36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2011
A. C. Grayling is one of the present day's great philosophers. He is also an atheist. His "Good Book" is the result of 30 years of gathering together from over one thousand texts by several hundred of the great thinkers of the past. From these Grayling has selected, redacted, paraphrased,interpolated and arranged into a book that provides inspiration, wisdom, consolation, good advice and commentary on the human condition in a non-religious way. In a touch of irony, the book is arranged into 14 constituent books divided into numbered verses similar to the structure of that "other" Bible.The titles, content and order of constituent books themselves also reflect that "other" Bible.It begins with Genesis and there follows Wisdom, Lamentations, Sages, Songs, Proverbs, Acts, Epistles etc. The great difference from that "other" Bible is that the resulting distilled wisdom is non- religious. There are no rules commanded by a monarchical, anthropomorphic deity; no promises of heaven, no threats of hell,just the inspiring distillation of wisdom from the sages of past times.The range and diversity of these is staggering. In this morning's portion I detected reflections of Shakespeare, Ecclesiastes and the Omar Khayyam!Grayling's "Secular Bible" (its alternative title) is not a book to attempt to read from page one through to the end. It is a book to refer to and select from when the need is felt for guidance, inspiration, comfort, consolation,commentary on the human condition, etc - in a similar way to the way the religious consult their particular bibles. As such I recommend it wholeheartedly. "The Good Book" is unique - in the true sense of the word. To my knowledge, there is none other like it.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2011
Alright, let's start with the basic statement that this book is a stroke of genius and as much as everyone is entitled to their opinions, I shall be among those that hold this book in high esteem.
Let's address a common criticism, the format of The Good Book being in the same format as that of The King James Bible and the language being not of absolute modern English (although if you're taking issue with this it may be because you don't understand it, despite the language being a flowing poetry of sense and wisdom, not that I understand people NOT understanding it because it's close enough to modern day English to completely understand). He wrote it in the format for the simple reason that it's attractive, easy to find what you're looking for if you liked a specific chapter and it flows. It really is as simple as that, if you also consider if he set it out the same as every other book he did, what would make this stand out presentation wise from the rest? And this was meant as a very different kind of book to be written than his past works. And back to the language, both of the Good Book and the Bible's, the language used in both is beautiful whether you believe what is being said or not. And if you "get bored" with them, well maybe you should indulge in something a bit less poetic in the future... try religion for dummies.
Next, the negative reviewers that put it down for contradicting humanist values, that he seems to think he "has all the answers" and "tells us how to live our lives". You have missed the point of the book and I suggest you either go back to it and re-evaluate it, or go and read Harry Potter, maybe you'll get that one. He doesn't claim to have all the answers, he doesn't TELL us how to live our lives, he suggests ways we expand and enhance our lives through great philosophers and literalists of the ages. You can take what you like from it and leave what you like. He doesn't "have all the answers", he suggests many answers to be right and through this book we can evaluate and choose our own answer.
Adding to this but also in the point of the "Bible" aspect of it. Isn't this more of philosophical book than religious. It's called a SECULAR bible... that means non-religious you know? It's taken the idea of the bible where it TELLS us how to live our lives, and Grayling has taken this and used the philosophers to SUGGEST how we MIGHT live our lives. There is nothing biblical about this. You don't "do bibles" do you? Well if you're putting this together with the original, again you have missed the point of this book. If you don't "do this book" then you're also ruling out free thinking, evaluating, you are ignoring the prospect of broadening your mind and this book misses all the negatives of the original. That is the religion, the dictatorship and the laws.
How about the footnote argument? Those that put this book down because you don't know where the sources come from. This is probably the only valid argument I have witnessed, and it can still be crushed. If you read a book so you can source it, why aren't you reading the books they come from? Shouldn't this book be taken as what it is, not a "mash of philosophers" but a careful documentation of philosophers greatest works, ordered into a book that can speak to us. If he put the footnotes in the book it would be three times bigger than what it is. If online, you'd be sat there with your book in front of the laptop, looking up who wrote it, when and why, when you should be focusing on the book itself, not the footnotes. You will be endlessly distracted and this is not what Grayling intended.
