A faith memoir with a simple but endearing Everyman tenor.


One Christian’s guidebook to a stronger, more personal religious faith.

“I have had many wrestling matches with all those forms of bondage,” writes Petree in his nonfiction debut. “I chose to stay under their yoke for a long time before ultimately learning to choose Jesus and be set free,” referring to all the worldly forces like worry or envy that Petree sees as standing between Christians and purity of faith. He adds: “I hope I’m able to help you make the same wise choice.” This is the narrative ethos of the entire book; the author reflects on the challenges he’s encountered to make the walk easier for others. In a series of fast-paced chapters, Petree draws not only on his own life story and faith encounters but also on a pleasingly wide array of other voices, including spiritual leaders like Billy Graham (“One of the best ways to get rid of discouragement is to remember that Christ is coming again”). He also reflects on less conventional sources of religious inspiration, from 15-year-old high school athlete Tyler Trent, who stirred many with his professions of faith before dying of bone cancer, to an unidentified stranger Petree met on a bus while on a high school trip to Mexico years ago. On the whole, his faith-observations manage to steer clear of both the treacle of typical Christian-inspiration titles and also the reflexive science-denial of American fundamentalism. He stresses that these Christians already have all the food they need for spiritual nourishment. “The good news is that, in terms of your soul food, your sustenance is covered simply by believing in Jesus,” he writes. “The bible [sic] should always be your main course.” Through these and other invitingly simple metaphors, Petree makes an intuitive case for a revitalized faith, and although it has the weaknesses of all intuitive cases, mainly a fondness for clichés and unsubtle concepts, the book’s direct and relatable tone wins out in the end.

A faith memoir with a simple but endearing Everyman tenor.

Pub Date: March 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9736-8632-3

Page Count: 186

Publisher: WestBowPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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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 Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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