A detailed compendium of facts and ideas that’s not lucid or comprehensive enough to be useful for a wide readership.




An opaque discussion of the Quran and its application to modern problems.

In this history and analysis of Islam and the Quran, Mustapha has a clear mission: convince his readers that understanding the holy text and following the Prophet Muhammad is the way to achieve personal and global happiness. He writes that the Quran “is essentially a guidance delivering man from darkness into light; it has no substitute.” The book offers interpretations of various verses in the Quran and their relationship to life today. Mustapha’s argument leads to the suggestion that a renewed following of Muhammad—led by “the children of Israel” and the establishment of a new caliphate— is the solution to global tensions such as the Occupy movement and the European debt crisis. Arriving at that controversial conclusion, however, is a struggle. The book is packed with references to events and figures from Islamic history; readers without the relevant background knowledge will find themselves overwhelmed by names and terminology. Quotations from the Quran serve as the author’s primary source of proof for his claims, so readers of a dissimilar faith are unlikely to find his arguments compelling. As a whole, the book seems more like a starting place for further research than a complete treatise. One footnote reads: “This is a very profound description of the Sunna that needs careful analysis,” yet that analysis isn’t explicit in the text. Instead, the author often relies on strings of rhetorical questions, which, although a useful study guide for a devoted student, are of little use to the lay reader. Ultimately, it’s unclear who the intended audience is: Readers familiar with the subject will likely already comprehend much of this book’s content, and those unfamiliar with it (or of uncertain faith) may be alienated by the author’s sweeping frame of reference and uncompromising perspective.

A detailed compendium of facts and ideas that’s not lucid or comprehensive enough to be useful for a wide readership.

Pub Date: May 18, 2012

ISBN: 9781467883931

Page Count: 174

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2013

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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 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.


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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