A glossary explains the relatively few philosophical terms Klein sprinkles in this warm, winsome book of eclectic musings.




A miscellany of concise advice about life.

Like many people in their 20s, Klein (Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life, 2014, etc.) asked himself some age-old questions: what is the meaning of life? How does one live a good life? He sought answers from his readings as a Harvard undergraduate and later as a graduate student in philosophy, jotting down salient quotations in a notebook he called “Pithies.” Now, 40 years later, the author offers an expanded collection “of concise philosophical precepts” along with candid personal reflections on each. Among his many sources of inspiration are Pascal and Epicurus, David Hume and John Stuart Mill, William James and Albert Camus. But Klein finds wisdom from such popular sages as Woody Allen, John Barth, and Walker Percy and from contemporary philosophers, such as Oxford-trained “techno-hedonist” David Pearce and analytic moral philosopher Derek Parfit. Klein cites Albert Einstein’s praise of solitude (“delicious in the years of maturity”) and Emerson on “the blessings of old friends,” and he admits that ethicist Peter Singer makes him feel “bad about not being good.” Moral philosophy, writes the author, “with its abstract arguments about the principles of right and wrong, is not really that relevant to our lives” but “may only be a luxury for those of us who do not need to struggle simply to stay alive.” He reveals that he's had past bouts of depression and times when he felt overwhelmed “by the meaninglessness of it all,” but he never lost his conviction that life is worth living. As an agnostic, he agrees with atheist Sam Harris’ “crucial distinction between religion and mysticism.” Mysticism, as Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “wonders not how the world is but that the world is.”

A glossary explains the relatively few philosophical terms Klein sprinkles in this warm, winsome book of eclectic musings.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-14-312679-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet