A rambling religious primer with a veneer of pop physics.



Advanced physics confirms that the world is a purely spiritual emanation of God, according to this treatise on the doctrine of Christian Science.

Debut author Johnson bases his arguments on the philosophy of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, who taught that the universe is an entirely spiritual and good creation of God’s infinite mind and that material reality and suffering are illusions. Her most distinctive teaching rejected conventional medicine in favor of healing through prayer and reflection on the nonexistence of disease. Drawing on the writings of scientists and thinkers from Albert Einstein to evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins, along with reams of biblical citations, Johnson contends that scientific findings on the nature of matter support Eddy’s ideas. He notes that the theory of relativity considers matter and energy equivalent; that quantum mechanics regards matter as both a particle and a wave or even as a disembodied probability; and that atoms are up to 99.9999 percent empty space with a wisp of corporeal substance. He concludes that people’s experiences of reality and matter cannot proceed from atoms, which are “tiny, un-alive vibrating balls,” and must therefore be a dream that they conjure as entities created in God’s image. Sprinkled into the theorizing is the author’s critique of modern health care, along with his personal reports of the seemingly miraculous results of Christian Science, from the alleviation of intestinal ailments to his success in finding his wife’s lost earring. The final fourth of the lengthy tome delivers an appendix containing Johnson’s essays and speeches, which constitute a Christian Science catechism covering such topics as “Is Baptism Essential for Salvation? No and Yes” and “Are We Christians Really Sinners? Absolutely Not!” Johnson’s sprawling treatise offers some intriguing observations on the weirdness of modern physics—especially the more mystical interpretations of quantum physics—in a lucid and engaging style. Unfortunately, his own theories are murky and full of gaps. He nowhere develops them in a systematic, linear fashion; instead, he keeps circling back to a few suggestive but not dispositive riffs on the blurriness, emptiness, and evanescence of matter. (His introduction acknowledges that the book’s “repetitions may cause confusion and even boredom” and advises readers to browse rather than perusing it cover to cover.) Johnson’s arguments are seldom compelling or even coherent. One section juxtaposes diagrams of atoms with pictures of big things—a mountain, a house, a man—to suggest that people see the latter because of “the ‘mist’ described in” Genesis. Others proceed by incantation rather than reasoning (“What we think we see and observe is only illusion imposed upon the ever-present atom by the so-called carnal mind….it is illusion upon illusion upon illusion because the so-called observer is also an illusion who seems to be viewing a materialized illusion in the form of atoms transformed into so-called material objects”). Christian Scientists and others attracted to mind-over-matter ideology may feel inspired by the work’s assurances that a brute, intractable reality of pain, illness, and death can be brushed off like a bad dream. Readers who value secular science may not be persuaded.

 A rambling religious primer with a veneer of pop physics.

Pub Date: March 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-4107-6

Page Count: 818

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2019

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


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


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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