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1. Soren Kierkegaard : A Biography
$24.99 $18.56
2. Nietzsche : The Man and his Philosophy
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3. On Gödel
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4. The Way Things Are: Conversations
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5. Karl Marx: A Life
$31.95 $3.25
6. Simone de Beauvoir : A Biography
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7. Genuine Reality : A Life of William
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8. I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The
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9. The Autobiography of Bertrand
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10. Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making
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11. All too Human
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12. Spinoza : A Life
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13. Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction
$85.00 $67.50
14. Joseph De Maistre's Life, Thought,
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15. Camus and Sartre : The Story of
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16. Letters : 1925-1975
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17. Do What Thou Wilt : A Life of
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18. Simone Weil (Penguin Lives)
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19. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography
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20. The Man Who Tapped the Secrets

1. Soren Kierkegaard : A Biography
by Joakim Garff
list price: $35.00
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Asin: 069109165X
Catlog: Book (2004-12-15)
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Sales Rank: 55337
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2. Nietzsche : The Man and his Philosophy
by R. J. Hollingdale
list price: $24.99
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Asin: 0521002958
Catlog: Book (2001-04-09)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 76786
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Hollingdale's biography remains the single best account of the life and works for the student or nonspecialist. This classic biography of Nietzsche was first published in the 1960s and was enthusiastically reviewed at the time. Long out of print, it is now reissued with its text updated in the light of recent research. The biography chronicles Nietzsche's intellectual evolution and discusses his friendship and breach with Wagner, his attitude toward Schopenhauer, and his indebtedness to Darwin and the Greeks. It follows the years of his maturity and his mental collapse in 1889. The final part of the book considers the development of the Nietzsche legend during his years of madness. R. J. Hollingdale, one of the preeminent translators of Nietzsche, allows Nietzsche to speak for himself in a translation that transmits the vividness and virtuosity of Nietzsche's many styles. This is the ideal book for anyone interested in Nietzsche's life and work who wishes to learn why he is such a significant figure for the development of modern thought. R. J. Hollingdale has translated and edited several of Nietzsche's texts, as well as other prestigious German thinkers.Mr. Hollingdale worked in the editorial department of the Guardian for over twenty years and has written book reviews for the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Man Ahead of His Time
Hollingdale's biography/analysis of Nietzsche and his philosophy was an unexpected delight. I had already read Walter Kaufmann's translations of Nietzsche's major works when I came upon Hollingdale's volume; expecting little, I was amazed at the additional insights the author offered into Nietzsche's thought and world outlook. I would recommend this book to anyone who is new to Nietzsche - who would like to learn something of his philosophy, but who has held back because they feel Nietzsche, and perhaps, philosophy in general, is too remote or difficult.
Believe me, Hollingdale's volume will usher you, gently, into Nietzsche's world, and make you hungry for more. Nietzsche, himself, in "Thus Spake Zarathustra" had his protaganist announce, "I am the railing by the rushing torrent - grasp me if you can; your crutch I am not!" Like Nietzsche, Hollingdale does not seek disciples -- he explains the basic concepts of Nietzsche's philosophy with cool detachment, and offers them to the reader as a launchpad from which the reader can, if he/she wishes, soar, exploring Nietzsche's world for themselves, drawing their own conclusions. Nietzsche, the enemy of blind adherence, would have heartily approved such an approach. This is the man who said, "if you wish to strive after peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire!" Enjoy the Journey!

5-0 out of 5 stars A book that does Nietzsche justice
Anyone interested in a lucid,fair,nonsense and distortion-free overview of Nietzsche's writings and life could do no better than to start here.Hollingdale avoids what the usual crowd of Nietzsche biographers and explainers and interpreters stumble over.Here you will not find the deconstructionist nonsense of Gilles Deleuze or the turning of Nietzsche into a contradictor of his own writings a la Heidegger.Perhaps no philosopher in history has had so many bad advocates and screeching and intentionally misleading and misinterpreting critics as Nietzsche.So much fetid,vapid and idiotic writing has enveloped Nietzsche that it threatens to destroy the philosopher altogheter.The future of Nietzsche scholarship needs many more individuals like R.J. Hollingdale if one of the most profound,original and critically important figures of the modern world is to be given proper justice.More importantly the public sorely needs to have the means to better understand why this philosopher is the axis on which all philosophy of the last century turns.Most of what Nietzsche wrote is still terribly misunderstood and reviled for no good reason.Hollingdale is one of the few,but hopefully the beginning of a flood of well thought out,accurate and sober scholars who will help integrate this most fascinating and courageous philosopher into our public discourse and common knowledge.

5-0 out of 5 stars perfect antedote to presumptuous thinking about nietzsche
this book should prove useful for readers looking for a well-written, intelligent, and accessible introduction to this often very difficult and enigmatic thinker. hollingdale tackles head on many common misconceptions of nietzsche (i.e. that he was a nihilist, an anti-semite, a fascist) through the use of extensive quotes and poignant commentary. we see the development of his thought, from his youthful admiration of wagner and schopenhauer, through to his mature explications of the idea of life as will to power, and the theme of eternal recurrence. for the disciplined student this book proves to be of great value as well, offering insights into the personality of the man himself, through numerous letters and recollections from those who knew him most intimately. this is a great biography, respectful and humane, but also willing to acknowledge nietzsche's shortcomings and possible confusions as to his own state of mind and health.

5-0 out of 5 stars Still the definitive biography
Hollingdale worked side by side with the dean of all Nietzsche scholars, Walter Kaufmann, for many years. His biography of Nietzsche parallels Kaufmann's groundbreaking study "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist", a watershed in American Nietzsche scholarship. While Kaufmann's work has been eclipsed (see R. Schacht's "Nietzsche") in terms of philosophical sophistication, Holligdale's biography of Nietzsche remains the very best in detail, breadth, cogency, and intimacy. Its style is unobtrusive and flowing, making it easily accessible to both the everyday reader and the student of the history of ideas. It is indispensible to anyone with even the slightest interest in Nietzsche.

5-0 out of 5 stars The perfect antidote to MTV.
R.J. Hollingdale's seminal work continues to dazzle in this dumbed down age. Thank goodness it has been made available for a new generation, hungry for such intellectual gems. This work puts in the shadow Nietzche commentators before and since. If you are serious about learning, not only about Nietzche, but about Western thought in general, then this book is a must. ... Read more


3. On Gödel
by Jaakko Hintikka
list price: $15.95
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Asin: 0534575951
Catlog: Book (1999-12-27)
Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing
Sales Rank: 677359
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
This is a very interesting introduction to the thought and life of a great mathemetician and sometime philosopher. Hintikka has a clear writing style that helps with some difficult material and has special ability in making complicated math seem not so daunting. An excellent overview of the life of Godel. ... Read more


4. The Way Things Are: Conversations With Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life
by Huston Smith, Phil Cousineau
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 0520238168
Catlog: Book (2003-08-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 312182
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Book Description

"Where can we find what is ultimately meaningful? How can we discover what is truly worth knowing?" In one form or another Huston Smith has been posing these questions to himself--and the world--all his life. In the course of seeking answers, he has become one of the most interesting, enlightening, and celebrated voices on the subject of religion and spirituality throughout the world. The twenty-three interviews and essays in this volume, edited by cultural historian and filmmaker Phil Cousineau, offer a uniquely personal perspective on Smith's own personal journey, as well as wide-ranging reflection on the nature and importance of the religious quest.

