An intriguing leap into faith, and not at all the loony speculation the title might suggest.




Irish Unitarian minister and journalist Darlison (Enlightenment and Ice Cream, 2007, etc.) elucidates the zodiac’s significant place in the Gospels, most specifically in the Book of Mark.

Considered the “Cinderella Gospel”—briefest, least literal, colloquial, an abbreviated version of Matthew and Luke—Mark is full of the kind of unintelligible metaphors that prove most knotty to scholars of the “historical” Jesus. However, Darlison argues cogently, Mark in fact contains a highly sophisticated series of parables and mysteries intended to lead the reader on the path to self-transformation based on the cycle of the zodiac. “Mark’s Gospel is a textbook of the spiritual journey written in an astrological code,” the author writes. Once deciphered, this code “completely transforms our understanding of the Gospel’s original nature and purpose.” Jesus’s miracles and parables were not to be taken literally, the author demonstrates through a systematic reading of his life and teaching, but as “dramatizations of internal processes.” The Gnostics believed that the Gospel story was not an eyewitness account, but an allegory in which the seeker’s internal journey mirrored the sun’s 12-month cycle. Mark’s primary metaphor is the yearly journey of the sun through the signs of the zodiac, and Darlison reflects this structure in his own narrative, moving from Jesus’s baptism and the beginning of his ministry in Aries, the time of the spring equinox and theme of newness, through his suffering, death and resurrection in Pisces. The author debunks New Age-y nebula surrounding today’s zodiac reading and reminds us how fluent ancient writers were in the language of the constellations. Judaism is steeped in the tradition, and many mythical seekers (Gilgamesh, Hercules, Theseus, etc.) were “solar heroes” whose series of ordeals were patterned on the sun’s annual cycle. Darlison’s accessible literary reading of the Gospels is especially useful in isolating original Greek words misconstrued over the ages.

An intriguing leap into faith, and not at all the loony speculation the title might suggest.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59020-037-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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