An intriguing exploration of Christianity that aims to bring diverse perspectives to traditional ideas.

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HIDDEN TREASURE

BIBLICAL HIGHER POWER SPIRITUALITY

A debut book thoroughly examines the Bible for believers seeking a deeper connection to God.

Aiello strives to show that a connection to Jesus “does not have multiple steps or complicated formulas,” but is instead based in a consistent practice of trust, surrender, and self-abandonment. He begins with a philosophical study of original sin, translating the first story of the fall of Adam and Eve into more modern contexts, and arguing that since that moment, man’s nature became a sinful one: “Addictions and compulsions are linked to this process, because whatever you desire eventually controls you….Ultimately, the cause of human dissatisfaction is our basic sin nature.” For him, the key to conquering this unsatisfying disposition lies in complete surrender to God and the ultimate goal of Christian freedom, “which is not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin.” Aiello writes about this capitulation in a way that blends the psychological and the spiritual. In an attempt to make more abstract Christian concepts like faith and grace feel more tangible, he describes them as concrete exercises that will slowly lift a veil—one that “prevents us from perceiving the spirit world.” The topics Aiello chooses will likely be familiar to many Christians, ranging from the Eucharist to the existence of angels, but the tension between his more modern, progressive explanations and the classic tenets of Christianity produces some fresh and stimulating arguments. The author brings in concepts from other faiths, carefully explaining why he found the meditation practices of Eastern religions ultimately inferior to being “subordinate” to God. He is also quick to point out what he calls “misplaced faith,” writing that an overreliance on strict biblical interpretations or individual church practices can get in the way of a godly connection: “Christianity is operating way below par because it does not encourage unconditional trust in God.” But no matter which criticisms or new ideas Aiello starts from, he always works his way back to the Bible, using these various viewpoints to ultimately reinforce traditional Christian notions rather than truly challenging or changing them.

An intriguing exploration of Christianity that aims to bring diverse perspectives to traditional ideas.

Pub Date: July 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-61638-592-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Creation House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2017

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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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