fun, right?

Have the courage to be an amateur

Do you hate being new at something only because you feel people around you are aware of your newness? Maybe you hesitate to enroll in a new yoga class because you think everyone else knows exactly where to put their mat or how many blocks of foam they are required to have. Or you feel uncomfortable on a third date since you believe your date knows more than you about where you two are going. This hesitation and fear of the unfamiliar is one of the reasons we stop doing things just for fun. Downs says the root of these feelings lies in our culture's imperative that everything we do should bring profit or benefit of other sorts. In other words, we redefined the definition of the word amateur by giving it a negative connotation. Rather than connoting a person who does things for pleasure and not for professional reasons, nowadays this word usually refers to someone who makes mistakes or does things incorrectly.

Thanks to the emergence of tutorials, you can learn to do almost anything from professionals these days - play a video game, put on makeup, or sew. On Twitch, for instance, you can watch experienced video gamers teach their audience how to play games and reach the highest levels. But where is the fun in playing if you are only watching someone else do it? Does playing a game feel the same after someone revealed all the crucial moves? While it is great to learn and acquire skills you don’t have, especially from exceptional mentors, we should allow ourselves to be amateurs in some areas because it brings us joy and pleasure. As Downs puts it, we should occasionally let ourselves not know what we are doing. 

So, instead of aiming at becoming professional at everything you do, concentrate on finding out what brings flourishing in your life and the lives of the people you love. As Downs says, ‘’If your heart flourishes, if the enemy is silenced from telling you that your life doesn’t matter, you know that even the tiniest steps toward something your guts are saying you are made to do are worth it. Amateur or not.’’

Having fun is falling in love

Want to learn to have fun? Fall in love. Every day, with someone or something. Fall in love with ideas, children's laughter, movies, and recipes. You can fall in love with the waiter who describes a wine perfectly or a handsome man who volunteers at your church. If a meal is delicious, you should absolutely fall in love with it, too. A beautiful jacket you see in the window shop? Yes, it is also worthy of your love.

For some reason, Western culture wants us to believe that we have to hold back our love. It wants us not to get too excited and too into something but be balanced and cool so that no one can see how stoked we are. Downs says this attitude is wrong because it is grounded in fear of standing out and telling the truth - fear of liking something or someone other people don’t like. What she wants us to do is the opposite - fall in love over and over, every day with something or someone. Yes, maybe you will end up hurt. However, at the same time, big feelings will make your heart beat hard and fast. ‘’And that’s a good reminder that you are not dead,’’ Downs writes. ‘’You lived. You are living. I hope every time you fall in love with a new pair of shoes or a soccer team or a person who has treated you better than you thought you could be treated reminds you of how very alive you are.’’

If you love big, you have probably heard from someone at least once that they knew exactly how you felt about them because you wear your heart on your sleeve. Although this was likely a criticism, you should not embrace it as such. Perhaps some people don't like that you can’t suppress your love, but others will surely recognize this as a benefit. Your friends will know that you love them. Your favorite stores, clothes, and restaurants will know it. In the end, if your heart is on your sleeve, this is just because God wanted it to be that way.

Do you have any hobbies?

Let’s say you are asked to list the things you want to try. Maybe enrolling in a cooking class, gardening, fishing, or doing pottery would be on your list. Perhaps none of these. However, whatever you put on the list, those things probably require you to be an amateur. In other words, the things you listed are likely activities most people call hobbies. 

We all feel a need to have a hobby or two. As Downs explains it, ‘’Hobbies make space. They remind us of something beautiful, and that good can come from nothing. That seeds become flowers and ingredients become soup and yarn becomes mittens. And when the whole world is broken, it’s just nice to know we have the tiniest ability to put pieces together.’’ Our need to have a hobby is not purely a need for leisure time or pleasure. If you have a hobby such as sewing, cooking, or gardening, you probably feel there is something special about taking natural resources and putting them together to make something that helps other people and makes them happier. Downs says this is because ‘’we were always meant to create,’’ - ‘’to partner with the God we serve to make things better on Earth.’’

Hobbies can also help you see your transformation through the years. They can show you who you were and whether you became the person you wanted to be. When she was in her twenties, Downs joined a local book club whose members were mainly women in their mid-thirties. Naturally, discussions about the fiction and nonfiction they read were an inevitable part of their meetings. However, for Downs, these meetings were also about the gorgeous house interiors, freshly brewed coffee, scented candles, and cookies served right from the oven. As she enjoyed the company of grown-ups, Downs realized she wanted to be like them in her thirties. And a decade later, when she became a member of another book club and also a warming and welcoming host of the meetings, Downs was happy to see that she grew into the woman she had wanted herself to be ten years ago, and not only could she thank books for this transformation, but women from the former book club also.

Fun is where you are

On Tuesday evening in March 2020, Downs had fun watching the finale of ‘’The Bachelor’’ with a group of friends. Unfortunately, the following morning one of those friends tested positive for COVID-19, which meant that the rest of them had to quarantine in their houses for ten days. Stay at home for ten days? Alone? Downs couldn’t imagine it. She called her parents and cried. Ten whole days. She did not know how she would do it.

The first morning of her isolation, she made a few decisions - that she would wear pink lipstick every day and occasionally put on her ‘’real pants’’ (the ones she wore to work) and glitter slippers. And she made a quarantine bucket list that included the books she would read during her time alone, as well as movies she wanted to watch. And ten days went by. However, to her disappointment, those ten days became months, and she was inside far more than she ever imagined. So, it was time to find a place for rest, work and escape - this time at her home.

During her ten days of quarantine, Downs found herself spending lots of time on her porch. It was a small rectangle of cement just outside her living room and she called it Harvest House Porch. It did not contain much - only an L-shaped brown couch with white cushions and decorative lights that she was supposed to remove after the New Year holidays. When she realized the traditional ways of having fun, such as going to concerts and restaurants with friends, had to be replaced with new ones, she decided to decorate the porch and turn it into an Eden-like place. She concludes, ‘’It’s perfect now. No matter what culture or sickness or weather dictates next, I’m on the right path. I’ve created a porch that is a haven for me. It’s a hub for lots of fun.’’

Final Notes

When they grow up, people usually forget the importance of having fun. As Downs teaches us, fun is more than playing games in childhood and more than pleasure and escape from everyday hardships. So, chase the fun whenever you can. Sometimes you will find it in your own home - sometimes in places where you are an amateur. Maybe love will bring you fun or a hobby you just discovered or returned to. Maybe you will find it in none of these areas - that’s okay too, as long as you never stop going after it.

12min Tip

If Downs’ book sounded fun, why don’t you try listening to her podcast, where she talks with people from various walks of life about the things they do for fun?

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Who wrote the book?

Annie F. Downs is a bestselling author, speaker, and podcast host. She is also the founder of the That Sounds Fun Network, which includes her podcast of the same name. She speaks at conferences and church eve... (Read more)

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