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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.
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on 6 October 2011
So many people seem to miss the key points this book is trying to make...

1. Why are the references relevant? If it's sound advice, it matters not who gave it. You can agree or disagree with the point or analogy, but why shoot down Grayling for not telling you who it is you are disagreeing with...

2. Writing it in the format of the Bible is simply a stylistic choice. In the same way that the authors "Meaning of" series rarely has a chapter longer than 4 pages, the Bible-style chapter/verse system allows you to dip in and out of the text for nuggets of thought when you need them. As much as he could have strung the themes into a more obvious narrative, the book needn't be a start to finish thriller. It's a contemplative piece full of millennia old fruits of wisdom, and needed bash from start to finish like a Hollywood thriller.

3. Not everyone will see the significance of every allegory or nugget in the book. Being a compendium, I feel Grayling has been quite broad in his range of sources, and in doing so, was almost bound to find stuff that would be hit and miss for different parts of his audience. I myself have read verses that have seemed more pointless than others, indeed I very much doubt the author himself ranks every tale in his book on par. Just because it went over my head or didn't resonate doesn't make it a pointless entry. It means I'm thinking about it in the wrong way, or I haven't the points of reference to give the idea the right context

Anyway... The book is good. If you want something easier to pin down on it's directive, try his "Meaning of" series. If you want a worldly collection of historically significant ideas on life, but with the authors name referenced, try Alain De Bottons "Consolations Of Philosophy"
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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.
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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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2016
This is a revised edition of the 2011 hard cover book. Grayling, an atheist, re-writes the Bible by redacting and changing its contents by removing all references to God, His Heaven, and all things mystical. He replaces them with secular history where Biblical stories have historical basis, and secular teachings in philosophy. Grayling takes his material from the writings of ancient scholars such as Plutarch and Cicero, and historians Thucydides, as well as modern philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Hume.

Some chapter titles remain (eg: Kings, Proverbs, and Acts) but others are renamed (eg: Concord, Sages, Commencement).
A sample from Proverbs, Ch 63 'Evil' reads: 1. Bad people leave their mark wherever they go.
2. Putrid flesh is all of a flavour.
3. A bad tree does not yield good apples.
4. A bad reaper never has a good sickle.
5. Bad is the wool that cannot be dyed.

The problem with the revised edition i that there is no preface or introduction to explain what revisions were made. Consequently the reader who has the 2011 edition will not know if th 2015 edition is worth buying. I could not find any, but I was not re-reading the entire book with the first for comparison of every line. I thus think that the revisions were not major, and since this softcover edition is half the price of the 2011 hard copy version, the reader may find it a good buy but those who already have the 2011 edition it is not worth buying the new edition.
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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.
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on 8 October 2014
This is a great book, wonderful full of beautiful words, but as the kindle edition does not have a contents page, a complete waste of time to buy in this format. I thought I was being clever and would be able to use this on a lecture tour wrong, without a way of finding your way round the book its a waste of time and money. I had to go out and track down a hard back copy so ended up paying twice and I can only really use the hardback copy shame!
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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.
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on 8 April 2012
This is a wonderful achievement, the most eloquent guide to life we could hope for. This bible makes real sense, unlike the KJV or any other, and is all the best guidance and wisdom that today's world should need. No need for myths and legends and tales of the supernatural. It's all here.
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on 30 April 2011
This is the book to be read and kept on the table just like the king james bible in hotels and homes. If you are an atheist / agnostic or whatever, this book will indeed give you advice, wisdom and consolation via works from human beings rather than a unknown so called God.
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