In The Way Things Are, readers will find Smith in conversation with some of the world's most influential personalities and religious leaders, from journalist Bill Moyers to religion scholar Philip Novak, and recounting his personal experiences with such luminaries as Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, Daisetz Suzuki, Ram Dass, and the Dalai Lama. Throughout these engaging exchanges Smith speaks with passion and humor of his upbringing as the son of missionary parents in China, of the inspiring and colorful individuals he has known, and of his impressions of the different religious and philosophical traditions he has encountered. A fascinating view of the state of world religion and religious leadership over the past fifty years, the book also looks to the future with a final interview on the vital importance of the transcendent message of religion for the post-9/11 world. Readers will find The Way Things Are to be Huston Smith's most and accessible book to date. ... Read more


5. Karl Marx: A Life
by Francis Wheen
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Asin: 039304923X
Catlog: Book (2000-05)
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 232977
Average Customer Review: 3.94 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Karl Marx, whose influence on modern times has been compared to that of Jesus Christ, spent most of his lifetime in obscurity. Penniless, exiled in London, estranged from relations, and on the run from most of the police forces of Europe, his ambitions as a revolutionary were frequently thwarted, and his major writings on politics and economics remained unpublished (in some cases until after the Second World War). He has not lacked biographers, but even the most distinguished have been more interested in the evolution of his ideas than any other aspect of his life. Francis Wheen's fresh, lively, and moving biography of Marx considers the whole man--brain, beard, and the rest of his body. Unencumbered by ideological point scoring, this is a very readable, humorous, and sympathetic account. Wheen has an ear for juicy gossip and an eye for original detail. Marx comes across as a hell-raising bohemian, an intellectual bully, and a perceptive critic of capitalist chaos, but also a family man of Victorian conformity (personally vetting his daughters' suitors), Victorian ailments (carbuncles above all), and Victorian weaknesses (notably alcohol, tobacco, and, on occasion, his housekeeper). But there is great pathos, too, as Marx witnessed the deaths of four of his six children. For those readers who feel Marxism has given Marx a bad name, this is a rewarding and enlightening book. --Miles Taylor, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Reviews (18)

4-0 out of 5 stars The political genius interpreted as a pariah
This book is pretty good but I was disapointed because there was not enough on Marx's youth; there was probably about a half chapter on how he acted as a child and as a student. Robert Service's biography on Lenin covered the subject of youth in a grandoise matter; tracing Lenin's roots back a few generations. From what I have heard, Isaah Berlin's biography is the best on Marx; the strong points in this biogrpahy are as follows: Marx's adult social life, the scene in the 19th Century, Engels influence, and MArx's ideas. When I picked this book up I did not think there would be anything to do with Marx's ideas but only details about his life; If you have never read anything on Marx I would say that this book is good b/c Wheen has many excerpts from MArx's life.

4-0 out of 5 stars Anecdotes and humor -- but a melancholy tale...
This book is chilling reading. It is difficult to put one's finger on the reason why. Perhaps because Karl Marx (1818-1883) was always a distant person - even while he lived As Marxism flickers out, Wheen takes us back in time to find the "historical Marx". A solid grounding in 19th century European history will make reading this work a lot more interesting. Wheen's book is whimsical, eclectic, comprehensive, and humorous, but it presupposes a knowledge of the 19th and 20th century European revolutionary and political history which is rapidly fading from our 21st century minds. This book dwells as much on Marx's family life as on his political life. ----Wheen's work is filled with fascinating anecdotes. It does not explain Karl Marx, but this man was so complicated that no one (including himself) may have ever understood his motivations. He was a family man, deeply devoted to his wife and six children, four of whom died before he did. (The other two who took their own lives!) On the other hand he quarreled with and was hated by scores - if not hundreds - of former friends. Karl Marx was not a likeable man. This book uncovers hundreds of gems about his life that most persons who studied "Marxism" or "Communism" would never stumble on: for example, the moves in a chess game he played in 1867 (he lost!). That he was precocious, to the point of being expelled from Prussia, France, and Belgium - each time by royal order - before he reached 30 years of age. While many are vaguely aware of Marx's friendship with Friedrich Engels, how many know that it began when Marx was 26 and Engels was 23? Or that Engels was one of only 11 persons present at Marx's funeral 37 years later! Wheen has done an excellent job on a very difficult topic!

4-0 out of 5 stars Let us now praise famous ragamuffins!
As the reader below observed, this book was a chilling read. Marx was a very strange fellow and this reading this book felt like surveying the scene of a car accident. It hurts to continue but one finds themselves so intrigued that they can hardly stop. For my part, I disagree thoroughly with just about every idea Marx had. Still, I thought it refreshing to read a biography of the man that objectively treated Marx as human first, ragamuffin later; Unlike the brief essay on him in Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals," which is meant only to slam Marx and infuriate the reader.

I took half a star away for the a-little-less-than-constant humor (or so the author thought.) At first it was mildly amusing, probably do to its gauche inapropriateness. After the first few chapters though, it became a nuisance. How about this one? "Like another Marx, Karl did not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member." PUKE!!

The other half star is deducted for a suggestion the author makes about three-quarters through, when discussing Das Kapital. He suggests that Marx did not mean Kapital to be a work of science, but a work of ART (he means this literally, not figuratively.) His evidence? Marx refered to Kapital as his "work of art" (my guess, this is metaphor). Also, the author argues, if Marx had already summed up the themes of Kapital in a speech a few years earlier (he did), then why did he write a 1000 page tome espousing the same ideas (he did). Honestly, with flimsy evidence like that, this claim looks utterly ridiculous - not to mention likely insulting to any Marxist or person who takes Marx seriously as a thinker. Enough to cost half a star.

Otherwise, this book is an unbiased, humanistic read that plays just like a novel. Marx, of course, is a far superior character than any author could ever devise and in the end, my bet is that whether you love or hate him, you will find yourselves modifying your opinion to ambivalence as Marx (the person, not the manifesto) is much too complicated to love or hate.

4-0 out of 5 stars Top Marx
I would not have imagined that a biography of Karl Marx could be such an entertaining and interesting read. This was. Much more has been written about the 'ism' than the man. This is a fascinating insight into his life, his poverty, his exile, his contradictions as well as his thinking.

What was most noticeable was the remarkable loyalty of Engels - friend, ghost-writer and benefactor - who even became a stranger in a strange land (Capitalism) to help finance publication of Marx's ideas, often in the face of staggering procrastination by the latter.

This is a very readable account of the life and carbunkles of one of the last century's most influential figures.

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, and deeply so
Let's write a book about Karl Marx which wants to talk about the Man, rather than simply about the Ideas. Sounds great, right? Except that in Wheen's hands, the relationship of the life to the ideas and the ideas to the life are brutally banalized.

The opportunity to write a good biography obviously presented itself, but what we have instead is some charming personal biography by a man who does not grasp the smallest part of Marx's ideas nor any meaningful engagement with Marx's political activity.

This book is so lame on the theoretical level that one would think that Wheen spent too much time reading old Stalinist schoolbooks on Marx, avoiding any actual scholarly work, such as Debord, C.J. Arthur, the journals Common Sense and Capital and Class, the work of Lukacs, Korsch, Adorno, Horkheimer, Rubin, etc. Wheen's treatment of the politics is less than worthless and mars his obviously generous sentiment towards Marx the man because Wheen simply cannot grapple with Marx as a whole human being.

Instead, we are treated to tawdry discussions of Marx's 'psychologically induced illnesses' every time deadlines came due. And these are tawdry not for being uninteresting, but because we never get a sense of the juxtaposition between Marx the researcher (who happily spent a great deal of time in the London Library system) and Marx the writer who did not simply hate deadlines, but who struggled with the content and style of each line he wrote. We never get any sense of why Marx might be the single most influential thinker of the last 150 years.

I gave it two stars because I do not see Wheen as intentionally malicious, but as merely incompetent. In a world where malicious intent and lack of scholarly scruple towards Marx seems welcome, this is not the worst book ever written on the man, but certainly not one worth reading. ... Read more


6. Simone de Beauvoir : A Biography
by Deirdre Bair
list price: $31.95
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Asin: 0671741802
Catlog: Book (1991-08-15)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 365607
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Lots of information but - yawn - hard work to get to it.
Turgid. There is no question this book is based on genuine and scholarly research. But the ordinary but informed reader is better leaving this one to the academicians.

5-0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Detailed - an Existensialist Must Read.
Bair works really hard at making it clear that Sartre and De Beauvoir were two sides of the same coin. Larger than life as always but deeply and painfully human too. Despite the eventual demise of their "professional" relationship, and the eventual move of Sartre to study Flaubert and De Beauvior to her feminist crusade, the two are inextricably linked. Did she really have as much control (specially in the end) over Sartre and his life? We will never know. What Bair does though is succeed in making her human more than all of De Beauvior's work ever could. Despite the fact that De Beauvior and Sartre are larger than life, and they always will be, Bair makes her subject - human, vulnerable and understandable. It is comprehensive and exhaustive journey (despite whatever errors there might be), one worth taking at any junction in the readers Existential journey.