Do not compare it to the original KJV. It's not meant as a comparison, it's meant as another option, maybe even to be read alongside it. This book is what you make of it. I do not like Dawkins, I am a Christian, it grabs me. To those that do not like this book because they have read it, analysed it and reached a conclusion, well done. You are free thinking and made a decision according to beliefs, which is the purpose of this book, so you unconsciously agree with the direction of this book. I feel everyone must try it though, there is a lot to be gained.
Oh and there is no way I'll be replying to comments of annoyance and frustration from angry haters of the books whom I may have offended. This is all just my opinion. Enjoy.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2011
Although I have barely got into this book, I am already very impressed with what it is.
In my opinion it is not a substitute for the traditional King James version of the Bible. It is a unique anthology of a phenomenally large collection of words of wisdom, that give clarity to our lives, our perceptions of the world and the universe around us. It is, in many parts pure poetry, and is written like a Shakespearian Play.
For me its construction to resemble a work of scripture is a mistake. It is not a divinely inspired scripture in the sense that the KJ Bible is purported to be.
It is not an easy book to read and certainly not bedtime reading, but it is inspirational in its descriptive account and gave me the opportunity to stand back and reflect on who or what I am, in relation to what I have seen and experienced.
Each chapter has left me feeling that I want to read-on and absorb more, but at the same time makes me feel I will need to re-read it again to understand it more fully. With reference to the KJ Bible, I have to say that most of what I have managed to read of the KJB was incomprehensible jibberish, in many places horrific, blood curdling and in some downright obscene.
However, this, "The Good Book", has none of that and is much more pleasant to read, easier to follow and leaves you with the feeling of having read and learnt something worthwhile. It is a book that may take me months to read in its entirety, because I have to stop and think about each paragraph to be sure I have understood it. In some respects it is like having a massive directory of quotations that enhance our wisdom.
It must have taken many years to collect and collate the material in this book.
In my opinion it would be very suitable material to use for English Literature classes at high school. In fact, if this had been one of the books that had been presented to me at school for study 50 years ago, I would have found it more pleasurable than what I was forced to study and in which I had, at that time, little interest. I am grateful that I came across this work in my third age and look forward to reading all of it.
253 of 282 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2011
I haven't read all of this delicious book yet, but I know I will likely read it many times over. Anthony Grayling has obviously put enormous love, care and learning into this work which is, essentially, a history of thought and understanding of the world, but not one involving omnipotent beings. My only small gripe is the use of the male pronoun, which makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that the male bias in the Bible does.
That small niggle aside, "dare to know: that is the motto of enlightment", is one of the many phrases in this book which is seared into my memory, along with, "legends and the ignorance that give them birth are a house of limitations and darkness".
You don't have to be a humanist or an athiest to thoroughly enjoy this work, as I do not believe it could give offence to anyone with any particular belief system, but for me, as an athiest, it is joyful to find a book of authoritative wisdom, such as this, which I do not feel is trying to bully, push or shape my thoughts or beliefs. Highly recommended to all.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2012
I was dubious at first, about reading what I thought would be a collection of Dali Lahma type ponderings but I should have known better with Mr Grayling; he has delivered a refreshing reminder of the wisdom and phylosophy which humanity has brought to itself and continues to bring through the ages of our existence. It is based on the reality of shared experiences and impirical knowledge, as opposed to the Biblical dictatorship of the religious tomes. It is ideal to dip in and out of rather than read straight through and I particularly find the chapter on Consolation both moving and thought provoking, as death is an inevitability which touches us all and is not easy to justify or cope with, without being tempted into Religious or "wish thinking".
I think this book will be a useful companion to human life based on the very real experiences and thoughts of those who have become almost legendary in their articulation and gives methods to deal with issues which face us on a daily basis. These are words from people we know existed and who do not claim divine rights or supernatural privilages.
