A fascinating bridge text between Islam and Christianity.

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THE ISLAMIC JESUS

HOW THE KING OF THE JEWS BECAME A PROPHET OF THE MUSLIMS

Intriguing exploration of the Muslim understanding of Jesus.

Akyol (Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, 2011) provides an open-minded and historically driven look at the Quran’s treatment of Jesus, with an emphasis on how the person of Jesus may have come into the worldview of Muhammad and his followers. Displaying a keen comprehension for the background behind all three Abrahamic religions and a deep understanding of Middle Eastern history, Akyol reviews the place of Jesus in the scope of Islam in a way that few modern writers have, especially outside of purely academic works. After a short discussion on the concept of the “historical Jesus,” he explores the divide between the theology developed by Paul, which became Christianity, broadly understood, and that developed by James and the church in Jerusalem, which became “Jewish Christianity,” a sect that eventually died out. The author goes on to share the intriguing similarities between the theology of Jewish Christians and the Quran’s theological concept of Jesus. In a pivotal chapter, the author provides a variety of recognized theories (and some archaeological evidence) for a real, historical connection between the vanishing Jewish Christians and the first followers of Islam. Nowhere does Akyol suggest that any one theory is definitive, but he certainly leaves readers with food for thought. He continues by exploring the role Jesus plays in the Quran, especially in contrast to his role in Christianity. In reviewing Quranic verses on Jesus, the author reveals that in many cases, parallel or at least related statements are made in apocryphal Christian literature. Among many other examples, the Quran claims that Jesus breathed life into clay birds, a statement highly reminiscent of a similar tale in a work of Christian Apocrypha, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Ultimately, Akyol finds that Jesus provides Muslims with a worthy exemplar of piety and holiness and that the overtones of history and geopolitics need not dampen that fact.

A fascinating bridge text between Islam and Christianity.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08869-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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