2-0 out of 5 stars Bad book!
According to Claude Lanzmann there are several major errors which do occur in Bairs book, and basically it's gives a rotten and unworthy presentation of de Beauvoirs life and work.

/Leah Greber

4-0 out of 5 stars Complete
Really, this book was a page-turner, a book of facts so well-written it made one want to know more, more, more, even when the knowing was almost painful out of de Beauvoir empathy. I wanted to read it as a companion to de Beauvoir's autobiographical series and was particularly grateful to Bair for pointing out incidents in which de Beauvoir "guilded the lily" when she recounted her own life. De Beauvoir's autobiography and this make perfect companions for a study on auto/biography and its subjectivication. (Also see Silent Woman by Janet Malcom.)

I had read previous biographical material on de Beauvoir, but none I ever felt was so complete, and helped me to know her so well. I strongly recommend this as history, literary criticism, psychology and philosophy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Too repetitive, lacks analysis of her works and her ideology
The value of this biography is that it adds new facts andcorrects some of SdB's own mis- representations of her life. But it'stoo repetitive, often concentrating on insignficant chronologies of her trips, etc. Lacks sufficient explanation of the stultifying catholic education she rejected early in her life (was it guilt-inducing jansenistic sexophobia, the doctrine of a caring God, etc) or of the basic existentialist tenets which guided her life, such as the self-creating life project, absolute responsiblity for choices, etc. Badly in need of a final summing up chapter listing and analyzing the very disparate opinions about the contradictions and import of this amazing woman, eg was it unfathomable tenderness or simply self-delusion that enabled her to transform the ecstasy she felt with Nelson Algren into the sublimest and most poignant love affair? In many aspects of her life SdB could be a example for many women, but after reading this book one is still left wondering how and why. ... Read more


7. Genuine Reality : A Life of William James
by Linda Simon
list price: $18.00
our price: $18.00
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Asin: 0226758591
Catlog: Book (1999-05-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 386674
Average Customer Review: 4.14 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Intellectual rebel, romantic pragmatist, aristocratic pluralist, William James was both a towering figure of the nineteenth century and a harbinger of the twentieth. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including 1,500 letters between James and his wife, acclaimed biographer Linda Simon creates an intimate portrait of this multifaceted and contradictory man. Exploring James's irrepressible family, his diverse friends, and the cultural and political forces to which he so energetically responded, Simon weaves the many threads of William James's life into a genuine, and vibrant, reality.

"William James . . . has never seemed so vulnerably human as in Linda Simon's biography. . . . [S]he vivifies James in such a way that his life and thought come freshly alive for the modern reader."--David S. Reynolds, New York Times Book Review

"Superb. . . . Genuine Reality is recommended reading for all soul-searchers."--George Gurley, Chicago Tribune

"Ms. Simon . . . has provided an ideal pathway for James's striding. . . . [Y]ou become engaged in his struggles as if they were your own."--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

"[A]n excellent narrative biography at once sensitively told and lucidly written."--John Patrick Diggins, Wall Street Journal

... Read more

Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Billy Boy
Very nicely done biography, Simon seems to be a meticulous, sympathetic critic of her subjects. While I enjoyed reading about this legendary figure in American philosophy and psychology, I ended up being less impressed by him than before. Such disenchantment is probably the hallmark of reading a good biography, as it necessarily brings the mighty down to fallible human dimensions. I had always wondered what it was about the James household that produced such a noteworthy novelist and such a thoughtful philosopher--it turns out that inept dysfunction is the source of this family genius. Their father, at least through Simons's interpretation, seems a very unlikable figure--a passive-aggressive tyrant who would constantly move his family from place to place rather than have them come to develop roots and mentors beyond his control. Sadly, this tactic generated in his family a doubt of self that could lead to such insights as those his two most prominent boys seemed to understand in all its nuances. While we may appreciate their hard-won insights, it doesn't seem any fun to have suffered through them as each of his children did for all their lives. The book provides a complex look at a figure who for all his knowledge remained an embattled, unsatisfied self-critic--like all the best thinkers, I suppose.

5-0 out of 5 stars Experience James
Of all the James biographies, I enjoyed this one the best. As a female English teacher, Simon has a triple advantage in understanding and conveying Jame's life as it might have been. For starters, her writing skills are simply amazing. The book was very clear and enjoyable to read. Secondly, Simon provides us with a portrait of James we rarely see: that is, James as husband and father. In the past, the role Jame's wife and sister played in the formation of his character and thought passed by completely unnoticed, or was ignored. As important as those two figures were in James life, they cannot be ignored. Lastly, Simon's own experiences as a university teacher may have contributed to her portrait of James as university professor - another aspect of James often overlooked. The result of this triple-advantage is one powerful biography, unlike anything ever written about this Philosopher. More than any book, this one provides the reader with a sense of who James really was as a person, and for that I gave it 5 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Do somebody a good turn and Not be found out...
The truly great men in early American history, in my humble opinion, are as follows:

Thomas Jefferson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
William James

Because of their intense individualism, idealistic views, and unique personalities, their writings, thoughts and ideas continue to affect western civilzation into the 21st century. Let me just say at the start - I'm not proposing a forum for argument, debating the worth and influence of one historical figure against another - these are men who have shaped my life in lasting ways - particularly the psychologist, philosopher and teacher, William James.

If you are interested in the works and life of this noble individual, ~Genuine Reality~ is a good place to begin. Linda Simon is an adept biographer and this book reflects her skill, understanding and love for the subject. It was refreshing to read a biography without the once fashionable 'psychoanalytical method' of interpreting history: inserting the Oedipus complex or hints of homoeroticism into the work. This method gets tedious and more reveals the biographer's mind than the subject. It is obvious that Simon wanted to approach James from a pragmatic perspective and she succeeded in showing James' life, warts and all, more specifically, however, his inspiring personality, compulsive curiosity and genuine love of life.

Similar to most people of genius, James' life was indeed a contradiction, at times almost enigmatic. He realized early on, that to rivet one's thought or perspective to a single dogma, to close one's mind to the infinite possibilities of existence, was to commit intellectual and spiritual suicide. Thus his thoughts are mercurial, bouncing from one possible view to another, always searching, investigating with an incessant vigour of a child. Following the works of Heraclitus, Henri Bergson, and aspects of Fredric Nietzche, James' 'Pluralism' is a philosophy of affirmation, transformation and becoming. Rallying against the Platonic and Aristotelian belief that fixity has more worth than change, he proposed that life or existence is not fixed at all but involved in an on-going state of flux: the operating word is change. And his life certainly reflects this perspective, as Simon writes:

"He was a scientist with a disposition of a philosopher and a philosopher with the perspective of an artist. He was convinced of his own essential complexity: certain that his public personality contradicted a hidden, more authentic self. He championed the new, he hungered for astonishment."

At the core of James' view of life is to maintain a continual openness to our existence: attempt to create a kind of vital joy to life's infinite possibilities. In other terms, do not sit back and merely observe, but get your hands dirty, engage, and life will give back to you many fold.

~Genuine Reality~ is an important contribution to American history. Linda Simon is a genuine biographer with transparent humility, more concerned with presenting her subject as it is, rather than trying to show off her knowledge, wit and writing skills. All too often, biographer's egos get in the way: they become so involved in revealing their intellectual capacity, the subject of the biography falls by the wayside. Not so with this text.

This book is an intimate portrayal of a great man's life: his interesting and unusual family, his work and relationships, and his sometimes-underrated contribution to philosophy. Out of all of James' writings, there is a line that showed me, in essence, the true character of the man:

"Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn and Not be found out. I will do two things I Don't want to do."

This biography is recommended without reservation.