These things we really can aspire to without the need of threats from or grovelling to, tyrannical, imaginary gods.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2011
Comparisons to the Christian Bible will no doubt be inevitable with an alternative sub-titled as a secular bible. Some comparison is justified, since after all The Good Book is structured in a way that emulates aspects of the collection of books found in the Christian Bible.
This is not - I would suggest - a book to be read so as to be anti-Christian or anti-religious or anti-Bible however. Here is collected - in a very readable way - much of the collective wisdom of humanity. One could argue about what counts as religious wisdom or not (how do we even clearly define religion?). One could perhaps rejoice in the lack of the mention of supernatural powers (though clearly some of the philosophies captured by Grayling did have teachings about the divine). One could feel secure in the superiority of a secular worldview. Such negatives are not becoming to one's intentions in reading this book.
Instead, let the joy and the wonder and the rightness of the sages and philosophers of the world and throughout history wash over you. Take on board the teachings and advice and use these to become a better and fuller human being. Feel one's mind stimulated and let reflection, thinking and growth occur in your life.
This is a piece of the puzzle so needed for the post-Christian societies so prevalent today in Europe. The rejection - either apathetic, purposeful or antipathetic - of Christianity in Europe has led to a generation that perhaps needs guidance without the barriers and blocks in the mind that occur when words like God, Jesus and Religion come into play. Here is the "good life", the wonder of consciousness and the joy of virtue and ethics at play in the thinking and encapsulation of Grayling and those who have inspired him from across the generations. Imbibe this is all I can say. Live it, also seems right!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2014
I heard of this book at a humanist funeral and bought it. It was quite different from what I expected. The format is similar to that of the Bible, with books and verses. In place of parables there are tales from classical literature. I had not expected this mirroring of the format and, to me, it makes in difficult to find passages which might be relevant to issues one might be interested in, such as failure, loss of faculties, anger. No doubt it's all in there, but in rather flowery language and without an index. There is a lot of good learning in the book, but I struggled to work through it and did not find what i was looking for.
160 of 189 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2011
Do not be put off by people who write negative things about this book. The word `good' and `book' can be used to describe a lot of books. The Bible is poetic and that makes it good but so are Proust's. When I read Proust and he describes the way the hawthorn talks to him about spring, I don't go round afterwards thinking that hawthorns talk. It is a joy to listen to Proust talk about hawthorns and I even encourage my children to read it. `It's a book, I like it,' I say. I tell them that they can learn a lot from it. I don't then whisper afterwards, `And if you don't believe in it then you will never see God,' just to add some spice to it. Ruskin said Christianity is when one hand is extended out in help to another. This book is an attempt to hold out a helping hand, one human to another. The Bible holds up a very beautiful hand sometimes and then smacks you in the face with the other. Be careful listening to those that think they know what literature is and is not, especially when they can't even use an apostrophe in the right place.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2011
This is not an academic treatise or a (long) journal article. It is a book written for a very much wider audience and it has a particular style and tone, which critics have called trite. I think it's poetic.
It is a fact that for the vast majority of people, myself included, original texts in philosophy are simply impenetrable. This book clearly covers a vast history of thoughts and events and I am enormously grateful for the opportunity of a glimpse at them. If for that reason only, I think it achieves its aim and more. I don't think it should be read from cover to cover in a sitting and that it can be enjoyed over a much longer period and certainly more than once.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2011
If you are looking for direct moral guidance without religion, this book is not for you. Instead its message is indirectly stated through a series of texts organised in a similar way to the Bible and derived or inspired from a large number of religious, philosophical and moral original texts. The names of the people described in the original texts have been largely disguised.
For me the book is uplifting in a strange sense. I dip into it at random before getting out of bed in the morning and a short reading does set me up for the trials of the day. I am often not sure why the book has this effect on me. It does seem to engage sometimes beneath the level of accessible consciousness. Other times the wisdom of a short reading is plain to see: "A rich man is a man who is content with what he has".
Altogether a book worth owning for the pleasure of its gentle message understated and without religious incredulity.