A thought-provoking guide to a spiritually charged holiday tune.



A reconsideration of the meaning of Christmas via a close reading of a familiar carol.

Debut author Samford laments the commercialization of Christmas and believes it obscures the true meaning of the holiday. In an effort to rediscover Christmas’ spiritual significance, he undertakes a meticulous interpretation of the well-known carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It turns out, says Samford, to be brimming with symbolic meaning and amounts to a kind of love letter to God, the “true love” referenced throughout. For example, the reference to a partridge, a bird famously protective of its young, evokes Jesus’ devotion to mankind, just as the pear tree is a reminder of the cross, a sign of Jesus’ sacrifice. The reference to “eight maids a milking” is an oblique emblem of the eight blessings or Beatitudes offered by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, resolutions that inspire searching self-reflection and a more intimate relationship with God. Further, the mention of “eleven pipers piping” signals the 11 apostles of Jesus—Judas is excluded for his betrayal—understood as exemplars of faithfulness. The author uses each line in the carol as a portal into a deeper discussion of Scripture, commenting synoptically on the whole of the Bible. In its entirety, the song’s meaning, Samford contends, crystallizes when situated in the grander context of the Christian belief in salvation, and it functions as a grateful homage to Jesus Christ. The point of the book, according to the author, is to help others realize the fathomless depth of God’s love and re-emphasize that Christ is the center of Christmas. Samford writes clearly and informally, carefully explaining both the song and its biblical references. This is not a scholarly study—those in search of a more rigorous, academic analysis should look elsewhere—but it still achieves exegetical seriousness. Samford unambiguously addresses himself to other believing Christians, and as a result, he can be somewhat strident philosophically: “Some would dismiss the exquisite nature of the universe as the result of time and chance, but the obvious explanation is that creation is covered with God’s fingerprints and testifies to his existence.”

A thought-provoking guide to a spiritually charged holiday tune.

Pub Date: July 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9356-7

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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