3-0 out of 5 stars Accurate, but not as lively as one would wish
He was born before the Civil War, but Linda Simon's accurate yet occasionally grinding biography `Genuine Reality` depicts William James (1842-1910) as a decidedly contemporary thinker. A pioneering psychologist and unorthodox philosopher, he rejected rigid systems in favor of a flexible, relativist approach that stressed the fluid nature of identity and physical reality. His students at Harvard found this a gas, as did James himself. (He was always showing off to somebody his whole life, apparently greatly concerned that he be popular with this peers, whoever they happened to be.) One of the book's many virtues is Simon's sensitive analysis of how his ideas rescued him from years of spiritual confusion and the smothering embrace of a neurotic family. One of the books vices is her unnecessary GRE-like drills of vocabulary. Interestingly enough, these start appearing in the middle of the book, as if her editor said "cool it, so your readers won't drop the book due to your unnecessary pretentiousness." Anyway, this is still a very well researched bio. of W.J., giving particular attention to his family life.

5-0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL!
I pride myself on being a William James buff and this biography by Linda Simon has proven to be the best, most accurate portrayal ever written. If you don't believe my review, take a look at the excellent review of the book by the New York Times. I hightly recommend this book to all those who have enjoyed Linda Simon's previous biographies, and to all those who agree William James is a man worth remembering. ... Read more


8. I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The Strange Life and Times of Philip K. Dick
by Emmanuel Carrere
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
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Asin: 0805054642
Catlog: Book (2003-07-02)
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Sales Rank: 61339
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

From the master chronicler of psychological extremes, an unforgettable portrait of the “Shakespeare of science fiction” whose work has influenced millions

For his many devoted readers, Philip K. Dick is not only one of the “most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century” (The New York Times) but a source of divine revelation. Dick, whose work inspired such films as Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report, dedicated his life to solving one ultimately unanswerable question: What is real?

In the riveting style that won accolades for The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère follows Dick’s strange odyssey from his traumatic beginnings in 1928, when his twin sister died in infancy, to his lonely end in 1982, beset by mystical visions of swirling pink lights, three-eyed invaders, and messages from the Roman Empire. Drawing on interviews as well as unpublished sources, Carrère traces Dick’s multiple marriages, paranoid fantasies, and vertiginous encounters with the drug culture of sixties California. He vividly conjures the spirit of this restless observer of American postwar malaise whose more than fifty novels subverted the materials of science fiction—parallel universes, intricate time loops, collective delusions—to create classic works of contemporary anxiety.

As disturbing and engrossing as a book by its subject, Carrère’s unconventional work interweaves life and art to reveal the maddening genius whose writing foresaw—from cloning to reality TV—a world that looks ever more like one of his inventions.
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Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Biography or speculation?
This is a fairly interesting book on Dick. It does explore the connections between his life and work, which illuminates some of the otherwise confounding conclusions to some of his novels. I think the author goes into too much detail in summarizing some of Dick's work, though, so that if you had't read Time Out of Joint, for example, or the Alphane Clans, the author pretty much spoils the ending of those books for you. The summaries could have been replaced with more details of Dick's actual life, which is kind of scanty.

My biggest complaint, though, is that the book contains absolutely no documentation whatsoever. No endnotes, nothing. Where does Carrere get his information? There's no way of knowing! I couldn't tell what was documented fact and what was the author's speculation.

I could have passed on this book. This is not the definitive biography of Philip K. Dick. ... Read more


9. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell
by Bertrand Russell
list price: $16.95
our price: $16.95
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Asin: 041522862X
Catlog: Book (2000-05)
Publisher: Routledge
Sales Rank: 163013
Average Customer Review: 4.83 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Now available in a single paperback, this edition of Russell's Autobiography includes an introduction by scholar Michael Foot exploring the status of this classic nearly 30 years after the publication of its last volume. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Model Autobiography
Considering that Russell lived such a long life, and an eventful one, and that this book (a compilation of three volumes) covers most of it, it's a long one. But eminently worth it.

As always, Russell's style is brilliant. Simple yet deep, elegant and unadorned, always fresh and looking at things objectively yet with deep feeling.

The book is always informative, engaging, and frequently hilarious.

One of the nicer things about the book is the inclusion of some letters from others. Usually these are luminaries. The one from Will Durant, together with Russell's curt rejoinder, is marvelous.

Russell has the knack of taking what could become boastful incidents--his imprisonment for objecting to WWI, his hair-breadth escape when his plane went down near Norway in WWII--and turning them into humorous, self-effacing ones.

He also has the knack of talking about horrendous personal difficulties in a way that is objective and nonjudgmental.

4-0 out of 5 stars Gossipy, passionate, and thoughtful.
One gets the impression, as one reads the brilliant character sketches Russell draws of the scholars and lords and ladies who made up his circle of aquaintances, that the English upper class was mostly mad, scoundrels, or geniuses, with a fair amount of overlap. (The author as an outstanding case in point.) The keenness of Russell's insight into character, vivid descriptions, and eye for the absurd, make many passages of this book a delight. "My advice to anyone who wishes to write is to know the very best literature by heart, and ignore the rest as completely as possible." "The past is an aweful God, though he gives life almost the whole of its haunting beauty." "(Plato's) austerity in matters of art pleases me, for it does not seem to be the easy condemnation that comes from the Phillistine." Reading Why I am Not a Christian ..., I got the impression that he had a gloomy outlook on life. But here, I often found great joy in poetry, nature, and the wonder of life. "I had never, till that moment, heard of Blake, and the poem affected me so much that I became dizzy and had to lean against the wall." Tempered, however, by morbid thoughts, and fear of insanity.

One of the odder aspects of the book to me was Russell's "idealism." On one page, he speaks of a mystical experience in which gave him a universal compassion for all mankind: on the very next page, he relates how he "fell out of love" with his wife, and then, how he ditched her. Passing from the same Bodhissattva-like musings elsewhere, he relates, on the next page or so, how he tried to strangle a friend in a rage. He can be sympathetic and even kind, but for a would-be Boddhisattva and fighter for the rights of women, he seems to have hurt a lot of ladies, in particular, rather badly. Yet his friendships in general, with both sexes, seem warm and affectionate.

I docked the book a star because the version I bought (Bantom) seemed dishonest in its packaging. The front and back covers show an old man, though this version only covers the period to 1914. On the back cover, it promises "more exciting episodes than most novels, details more intimate than most exposes, and more intensity of emotion than most fiction writers would dare ascribe to a single hero." Largely hype. This is not Dumas, or Augustine. It's a different kind of story.

Someone else on the back cover calls Russell "a Genius-Saint." Genius, maybe, but the second accolade implies very low standards for sainthood. The book did make me think Russell a more balanced figure than I thought. But part of that balance appears to have been something like madness, and something like cruelty. Intellectually, Russell was a brilliant man. Emotionally, he often strikes me as a lonely and bewildered child, angry at being abandoned, not sure where to look for love, and not sure how to give it.

author, Jesus and the Religions of Man

5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, illuminating piece of philosophy
One may hypothesize that all works of philosophy are in essence works of self-reflection. From blatant examples such as Augustine's "Confessions" to more subtle parts of Descartes' "Meditations," philosophers have often used their own experiences to help us understand the world we live in. In this sense, we can contrast to the former works the works of philosophers such as Aristotle or Heidegger who shy away from using the first person and deal with subject matters not only strictly of interest to the writer, but which seek to gain popular understanding. Bertrand Russell is a curious mixture of the two approaches. His committment to objectivity and to rigorous thought that is arguably impossible without a certain degree of "common ground" frequently seems to overshadow his own subjectivist foundations in which he approaches the questions of philosophy. In what is perhaps the most powerful two pages of the book, at the introduction, Russell outlines three primary principles that have motivitated him to do what he did in life. In a sense, then, the autobiography provides the reader with comforting answers as to why anybody would wish to live such an amazing life. In this sense, it is perhaps Russell's most self-reflective work of philosophy. The book is entertaining, the stories enjoyable, and the message deeply profound: how Russell came to appreciate the fields that he was interested in, and how he found the principles that guided his life. He had also been kind enough, in the edition I read, to include copies of letters of correspondence and pages from his diary as a youth. While this may have been motivated by a less-than-humble desire to provide future scholars with primary source material to study himself, they are themselves works of philosophy, and many of the doubts about life Russell struggled with as a youth strike a chord in all of us. Indeed, Russell's Autobiography is an entertaining and personally illuminating approach to one of the most fundamental philosophical questions of how one's life is to be lead.

