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Customer Review

on 21 July 2009
The Quotable Atheist begins with an unexpectedly incisive introduction in which Huberman proves he is more than just a humourist. Capable of prose easily as thoughtful and penetrating as that of some of the more well-known atheist writers, he gets straight into it - what is religion, how has it flourished, why does it continue, what do we mean by 'God' anyway, and come to think of it, what do we mean by 'atheist'? It's all done and dusted within a mere 10 pages, but it's a surprisingly impressive polemic and a worthy inclusion.

Then we get to the quotes. I've no idea how many there are, but with 333 pages, most containing several, I'd guess upward of 1,000. And what an eclectic mix of figures they come from! Although Huberman is Canadian-American, his choice doesn't immediately betray that: from Clarkson to Toynbee, from Pinter to Pratchett, from Spinoza to the Simpsons, they're all here, spanning the globe and the centuries. He even lets the likes of Reagan and Falwell do their own digging. (You quickly learn from his commentary that Huberman is unapologetically liberal, but the strength of the quotes and diversity of their sources certainly doesn't depend on your sharing any one political bent.) Finally, he is sure to include those oft-misconstrued figures, Albert Einstein - cited here claiming he did not believe in a personal God - and Adolf Hitler - claiming he did.

In measuring the success of the book, an obvious question to ask is, who is it aimed at? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'd say its largest appeal will be to non-believers looking for insight, 'ammunition' or just recognition-value humour. No doubt some believers will end up having it bought for them by 'considerate friends', and for these readers - who might otherwise balk at the thought of taking on a 400-page atheist diatribe - the dip-in-dip-out nature of this book should pique their interest, as should some of the well-known names. To the question of whether this book will convert believers, Huberman's answer is realistic: "Yes. A few. Three, I estimate. Two for sure."

There are a few downsides - Huberman's commentary that accompanies each quote is for the most part funny and apt, but occasionally grates. Also the book suffers from so many typos and repeated words that you start to wonder if it was actually proof-read at all. None of this is enough to knock off a star though.

With argument, persuasion and a dose of good old fashioned ridicule, The Quotable Atheist is probably one of the most entertaining anti-religious books you will read. If your bookshelf already contains some Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris, treat yourself to this one, as it's a worthy addition to the 'classics'. Don't be put off by the fact that it's an easier read: it's lined with some laugh-out-loud humour, but believe me, there's no shortage of real insight from genuine thinkers.
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