An attempt to uphold the superiority of the Koran, but the reader may not find God in the process.

IN SEARCH OF GOD

GOD, RELIGIOUS SCRIPTURES & PROOF OF DIVINE REVELATION

Fragmented defense of the Koran as the fulfillment of Jewish and Christian scripture, and as a prophetic authority on matters of science and nature.

Utilizing numerous and often lengthy passages from the Koran, the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament, as well as quotations from many modern authorities, Gad purports to help the reader search for God. Gad begins with a brief critique of Darwin’s theories and seems to refute evolution in favor of creationism. However, he then immediately launches into an exploration of Abraham’s descendents, drawing the conclusion that Ishmael, not Isaac, is the legitimate first son of Abraham. By contrasting the Koran with Hebrew and Christian scriptures, he also concludes that Muhammad, not Jesus, is the proper subject of various prophecies. Gad critiques Christian theology and declares that the Christian view of the Triune God is either incorrect or heretical. In a sudden shift halfway through the book, the author begins to extract scientific truths from Koranic scripture. Following selections from the Koran with expositions of various modern scientific findings, Gad intimates that the Koran foretold a number of natural truths which no one could have understood fully in Muhammad’s time. For instance, the Koran states that the earth was made like an egg, and Gad explains that this describes both the shape and layers of the earth. Overall, Gad’s approach is difficult to follow. He moves at a quick pace from one topic to another, rarely ties ideas together and seldom explains his own conclusions. His quotations from various scriptures are sometimes strung along for pages, leaving the reader with little clue as to where he is heading. Finally, God is only tangential to the text-scripture is primary, and even if one considers an exposition on the Koran as a search for God, it is quite an impersonal search in this context.

An attempt to uphold the superiority of the Koran, but the reader may not find God in the process.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-595-33644-9

Page Count: 174

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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