5-0 out of 5 stars From mathematician to conscientious objector - quite a life
Not only was Bertrand Russell a gentleman, he was a peer. In some cases this can be seen as stepping out of the frying pan into the fire. In Lord Russell's case, it just may have helped.

Apart from stating the obvious, that Bertrand Russell needs or should need little introduction, it is as well to say that his long life was spent, as far as it was public, in defending or promoting causes. Having gone to prison at a young age because he could not stomach the Kaiser's war (at least not quietly), he later returned, if only briefly, way off in the 1960s, defending the cause of CND in Trafalgar Square. That's quite a bit of history to cover, all from the same angle. It seems he never regretted the stand he took, nor altered his views substantially over the decades. He either had to condemn war openly and publicly, or condemn man privately, which meant taking his own life, something he says he thought about very seriously and decided against. For all his faults, whatever they were, it's quite hard to fault him!

The autobiography allows us to accompany him through the bulk of the twentieth century and see the development of various movements worldwide, in which he was always involved, at least at the level of the heart, but often actively. He uses letters a good deal in this text, and these throw light on that outer world which was so often pulling in an almost opposite direction. Yet he had his friends and in the bad years when he was a political outcast, a pariah of sorts in his own college (Trinity College, Cambridge) there were always those who could see his point of view and respect it. He was a stubborn man and his stubbornness allowed him to hang on for much longer than most people would have bothered. In fact, it seems that he remained true to himself right to the end, and in the end, that is what gave him life. An interesting book about a lively intelligence, sometimes brilliantly displayed.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best autobiography of them all!
Lord Russell is unique. This is his version of Victorian England, starring himself, of course. How come british schools (or lack thereof, in this case...) produce such bright people! Is it the weather? "Autobiography" is a very serious and deep book, full of intelligent people, yet marvellously written. I remember becoming sad as I reached the end. Remarkable. ... Read more


10. Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard
by Kaiguo Chen
list price: $18.95
our price: $12.89
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Asin: 0804831858
Catlog: Book (1998-09-01)
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Sales Rank: 86469
Average Customer Review: 3.44 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (9)

2-0 out of 5 stars Close the Dragon Gate
Great disservices to people whom are searching for information and enlightenment on Taoism. The authors used a map of china and a few books on Taoism to take the reader on an almost 300 page fairy tale coated to read like a biography. The characters shift personality quicker than a chameleon does color. I think there is a story in the book but the contrived situations get in the way.

1-0 out of 5 stars Seems to be a fake
This book looks like pure advertisment of Wang Liping who is said to be chosen as 18th generation transmitter by one Taoist sect. Difficult to read because every second page I stumbled over direct or masked praise on Wang Liping / sect abilities. In the end (as expected) Wang Liping finishes with giving lectures to hundreds of students of Qigong. Special pages dedicated to how simple Wang lives, etc. Taoist teachings are scattered all over the book and don't give the impression of integrity.

One quote from the 1st page: "Over the preceding years the three Taoist masters had been engrossed in secret consultations about the matter of utmost importance, not only to them but to the world at large... trying to find a successor ...". Well after this matter important to the whole world I already assumed that money spent on book was wasted.

5-0 out of 5 stars Quite a good tale...
This is a similar book to Deng Ming Dao's "Wandering Daoist" only the story of Wang Liping's training is not embellished in the manner of Saihung. Although I'm sure the average western practitioner of Qigong will likely shake his/her head regarding some of the 'training' methods used by the three old masters it is a good reminder of what one used to have to (and perhaps still should?) undergo before getting into serious practice. It is interesting how, right from the start, Wang Liping demonstrated many qualities essential to following the Tao including great patience and humility.

The book follows his initial training including stints in a hole in the ground and under a large cast-iron kettle. It then follows his journery with his masters into the mountains just as the Cultural Revolution began to sweep across China. Along the way many lessons are imparted including some interesting methods of cultivating with trees. The main portion of the story ends with Wang Liping's return to his village and subsequent marriage (!) as his masters admonish him to carry on the way in a form suitable for the new age.

The book finishes with some commentary on Wang Liping's present activities including some stories from his group training sessions - some of the first held in China as strict controls on Qigong began to be lifted.

I enjoyed the story as well as the information contained in here. There are some great views on meditation, including the aforementioned tree style, in addition to the overview of his training. There are also some very interesting tidbits about the location of the lower Dantien shifting in relation to the cultivator's distance from the equator. There is also an interesting comment that there are meridians within the body that are not terminated - that is, they are open to the universe.

Recommended...

5-0 out of 5 stars Personal Experience
After reading this book, I had the fortune to meet a long time student of Wang LiPing and to study with this student for two years. He taught many of the techniques spoken of in the book and demonstrated a number of them. My teacher is now studying with a Buddhist master and has no vested interest in supporting Wang LiPing, however he vouched that Wang LiPing in fact demonstrated to him and many other students in china many of the techniques discussed in the book such as the weather changing, dream control and so forth. There were also a number of other things not discussed in the book. At any rate, based on my experiences with the techniques and based on my teacher's abilities and his stories of studying with Wang LiPing, this book is a true account of what Wang LiPing went through.

As for the way it is written, I found it to be mostly fascinating but it doesnt have the prose that Deng Ming Dao's books have and so it is difficult reading in certain places. On the other hand, this account is a true story, unlike Deng Ming Dao's trilogy and so if you are truly interested in Taoism this book is a must.

5-0 out of 5 stars An invaluable document of contemporary Taoism
I can vouch that this is a truly astounding and brilliant book, as you would only expect it be - (look at the other books Cleary has translated, and tell me that a man with his skill and judgement would waste his time on something worthy of a one or two star review.) It comprehensively covers Wang Liping's full training and in doing so thoroughly discusses the philosophy and principles of Taoism. Along the way it details numerous Taoist practices, some only in as far as is safe or possible. Wang's apprenticeship takes place on the road over the Cultural Revolution, and is also unusual in that Wang has three teachers from two generations - a grandmaster and two mentors. The narrative is rich with annecdote, explanation and detail, though if your feeling sluggish, keeping an eye on the scope and depth of what is being gestured towards can prove a little testing at best. As such it can in fact make for disconcertingly easy reading - (most of it was related to two of Wang Liping's students by Wang Liping himself over a series of meetings.) As a document of Taoism as it stands today this book is particularly valuable: it sets out the monumental tasks, responsibilities and difficulties facing a lineage holder during China's uneasy settling after a century's upheaval and, perhaps most importantly, it unceasingly places Taoist philosophy and practice in the context of contemporary knowledge and epistemology. What becomes abundantly clear on reading the authors' lucid explanations is that in its interaction with modern knowledge Taoism is set to become the science par excellence and that, in essence, it is just that already. anguspretty@hotmail.com ... Read more


11. All too Human
by George Stephanopoulos
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316930164
Catlog: Book (2000-03-01)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Sales Rank: 63037
Average Customer Review: 3.87 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"So this is it. This is how the big guys talk to each other. I'd been behind my share of closed doors on Capitol Hill, but this was different -- more self-conscious, almost cinematic, as if everyone was aware of playing a part in a drama that was being written as they spoke. This was the classic smoke-filled room, minus the smoke. I watched and listened and tried to look cool, too dumbstruck to say a sensible word and half-convinced that somebody would look up any minute and say, 'Hey, what are you doing here?"For four years in the White House and one year of campaigning before that, George Stephanopoulos was rarely more than a few steps from Bill Clinton. As the President's Senior Adviser, he saw it all - the endless arguments, the back hall scheming, the protracted decisions, the last minute flip flops that somehow produced real accomplishments, but also set in motion an almost tragic series of events that placed the fate of the President in the hands of the Senate. Now, with the natural ease of a born storyteller and the sensitive eye for fine detail of a novelist, Stephanopoulos tells an extraordinarily gripping story of human foible and frailty in high places that is destined to be one of the great political memoirs of our times.When Stephanopoulos first met Bill Clinton in September of 1991, he was 30, and like so many others before and since, he was dazzled by the brilliance, charisma, lofty ambitions and astonishing empathy of this remarkably gifted man. Here was the perfect star for an ambitious young man to hitch himself to, yet little did he anticipate what an amazing roller coaster ride it would be - both for the administration and for Stephanopoulos. Throughout the chaos and camaraderie, the breathtaking triumphs and disasters, Stephanopoulos clung to the vision of what a Clinton Presidency could be, even as he began to see the hidden, dark compartments in the man that would bring him and the nation to such grief.In addition to the complex portrait of the President, here are brilliant, nuanced sketches of all the key players, including Al Gore, Dick Morris, and Hillary Clinton, whose combative, litigator instincts were, sadly, behind many of her husband's missteps. Here too is a candid, sometimes merciless, self-portrait of the author, whose drives, vanities, and insecurities, along with everyone else's, peppered the playing field of the biggest game in town. All Too Human is a book for the ages. ... Read more

