Packs a large amount of spiritual understanding into a small number of pages.

Abundant Life and Loving God


A brief autobiographical self-help book about Christianity and seeking a relationship with God.

Drawing on his time in the business world, Wander, in his nonfiction debut, urges fellow Christians to adopt a cardinal rule from that world: “The customer is job #1”—“If the customer calls, you stop what you’re doing and answer the phone,” because they’re more important than your bosses or your other duties. In Wander’s conception of Christian faith, God is the customer, and Wander sees in many Christians a decided neglect of that relationship. “Are we willing to cancel even one thing in our schedules to be with God,” he asks, “or does God lose out if there is any conflict?” The deceptively simple idea of spending time with God is the heart of Wander’s brief faith meditation in these pages. He looks squarely at the large numbers of professed believers who believe an hour’s attendance at church each week discharges their duties toward their Creator. “How can we expect to know and love God,” he points out, “if we spend so little time each week in seeking Him?” In the course of his book, Wander proposes several ways his readers can increase the time they spend in that seeking: making friends among other churchgoers, reading Christian books, and even listening to Christian radio stations, as well as more spiritual exercises, like being grateful for God’s gifts or making a more concerted effort to love others (also on this list is a suggestion many of his nonfundamentalist readers will find puzzling: to study and profess creationism, rejecting “Darwin’s false theory”). He rejects the “prosperity gospel” idea of “Perceiving God as a heavenly Santa or a cash machine” and instead paints a portrait of a God who merely wants a relationship with his people, even though he’s given them the free will to reject such a relationship.

Packs a large amount of spiritual understanding into a small number of pages.

Pub Date: May 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6192-2

Page Count: 78

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

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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 very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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