A vibrant and compassionate call for Christians to remember that their faith is a gift.


A series of reflections explores various aspects of modern Christian life.

Ransom’s nonfiction debut consists of dozens of short chapters that cover a surprising range of topics and allusions in order to address the many facets of modern life in the Christian worldview. The author repeatedly reminds her Christian target audience that God so loved his human creations that he sent his own son to surrender his life in order to give them a path to salvation. Her narrative is suffused with sympathy for Christians who believe this inconsistently or imperfectly. “Our faith gets tired,” she concedes, “and our heart aches.” The book’s spotlight shifts from history to pop culture to Ransom’s personal stories, but the two themes running throughout—that faith can be hard, exhausting work and that God is always there to help shoulder the burden—are never far from the surface. “When you are maxed out emotionally from family, work, church volunteering, or even just worshipping, listen to God,” the author writes in a typical aside. “Find time for rest.” Roman Catholic readers will notice the Protestant nature of her sentiments (“I cannot earn my salvation through overcoming my faults. Salvation is a gift, freely given, but I must accept that gift”). And some of Ransom’s conclusions are deliberately soft (a lack of solid scriptural knowledge is floated as a possible explanation for the 21st-century loss of religious faith among young people rather than, say, a rise in scientific literacy). But the caring, sympathetic tone of all her chapters tends to bridge such fissures. After every anecdote or rumination, the author stresses community, humanity, fellowship, and humility in the face of life’s challenges: “We absolutely cannot be a Lone Ranger in life. We were made by God to…care for one another.” This unifying tone of empathy remains the book’s most memorable feature.

A vibrant and compassionate call for Christians to remember that their faith is a gift.

Pub Date: March 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-973655-98-5

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 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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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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