Reviews (272)

4-0 out of 5 stars Its the biography, stupid!
I've noted in a number of other reviews a common complaint with the book; where is the detail on Clinton, or Hilary, Gore or other aides? This is a biography of Stephanopoulos, not a story of Clinton. It's George's perspective about the whole experience, not just about Clinton. You will learn what George thought about Clinton, what impressed him, and what disappointed him about his boss. This book gives you a great feel for what George lived through during the 2 election campaigns and Clinton's first term. He is honest about his vying for position with the President against other advisors, about things he did well, and times that he blew it. You come away feeling what it might really be like to work on the inside of the greatest office in the world, the glamour, the ad hoc scrambling to push positions through Congress, the constant damage control sessions, the full-time job to spin facts into the desired public perception (George is the Rumplestiltskin of the White House in that regard).

It confirmed what I'd felt reading newspapers about the Clinton administration during the first term; the White House and Congress are not all working together in the best interests of the US. Rather, each faction, whether Repub, Demo, Special Interest, etc. is only trying to maximize their own interests at the expense of anyone else's. (Sounds like a good application for Nash's game theory). Sure, this account is not an objective overview of anything; this is what George saw, felt, did, how he failed and succeeded. Anyone wanting to work in politics will find it interesting. Anyone affected by politics (that's all of us citizens) will cringe at realizing it's all on the job training each time a new administration comes in to office. I really enjoyed the read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A comfortable, conversational look at White House life.
I usually do not care for books about politics or politicians, but this one was an exception. I found the behind-the-scenes details to be fascinating and the easy-to-read, conversational style kept the book from getting bogged down in political jargon and detail. I felt as though I were walking along with George as he worked on Clinton's campaign and as he went to work each day in the White House. He did an excellent job of keeping the events in the White House in perspective. Admissions of his own failures and weaknesses kept the book from becoming a "tell-all" story about the Clintons. I also thought it was a decent protrayal of the growth, maturation and self-realization of a young man under extremely unusual career and personal circumstances. The book centers on George's experiences while working for Clinton and is definitely more about George than it is about Bill. "All Too Human" is a good read no matter what your opinion of Bill Clinton may be.

5-0 out of 5 stars Insight into youth, ego, power, and the struggle of spinning
This is a fascinating book about George Stephanopoulous. Not Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulous. If you've ever wondered how a 30-something law school graduate can become an influential person with the ear of the president, this is your primer.

Mr. Stephanopoulous is ruthlessly honest about his inexperience and the near disasters that resulted, and I found myself cheering for him to find his way as the memoir progressed. He covers his childhood to his resignation from the Clinton White House in 1996, with an epilouge about Monica & Impeachment, and the deterioration of his relationship with the President once Mr. Stephanopoulos became a member of the other side -- the media.

He talks about a life filled with minute-to-minute firefighting, and frustration at not being able to accomplish the political missions closest to his heart and the President's. Yes, he suffers from depression and anxiety, but that is not the focal point of the book. The focus is on his personal relationships with the President and others in the White House, struggling to maintain his position of power and close proximity to the President, and the political infighting that occurred between him and the (nefarious) Dick Morris.

He is very tough on himself, and more than willing to be honest even when his motives were not pure. After reading this book, I feel it was an act of bravery to write so candidly, and I have more respect for "Boy George".

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Inside Look
An intelligent yet accessible look at life inside the White House and on the Clinton campaign trail.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Gives an open and extremely honest first-hand account of politics at the highest level. The book kept my interest throughout and gave me an appreciation for what political figures and their staffs must endure.

Came away with a new respect for Mr. Stephanopoulos and a better understanding of Mrs. (Senator) Clinton. I found the portrayal of President Clinton to be accurate - a man whose tremendous potential is offset by his self-destructive character. ... Read more


12. Spinoza : A Life
by Steven Nadler
list price: $27.99
our price: $27.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521002931
Catlog: Book (2001-04-23)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 161271
Average Customer Review: 4.91 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also arguably the most radical and controversial. This is the first complete biography of Spinoza in any language and is based on detailed archival research. More than simply recounting the story of Spinoza's life, the book takes the reader right into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, right into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. Though the book will be an invaluable resource for philosophers, historians, and scholars of Jewish thought, it has been written for any member of the general reading public with a serious interest in philosophy, Jewish history, seventeenth-century European history, and the culture of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza:A Life has recently been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Truly about his life
I needed a book that was telling me about the time and person Spinoza and not about his philosophy. Thats exactly what I founded in this book, and that why it is so we'll to read. It does however not only tell you about Spinoza but also a big deal about the Portugese Jewish community that was living in Amsterdam at that time. ...

Nadler is surely taking everything out of the closet to tell us the real story of this great man, that passed away from us after only to have been here 45 years, ot with other words way to short. However are there only a few more persons that were more controversial and radical than he was.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Biography of a Great Philosopher
Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) is one of the most influential philosophers in history. As a young man, her was excommunicated by the elders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam and subsequently came to be regarded by some as a "secular saint" and by others as an infamous atheist. Although there are many legends and myths about Spinoza's life, there has been no extended biography in English until Nadler's study. In fact, outside of brief accounts written shortly after Spinoza's death, this book is probably the first extended treatment of Spinoza's life in any language.

Given the scarcity of biographical information, Nadler does an excellent job in placing Spinoza's life in historical context. He discusses in detail how the Jewish community in Amsterdam became established, precariously, by immigrants from the Inquistion in Spain and Portugal. He describes the efforts the Jewish community made to win acceptance in Amsterday, the place of Spinoza's family in the Jewish community, and the rabbis and leaders of the community. Some of this material is well-known, others of it is less so. It is all valuable to getting to understand Spinoza.

There is a great deal of discussion of the history of the Dutch republic in Spinoza's time. Nadler's discussion includes both internal affairs (the tension between those who wanted a powerful monarch and those who wanted republican institutions) and the complex foreign wars and shifting alliances of the Netherlands during Spinoza's time. I never could make sense of this material before, but Nadler has discussed it well and in sufficient detail to provide a good backround in understanding Spinoza's political ideas.

Nadler's book is not itself a philosophical study. But he treats carefully and instructively the origin of Spinoza's works and he summarizes their complex ideas well. He does not limit his discussion to the Ethics. Instead, Nadler spends a great deal of time on the Theological-Political Treatise which he rightly views as a neglected masterpiece complementary to the Ethics. There are also good discussions of Spinoza's unfinished "Hebrew Grammar" and, particularly, of the Epistles, as well as of his other works.

Nadler has a good sense of Spinoza's naturalism encompassed be the famous phrase "deus, siva natura". He gives the reader a good feel for the revolutionary nature of Spinoza's thought and shows how and why Spinoza departed from the traditional religious belief of his day.

Nadler is a careful in his use of sources. He tells the reader what evidence from a record both complex and sparse he accepts, what he doubts, and why. When Nadler draws a conclusion that goes beyond the available evidence, he tells the reader that he has done so and why he has done so. This is measured, careful writing about a figure Nadler obviously admires.

There is much creative detail in this book as Nadler draws on recent scholarship to cast light on Spinoza and his times. For example, he relies substantially on the report made to the Inquisition of a person who knew Spinoza in Amsterdam. He discusses the Sabatti Zvi incident (a false Jewish Messiah who appealed to many people during Spinoza's lifetime) and Spinoza's possible knowledge of it. The book rebukes the myth of Spinoza as a recluse. One of the strongest features of the book is its picture of Spinoza's intellectual circle and of his relationship to many friends.

The book doesn't include a critical analysis of Spinoza's thought. Such studies are legion and there still is much to say and learn. Also, the book doesn't discuss the reception and influence of Spinoza through the years. Again, this is beyond the scope of the book. The book is an excellent biography of a seminal figure in Western philosophy. I came away from the book with a increased understanding of and appreciation for Spinoza's life and thought.

5-0 out of 5 stars Reviving a radical
This exemplary study of an early Enlightenment figure is a superb analytical narrative. Nadler's account of Baruch Spinoza will stand for some time as the best introduction of a man of his own times and far beyond. Spinoza's philosophy has been sadly overlooked by scholars. Nadler's diminutive title is almost an injustice to the scope of his efforts. Yet, it perfectly summarises what Nadler does - recounts a life without overwhelming us with lengthy analysis or idle speculation. He places Spinoza firmly in the social, political and philosophical realms marking the Enlightenment's beginnings. With clear presentation skills, Nadler takes us through the life and times of a man whose thinking was far in advance of his contemporaries. That Spinoza was reviled and condemned by church and state, yet avoided the martyrdom typical of Bruno, Galileo and others, attests to his perception and behavioural qualities.

Spinoza was the descendent of one of the multitude of Jews driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the reign of the Catholic Monarchs credited with reconquering Spain from the Moors. Harassed by the Inquisition, many found refuge in the Calvinist Netherlands. Nadler shows how tolerance and dogma fought continuously in the Dutch Republic, reaching every facet of society. Politics and religion were deeply intertwined. Even a reclusive like Spinoza wasn't immune to the swaying fortunes of party politics. While the Dutch struggled for an independent existence surrounded by enemy states, Spinoza formulated his ideas on Nature and the role of the divine. He began these studies at an early age. Expressing them led to the most vehement statement of excommunication issued by the Amsterdam rabbinical leadership.
He spent the remainder of his life in near-seclusion, with occasional visits with friends and other thinkers. The time was spent in preparing what became his most significant work - The Ethics.

Spinoza, a deep scholar of Scripture and Nature, refused to countenance a human aspect for the deity. Instead, as Nadler explains, Spinoza merged the deity and Nature into one. Humans, he insisted, were merely part of the scheme, not something apart. To be good was part of the divine plan. Evil, while deplorable, was derived from natural causes. Evil should be controlled, it should not be condemned. The State must have a role, but it must be under the direction of an enlightened populace. He scorned Utopian ideas, but found much to admire in the Dutch Republic's scheme. To Spinoza, the worst aspect of Netherland politics was the intrusion of the Reformed Church in government affairs. Spinoza condemned all dogma and superstition - both being symbolic of the various churches, Christian or Jewish. He published but one major work in his lifetime. The Theological and Political Treatise was roundly condemned by most European theologians, who goaded the states to follow suit. There is a special irony in Spinoza escaping the martyrdom some suffered for lesser views. Instead, he appears to have perished from a combination of inherited susceptibility to respiratory ailments and inhaled dust from his lens grinding.

Nadler's account is sound scholarship presented confidently. There are no frills nor wild speculations. Where he tries to resolve an issue in question, he does it firmly and with good sources. Where evidence is lacking, and there is very little on Spinoza that can be considered reliable, he indicates this without apology. A good bibliography and a few illustrations grace the book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

5-0 out of 5 stars A biography full of history
It's hard to write a reliable biography of Baruch de Spinoza, which is probably why the effort has so rarely been attempted. Fortunately, Steven Nadler has given it a go. The result is as close to a definitive biography of Spinoza as we're likely to see for many years to come.

Naturally, much of the material on Spinoza himself is speculative (and clearly identified as such). But Nadler does a marvelous job of placing Spinoza into his historical context. The discussions of Dutch and Jewish history are fascinating in their own right, and Nadler's exposition of Jewish law is competent as well (a nice feature for obvious reasons). Moreover, Nadler doesn't hesitate to state his own opinions where the evidence warrants it, and more than once he speaks up against commonplace misconceptions that have crept into the "received account" of Spinoza's life.

I'm also very impressed by Nadler's transparent and engaging style. The art of expository prose is hardly noticed when it's done right, which is why I try to call attention to it whenever I encounter it. Nadler does it right. His sentences are well phrased and comfortably paced, and he doesn't obtrude himself with authorial tricks; he just tells the story clearly and well. This sounds easy and is not.

Be warned that, as other reviewers have noted, this is not (just) an intellectual biography of Spinoza. The narrative does cover the development of his philosophy, but in just enough depth to give the reader a sense of what it's about; for exposition of Spinozism, you'll want to read either Spinoza himself or Roger Scruton's little book on the subject. (Start with Scruton if you're new to Spinoza.)

Highly recommended to readers interested in Spinoza as well as to readers who simply enjoy a fine historical biography.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Spinoza
Spinoza is, admittedly, a difficult thinker. And a rare one, too.But, as he himself says, in the closing words of his great "Ethics", "all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare".Professor Nadler's book is scholarly sober and, at the same time, one feels thar he is genuinely passionated for his subject. To anyone interested in learning more about Spinoza and his philosophy, this book is the point where you should begin! ... Read more


13. Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Michael Tanner
list price: $9.95
our price: $8.96
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Asin: 0192854143
Catlog: Book (2001-01-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 29794
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Will to Brevity...
No one can reasonably expect to sum up Nietzche's views and philosophy in under 100 pages. The reader should not go into this work expecting to come out understanding Nietzsche, but maybe make him a little less obscure or receive a slight bit more context in which to read Nietzsche's books. For those who have already read some Nietzsche and are left nonplussed, this tiny book may help you out as well (it did me).

The book follows Nietzsche's publications more or less in chronological order. The longest and most difficult chapter is the one on "The Birth of Tragedy." This work gets the most attention of all of Nietzsche's works, presumably because it is easier to "sum up" or encapsulate than any of his other works. For instance, the section on "The Genealogy of Morals" will leave you wondering what the book is about (in fact, reading the book itself may also have this effect - it's a tad difficult).

"Morality and its Discontents" is one of the most illuminating chapters, and will shed some light on Nietzsche's proclamation that "God is dead" which is probably his most infamous and misunderstood concept (there's also a lot more meat to it than the eternal recurrence and the Ubermensch, which Tanner points out).

Overall I agree with Tanner's assessment of Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra." It was the first book of his I read, and I came out of the experience energized, but I had no idea why. "Zarathustra" is a passionate but potentially misleading read. It's nothing like his other works, and introduces concepts that never come up again, though they seem to be of utmost importance in the context of the book (i.e., the eternal recurrence, Ubermensch, and the will to power - at least in his published works).

The pace of Tanner's book quickens and the delineation of Nietzsche's texts becomes more and more sparse towards the final few chapters. There is very little information about Nietzsche's insanity, or Lou Salomé or even the details of his life. The book is almost completely dedicated to Nietzsche's philosophy. In fact, the book ends as abruptly as Nietzsche's own sane life must have. There's a slight feeling of "so what's next?!?" at the end of the last and shortest chapter that discusses the works of 1888 in a flash.

Nietzsche is a huge subject, and his books are thick conceptually if not physically. He was a thinker that wanted to teach us to think differently, which makes him a valuable read no matter what your stance on the views he covers. This minute book will help you peek through the keyhole of this enormous and overwhelming subject.

Lastly, Richard Wagner figures hugely in Nietzsche's work. Knowing more about Wagner will only elucidate some of Nietzsche's works and concepts. Tanner also supports this view.

