A brisk, engrossing work of investigative journalism.

The story of a hostage takeover that shocked the country.

On March 9, 1977, nearly 150 people were taken hostage at B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington, D.C., “the largest and oldest Jewish service organization in America,” and two other sites, an attack orchestrated by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the Sunni leader of the Hanafi movement. Mining thousands of documents from FBI files and Department of Justice records, trial transcripts, and interviews with five of the hostage takers and more than a dozen hostages, journalist Mufti fashions a tense, often grisly account of the events leading up to the two-day standoff and the arrests, trial, and aftermath of “the largest hostage taking in American history and the first such attack by Muslims on American soil.” Born Ernest Timothy McGee in 1922, Khaalis changed his name when he joined the Nation of Islam. After serving as a close aide to the organization’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, Khaalis derided the Nation as a corrupt “self-serving family oligarchy.” Aligning himself with a new spiritual master, he formed a rival group, which attracted support from basketball star Lew Alcindor, whom Khaalis renamed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Mufti recounts violent conflicts and fractured leadership both within and among American Muslim groups. In 1973, the Nation’s wrath against Khaalis led to the gory massacre of seven members of his family, including children. Even after some perpetrators were convicted, Khaalis felt “spurned by American justice.” One of his hostage demands was that the men who killed his family be brought to him for justice. Another was that the release of a biopic about the life of Muhammad be stopped and the film reels destroyed. Although Khaalis’ anger, desire for revenge, religious convictions, and psychological demons fueled the siege, Mufti places the event in the larger context of America’s involvement in the tumultuous history of the Middle East, South Asia, and northern Africa.

A brisk, engrossing work of investigative journalism.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-20858-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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