A spirited cry for religious unity.

THE BROTHERHOOD IN ISLAM

MESSAGE TO THE JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS

In a world filled with religious war and sectarian strife, Yousef sounds Rodney King’s famous cry: Can’t we all get along?

Where demagogues preach hate and zealots spread the gospel of division, Yousef delivers a message of peace and interreligious harmony. In his new book, he does not deny the variations between the three great Western monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Nonetheless, he argues that their similarities should outweigh their differences and that believers of all stripes should come together to begin a new religious revival. The founder of the Islamic Center of Middle Georgia, Yousef writes from a Muslim perspective, but he continually reaches across spiritual divides and finds commonalities. He hopes that his book will spur a return to faith for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, and he claims that only such a threefold about-face will save us from the numerous, growing evils of the modern world: drugs, divorce, abuse, violence, broken homes and chronic pain. His book draws more frequently on the Quran than on the Bible, but this reliance serves as a strength; it further educates the reader. Using its holiest texts, Yousef paints a portrait of Islam as peaceful, egalitarian and compassionate. Working against critics who smear the religion as violent or sectarian, he describes his faith as advocating social welfare, equality and nonviolence. Islam would benefit from more apologists who could—like Yousef—write to a Western audience. Occasionally, he’s so enthusiastic that one feels he has sacrificed clarity for energy. He could have spent more time developing a logical organizational scheme for his slim volume, and some of his points feel underdeveloped. Nonetheless, these structural deficiencies do not decrease the value of his message; we need more prophets like Yousef to tear down the walls between us.

A spirited cry for religious unity.

Pub Date: April 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1434909350

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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