Succeeds all too well in the author’s mission to make us understand how similar churches are to one another.



An ultimately numbing odyssey into modern-day American Christianity.

Raised in a religious Polish Catholic community, novelist and memoirist Shea (Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore, 2004, etc.) was told early on by a nun that if she set foot in a non-Catholic church, she, like the congregants of such a church, would be condemned to Hell. Growing dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church—stemming, as it did for so many, from the sex-abuse scandals—caused the adult author to wonder what worship would be like in the numerous Protestant churches across the country. (According to Shea, there are an estimated 2,500 different Protestant denominations in America.) During the course of a year, she visited dozens of houses of worship: Baptist, Quaker and Seventh-Day Adventist churches, as well as Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, the Colorado Springs Cowboy Church, the Moffett Road Assembly of God, the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church and the Kykotsmovi Mennonite Church, among many others. The journey quickly turns punishing—not for Shea, who appears to have the stamina of a mule, but for the reader, who may find it difficult to tell one church from another. While Shea makes some cursory attempts to locate each in historical and religious context, she doesn’t pay enough attention to the foundational values that distinguish one church from another, mostly because she’s more interested in what they have in common. She takes pains to point out that the worshippers all believe in Jesus, all want to live their lives in the best way they can and get to Heaven. It’s a generous and important message, and Shea is clearly loath to say anything condemnatory about any of the churches that opened their doors to her, though she does lament the bigotry she occasionally encounters.

Succeeds all too well in the author’s mission to make us understand how similar churches are to one another.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7224-0

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet