An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism.




A memoir/spiritual work examines common religious questions from a combined Eastern and Western perspective.

Born to a Muslim family that lived in both Guyana and Canada, Ramsaran represents a mélange of cultures. As a teenager, he found a book about yoga and has since spent a lifetime exploring Eastern spirituality, which included a pilgrimage to India and eventually a discipleship in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Los Angeles–based Self-Realization Fellowship. This book is both a memoir of the author’s own spiritual journey and a rumination on religious questions, such as the purpose of life and what happens after death, asked by humans throughout time. Given his background, many of Ramsaran’s beliefs center on Eastern spirituality, in particular from Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi (1946). But like his guru, Ramsaran has a dual affinity, to Eastern spiritualism and the teachings of Jesus. He does not see a tension between the religions of East and West. Thus, chakras, karma, and reincarnation are not treated as an Eastern alternative to Christianity but instead as part of the Bible’s message. Similarly, Christian ideas like the Seven Deadly Sins are reinterpreted through an Eastern lens as “the seven inner serpents.” The repetitive reciting of the Hail Mary, a Roman Catholic prayer, serves the same purpose, according to the author, as the chants of Tibetan Buddhists. Ultimately, regardless of whether one worships Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or Sathya Sai Baba, these different faiths point to the same “Divine.” Curiously absent from this list is Allah. Indeed, despite the author’s Muslim upbringing and emphasis on spiritual universality, Islam plays only a small role in the work. While Ramsaran includes a section on the Christian Bible in nearly every chapter, the Quran is mentioned only twice in passing. Despite this surprising omission, the book is a welcome addition to the canon of East meets West spiritual dialogues that combine thoughtful meditations on spiritual questions with memoirs. This work also features poetry and an analysis of pop music.

An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism. (bibliography)

Pub Date: July 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6868-8

Page Count: 234

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.


The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.


That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet