There’s much here to interest both adherents to and skeptics of today’s alternative and holistic medicines, as well as fans...



A well-researched biography that seeks to restore the reputation of the doctor satirized in T.C. Boyle’s novel The Road to Wellville (1993) and in the film of the same name.

Wilson (Comparative Religion/Western Michigan Univ.; Yankees in Michigan, 2008, etc.) has done much more than provide a sympathetic biography of the man who headed the once-famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, the name John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) gave to the Seventh-Day Adventist’s Western Health Reform Institute when he became its director in 1876. While the author fully explores the doctor’s role there, more important is his examination of the conflicts among various schools of religious, philosophical and scientific thought in the United States at the time. Kellogg struggled to reconcile the science he had learned as a doctor with the teachings of his church; ultimately, his deviation from church doctrines led to his expulsion. Believing that the purity of the body was as important for salvation as the purity of the soul, he developed the concept of biologic living, the rules for which he spelled out in detail in various books and promoted at the sanitarium. The first rule: “Obedience to the laws of life and health is a moral obligation.” Among his many precepts was the forgoing of meat. He taught that since the abandonment of vegetarianism in Eden, the human race has been sliding into decline, manifested by the short life span of modern men. In time, Kellogg became increasingly concerned over what he saw as the threat of race degeneration, devoting the last 30 years of his life to eugenics, the so-called science of improving the human race by controlling heredity. Wilson demonstrates convincingly where Kellogg’s ideas about health reform originated and how they evolved.

There’s much here to interest both adherents to and skeptics of today’s alternative and holistic medicines, as well as fans of American history, especially the history of religions.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-253-01447-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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 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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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