A textually rigorous summary of the Bible undermined by philosophical vagueness and rhetorical condescension.

READ REVIEW

YOUR PASSPORT TO UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE

A comprehensive introduction to Scripture paired with reflections on its principal ideas.

On the basis of an informal survey, debut author Verduci determined that “well over 97 percent” of respondents had never read the Bible in its entirety and that few had an adequate understanding of its teachings. He decided to remedy this widespread ignorance with an introductory volume that summarizes the whole of the Bible and clarifies some of its central concepts. The book-by-book synopsis, “The Gist of the Bible Books,” is a comprehensive but brief sketch that gives each book about a paragraph of description. Then the author supplies surprisingly unconventional interpretations of hell, heaven, the soul, and the kingdom of God, as well as some philosophical reflections on God’s existence, the relationship between science and faith, and the ultimate meaning of life. In the interpretive passages, Verduci argues that technically everyone goes to hell, that there are three distinct heavens, and that there is no immortal soul that’s separable from the body. The philosophical sections are significantly less rigorous, though, and marred by awkward, cloudy prose: “If we cannot perceive or imagine nothingness and God is nothing, then God as defined as the notion of nothing infers a priori that God simply cannot not exist, hence noting the double negative.” The arguments for the existence of God provided are either well-known (such as the notion of intelligent design) or less than compelling, such as the idea that the continued influence of the Law of Moses over time in itself necessitates God’s reality. Still, the primary failing of the book as a whole is its dogmatic tenor; for instance, although Verduci concedes that the Bible is notoriously difficult to understand, he presents his own conclusions as self-evident. Also, he displays little patience for even a whiff of disagreement, calling atheistic scientists “fools.” Despite some memorable insights, the indefatigable peremptoriness of this book’s prose makes it a slog.

A textually rigorous summary of the Bible undermined by philosophical vagueness and rhetorical condescension.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2004

ISBN: 978-1-5320-1534-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 25, 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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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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