Naturally, soccer fans will get more out of this book than fans of other sports, but anyone who is passionate about a game...

An exploration of why soccer is beautiful and how its beauty (and occasional ugliness) manifests.

Critchley (Philosophy/New School for Social Research; ABC of Impossibility, 2015, etc.) is a passionate soccer fan. Though he is a supporter of Liverpool in the English Premier League, his commitment to the game extends far beyond club and country. He has written a number of books geared toward bringing a philosophical eye to popular topics, and here he tackles perhaps the most popular of all with wit and verve. The author is not attempting a “philosophy of football” per se but rather an exploration of the “phenomenology” of the game—i.e., “the description of what shows itself to us in our everyday existence.” This might initially seem like jargon to some readers, or a distinction without a difference, but to those who allow Critchley leeway, this slim book will provide many pleasures. For one thing, while the author is a deeply devoted fan, he is not a blind one. He acknowledges many of the problems that come with being a fan of sports in the modern day: the excesses, the racism, violence, sexism, and hypermasculinity, the insane amounts of money at the highest level of the game. He is aware of some of the innately stupid (his word) aspects of being a soccer fan, but he is also aware of the intellectual aspects to the game. Even with the philosophical nature of the book, it is successfully aimed at a nonacademic audience. Furthermore, Critchley peppers the book with compelling photographs from the history of the sport that also help illustrate and give life to the narrative.

Naturally, soccer fans will get more out of this book than fans of other sports, but anyone who is passionate about a game and is willing to read a smart assessment of what it means to be a fan will find much to admire.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-313267-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017



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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