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Reviews Written by
Brian Griffith (Toronto, Canada)

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Creative Mythology (The masks of God)
Creative Mythology (The masks of God)
by Joseph Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars the finest version of world history ever told, 4 Jun. 2014
Campbell's Masks of God series is, I think, the finest version of world history ever written. He exposes the choices, stages, tragedies and breakthroughts in an unfolding chorus of consciousness expressed through art, story, and vision, that represents the real power and glory of the human adventure.


All is Change: The 2000-year Journey of Buddhism to the West
All is Change: The 2000-year Journey of Buddhism to the West
by Lawrence Sutin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.21

5.0 out of 5 stars A subtle, non-partisan tale of cultures in transformation, 2 Jun. 2014
Sutin gives a remarkably full overview in the interaction of Buddhism and Western civilization. It's a kind of history writing that takes real literary sensitivity. To pull this off, Sutin has to attain helpful insight into history of nations, art, literature, theology, philosophy and spiritual practice. For quite a while he catalogues the sporadic encounters between Westerners and Buddhists, detailing the almost stupefying misunderstanding that prevailed down to the late 1800s. Then we have a rising chorus of personal adventures and biographical sketches, showing those who popularized Buddhism in the West as teachers, charlatans, scholars, novelists, or history-changing activists. Even a partial role call of the people involved looks momentous for world history: Nyogen Senzaki, D.T. Suzuki, Helena Blavatsky, Paul Carus, Lafcadio Hearn, William James, Alexandra David-Neel, Okakura Kakuzo, Friedrich Max Muller, Christmas Humphries, Hermann Hesse, Nikos Kazantzakis, Alan Watts, T. Lobsang Rampa, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Thich Nhat Hahn, Gary Snyder, E.F. Schumacher, Chogyam Trungpa, Rita Gross, Jack Kornfeld, Geshe Wangyal, Maureen Stuart, Richard Baker, Pema Chodron, Joanna Macy and the 14th Dalai Lama. The story is huge, and it's told by a historian with a keen eye for turns in popular culture.


Wildlife Of Australia
Wildlife Of Australia
by Louise Egerton Jiri Lochman
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Vast survey, great illustration, 17 May 2014
This review is from: Wildlife Of Australia (Hardcover)
This book strikes a good balance between illustration and info., and between scientific accuracy and chatty description. It covers the whole range of animal life with no apparent bias toward mammals, birds fish, reptiles, or amphibians, or invertebrates. We have both the indigenous and the immigrant species, with reference to the dilemmas of species in collision. The beasts are presented in an order of biological similarity, so it's a bit involved to look up a specific animal, but you get a feel for the relationships and proportions of animal populations. It's both a large work of zoology and a excellent coffee table material.


Ken Burns: West [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Ken Burns: West [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by Newtownvideo_EU
Price: £51.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, heartbreaking, and balanced, 15 May 2014
This series is beautiful. It strings together the experiences of real people that span the many decades. It follows people's dreams, their enormous hardships, crushing setbacks, their crimes, heartbreaks, and legacies to the future. It's told in a balanced way, honestly conveying the experience of all the societies and cultures involved. The narrative is largely made up of real words from people who were there, drawn from their letters, diaries, or messages. It's powerfully done and it made me weep. This is the kind of storytelling that acts like a truth and reconciliation commission to heal wounds and open minds.


Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
by Pema Chodron
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Always fresh, never on auto-pilot, 15 May 2014
There's a similarity to Pema's various books, but she never says it quite the same way twice. She's always fully present as she writes, practicing and demonstrating the openness to actual experience that she writes of. It's a good touch that she can bring in a whole chapter from Chogyam Trungpa's Smile at Fear, like he was a totally relevant guest speaker at this virtual meditation retreat.


Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Gollancz)
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Gollancz)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars The future of empathy, 6 May 2014
This wacko classic of bounty hunters, rogue androids, and a post-nuclear-war world almost devoid of animal life carries a somewhat unforgettable lesson. There's a test of empathy by which life is discerned. But strangely enough, if life doesn't care about non-life, then non-life doesn't care about life either.


Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
by Simon Winchester
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £33.10

4.0 out of 5 stars A Eurocentric but beautiful ocean history, 4 May 2014
Winchester has had a lifetime of Atlantic crossings, and can weave his personal accounts in with those of vast numbers of other voyagers down the centuries. It's a rambling and enthusiastic book, full of historical lore and incredibly detailed vocabulary. It features the drama of geological plate tectonics, but mostly it focuses on Western man, especially English man, at sea. There's the early explorers, the seaside cities, the naval wars, and commercial advances Only late in the book does Winchester look seriously at the life within the sea. He never gets really oceanographical, and includes no accounts of undersea explorers. Still, the accounts of overfishing and global warming are gripping. Maybe the best part is the fascinating and informative but admittedly speculative writing on how the seas may be changing -- chemically, biologically, and climatically. Always the concern is on how humanity and the ocean affect each other's lives. Winchester's conviction that the Atlantic is at the core of human history is Eurocentric, but his appreciation for the sea's majesty is pretty universal


The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence
The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence
by Meredith Marti
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Sixty years of mainly horrific headlines, 23 April 2014
Meredith's account captures all the main political action in Africa from the 1950s to 2010. A few of the stories are at least momentarily inspirational, from the momentous wave of independence movements to the fall of apartheid and Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution. But for the most part Meredith relentlessly delivers a stream of horror stories in which government often seems to be nothing but a traditional contest for spoils through killing contests. The egomania of despotic kleptocracts and their propensity to solve problems through mass murder seem so pervasive as to present a permanent, insurmountable block to almost every child's future. The conniving of foreign powers for geo-strategic advantage by backing and arming selected "friendly" dictators, not to mention their subsidizing of foreign agrobusinesses while restricting African exports, make foreign aid to Africa look worse than a Wall Street mega-scandal. Only around the edges so we see quiet glimmers of bottom-up progress, such as the slow rise of legalization for alternative political parties or Botswana's impressive example of sound management.

Overall, the book is big and dramatic. It reads like a journalist's string of breaking news essays. But it captures only political life at the national or international levels. The rising women's or environmental movements fly below Meredith's radar.


India: A History
India: A History
by John Keay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A massive, balanced overview of political evolution across South asia, 11 April 2014
This review is from: India: A History (Paperback)
Keay's history is incredibly detailed, with so much that was new to me that I felt like a complete ignoramus. It's also a very disciplined, focused history. Keay shuns speculative reflection, sticks to the available evidence, orders things chronologically, and focuses on matters of governance far more than on culture or ecology. This means he has fairly little to say concerning the epic pre-Maurya past, but gives massive detail on the political life of all major historic administrations. Although the writing often shows a masterful touch of dry wit, it can be so fact-oriented as to be literalistic, as in the explanation that the difference between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhists was that the Hinayana sect regarded the Buddha as a teacher, while the Mahayana sect deified him as a god.

In treating the history of post-independence India, Keay gives a more wide-ranging, reflective series of essays. Also, the book does not narrow it's focus with partition to India alone. Instead, the post-partition states of Pakistan and Bangladesh share equivalent attention. Save for the omission of Sri Lanka, the book could easily be called "South Asia: A History." Concerning the modern rise of ethnic exclusivity and cultural supremacism, Keay waxes deeply pessimistic. He documents the horrors of this trend unstintingly, and only pulls up for a hopeful ending in the last few pages.


Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are
Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are
Price: £10.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars both personal and administrative, 3 April 2014
Kornfield's explanations of the Buddhist path are models of straight-forward clarity that I think should speak to almost any Western person. His tales of personal struggle and healing are moving no matter how many times he may have told them before. In looking at the North American sangha as a whole, he has a trans-sectarian overview that respects differences and goes for the whole picture. However, in speaking of the issues of Buddhism in North America, he has to start talking like a community leader and a manager of teaching centers, etc. Much as we may avoid the term, it's a sort of organized religion, where leaders have to manage facilities and do public relations. Kornfield plays the leadership role capably, probably with sensitivity to everyone concerned. But in this part of the book, it's like he's bringing mindfulness to a job. I personally like it better when he's speaking directly of his own discoveries, rather than speaking on behalf of a community.


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