An engaging walking tour of the world’s most powerful beliefs and what they share.

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The Hidden Revelation

A wide-ranging tale examines the long spiritual history of humanity.

Benedicta, the beautiful, aristocratic mother of Francis, the young seeker in Livingston’s debut book, lies on her deathbed when she bequeaths to her son a collection of old scrolls. Each one is a journal recording a different part of Benedicta’s life—and the diverse people, representing various religious and spiritual practices, she met along the way. The journals tell the story of her trips—they’re full of travelogue-style details—and of the unplanned insights she gained in the far-flung places she visited, learning about the religions of each place from the people she met there. A teacher in Jerusalem named Abraham Joshua Hirsch tells her about Judaism; a Franciscan monk named Giuseppe talks about Christianity; a young businessman named Ravi Kumar explains Hinduism (and she discovers a great deal about India’s other religions from a knowledgeable chauffeur in New Delhi named Sita Rom); an Australian Aboriginal elder named Freddy instructs her in the ancient spiritual ways of his people; in Cairo she learns about Islam from the story of Ali Mohammed al-Mirsi. In each case, Livingston subordinates the personal to the informational; the characters throughout are mostly mouthpieces for researched facts, although the author presents that material so smoothly that readers will likely be caught up just the same. The many differences in all the systems of belief Benedicta encounters are laid out clearly, and the curiosity of the character herself tends to tease out the commonalities Livingston clearly wants to highlight. “There is only one type of Spirituality in the world,” readers are told. “It provides an inner ear for the inner voice we all have.” The book draws a sharp distinction between religion and spirituality, stressing that the former causes hatred and fear, while the latter encourages peace and love. The nature of these observations tends to be obscured rather than enhanced by the thin fictional narrative that overlays them, but the reflections themselves should be appealing to any student of comparative religion.

An engaging walking tour of the world’s most powerful beliefs and what they share.

Pub Date: July 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-8409-9

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

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

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

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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