4-0 out of 5 stars Nietzsche demystified (well, sort of)
Tanner's NIETZSCHE provides as plain-spoken an account as can be managed of what the philosopher was all about, taking the reader through Nietzsche's life and work step by step. There are a few things about the book I do not like -- for instance, insufficient discussion of the abuses of Nietzsche by others, too short shrift to THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, and an unhelpful final chapter of assessment -- but its merits outweigh these several flaws. I would definitely recommend that others read this book before tackling Nietzsche's works directly.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Overview
Tanner here provides a wonderful overview of Nietzsche's philosophy--not an easy task, since Nietzsche had no "philosophy" in the usual sense. He is an anti-philosopher philosopher. Tanner concentrates on what Nietzsche said in his published works, considering the "Will to Power" fragments suspect. He distrusts the French poststructuralist interpretations of Nietzsche, which emphasize his perspectivism. To get a good idea of this side of Nietzsche, read Alex Nehamas's "Nietzsche: Life as Literature." There is no better introduction to Nietzsche than Nietzsche himself, perhaps in "Beyond Good and Evil," but he is among the most complex of modern "philosphers," and Tanner's book is quite helpful for the novice. ... Read more


14. Joseph De Maistre's Life, Thought, and Influence: Selected Studies
list price: $85.00
our price: $85.00
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Asin: 0773522883
Catlog: Book (2001-11-01)
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Sales Rank: 752992
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15. Camus and Sartre : The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It
by Ronald Aronson
list price: $19.00
our price: $12.92
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Asin: 0226000249
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 47030
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Book Description

Until now it has been impossible to read the full story of the relationship between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Their dramatic rupture at the height of the Cold War, like that conflict itself, demanded those caught in its wake to take sides rather than to appreciate its tragic complexity. Now, using newly available sources, Ronald Aronson offers the first book-length account of the twentieth century's most famous friendship and its end.

Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre first met in 1943, during the German occupation of France. The two became fast friends. Intellectual as well as political allies, they grew famous overnight after Paris was liberated. As playwrights, novelists, philosophers, journalists, and editors, the two seemed to be everywhere and in command of every medium in post-war France. East-West tensions would put a strain on their friendship, however, as they evolved in opposing directions and began to disagree over philosophy, the responsibilities of intellectuals, and what sorts of political changes were necessary or possible.

As Camus, then Sartre adopted the mantle of public spokesperson for his side, a historic showdown seemed inevitable. Sartre embraced violence as a path to change and Camus sharply opposed it, leading to a bitter and very public falling out in 1952. They never spoke again, although they continued to disagree, in code, until Camus's death in 1960.

In a remarkably nuanced and balanced account, Aronson chronicles this riveting story while demonstrating how Camus and Sartre developed first in connection with and then against each other, each keeping the other in his sights long after their break. Combining biography and intellectual history, philosophical and political passion, Camus and Sartre will fascinate anyone interested in these great writers or the world-historical issues that tore them apart.

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16. Letters : 1925-1975
by Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Andrew Shields, Ursula Ludz
list price: $28.00
our price: $17.64
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Asin: 0151005257
Catlog: Book (2003-12-01)
Publisher: Harcourt
Sales Rank: 247467
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

When they first met in 1925, Martin Heidegger was a star of German intellectual life and Hannah Arendt was his earnest young student. What happened between them then will never be known, but both would cherish their brief intimacy for the rest of their lives.
The ravages of history would soon take them in quite different directions. After Hitler took power in Germany in 1933, Heidegger became rector of the university in Freiburg, delivering a notorious pro-Nazi address that has been the subject of considerable controversy. Arendt, a Jew, fled Germany the same year, heading first to Paris and then to New York. In the decades to come, Heidegger would be recognized as perhaps the most significant philosopher of the twentieth century, while Arendt would establish herself as a voice of conscience in a century of tyranny and war.
Illuminating, revealing, and tender throughout, this correspondence offers a glimpse into the inner lives of two major philosophers.

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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Arendt and Heidegger in Letters
This collection of letters is an absolute necessity for anyone interested in Hannah Arendt, and particularly her relationship with the controversial German philosopher (and mentor) Martin Heidegger. The letters are well annotated and there is a helpful introduction as well. The only problem is that there are relatively few letters from Arendt. And those that appear in the collection are somewhat concise, whether from the editing or simply because they were not extensive. As a result, the reader does not get the intimate and expansive view into Arendt's thinking and activities that one comes away with from reading, for example, her collection of letters to and from Mary McCarthy. Of particular interest is the exchange of poetry between the two--somewhat ironic given Heidegger's controversial career and purported anti-Semitism during the Nazi period. One cannot help thinking, as the letters pass by, as to why Arendt chose to treat Heidegger with such kid gloves; nonetheless, there is a touching quality about this late-in-life correspondence of two former lovers. Quite pleasant and informative and not overly technical in philosophical terms.

5-0 out of 5 stars Finally Available
Perhaps it's a sign of the times in which we live, but the biggest stories of recent note in philosophy have been Heidegger's flirtation with National Socialism and the revelation of his affair with his student, Hannah Arendt, in the 1920s. The affair with Arendt has left a bad account of the affair (Ettinger) and a badly written novel in its wake, but perhaps these lumps of fool's gold have led us to the real thing, for they helped persuade Heidegger's son, Herman, to open the private files of his famous father and release these letters to the public. These, along with the letters to Arendt that are extant, comprise a volume that belongs in the library of every serious student of Arendt and Heidegger. It provides a glimpse of the lives and thought of two intellectual giants and of how events led to their estrangement and shaky reconciliation.

The first part of the book comes across as a one-way conversation, as only Heidegger's letters to Arendt are extant. Obviously Heidegger was smart enough to destroy Arendt's letters lest they fall into the hands of Mrs. H. The tone of these early letters is that of a besotted adolescent. Heidegger sends her bad poetry and, in one letter, refers to her as his "little wood nymph." As these letters were meant to be strictly private, we cannot help but suffer the embarrassment of an unintentional voyeur. However, the section ends on an ominous note with a letter from Heidegger in 1933 answering Arendt's charges that he is anti-Semitic. This came shortly after the ascension of Hitler and makes us sad that Heidegger destroyed Arendt's letter making the charges.

The correspondence begins anew after the war and only because Arendt saw it in her heart to forgive her former mentor and in effect bury the hatchet. Heidegger seems most pleased and the letters lead to a personal reconciliation with Arendt visiting Heidegger and his wife in Germany. But all was not to remain quiet. Heidegger had confessed all to his wife, and took her willingness to see Arendt again as a sign all was back to normal, as it were. The letters he sends in 1950 give the impression that he is more than willing to resume their affair; to once again have his cake and eat it, too. But a sudden dispatch from Heidegger warns Arendt to cancel a postponed visit and not to write for a while. Seems Elfride Heidegger was not the willing accomplice her husband believed her to be.

But time heals all and the letters (and visits) resume. Heidegger is more interested in what he is doing and the American response than in what Arendt is doing. In one telling letter, he admits he has no idea of what she means by "radical evil." Another subject on which Arendt treads lightly is that of Karl Jaspers: Jaspers and Heidegger attempted a reconciliation after the war, but failed and each has bitterness toward the other with Arendt playing the diplomat in the middle, though in her letters with Jaspers there is no doubt about whose side she is on.

Another missed opportunity is the sudden death of Merleau-Ponty a few months before he was to meet Heidegger in Marburg. Arendt has a higher opinion of him than does Heidegger, although in a philosophical debate I'd place my money on Merleau-Ponty, whose forays into aesthetics, ontology and physics expose Heidegger as stuck in a neo-Kantian continuum.

All in all, this is the book students of these two intellectual giants have waited for, and I, for one was not disappointed in the least.

4-0 out of 5 stars Heidegger as Dasein
Well, this is quite a surprising little book that casts Martin Heidegger less as the controversial and unrelenting thinker, and more as a man in his world concerned with the quality and concerns of his life and career. It is also an extraordinarily personal and endearing extended love letter to a woman who meant the world to him.
This will strike the usual Heidegger reader as entirely different. There is no hidden marvellous de-coding of his demanding trek. This is a collection of mostly Martin's letters to Hannah with a few responses. The collection spans the course of their lives, and clearly show not only how much he loved her but how much he trusted in her thinking. They were equals in far more sophisticated ways and in far more honest and enduring ways than Sartre and deBeauvoir, who come across as petty bourgeois rats in Henri-Levy's recent biography.
No, here you'll find sign posts and journal entries along the path to Language, Thinking, Heracleitus and Parmenides, Totalitarianism, and the resolution of past controversies. There are Romantic and Philosophical poems (yup, Martin was smooth), endearments and sentinments that come from the heart.
Heidegger refudiates categorically any notion that he is anti-Semitic, and in truth, there's no evidence that he ever was. A bit stupidly enthralled with German nationalism, and certainly a supporter of National Socialism as opposed to Communism, but not anti-Semitic. He refuses to engage in any mea culpa's on that score, and that's it, as far as he is concerned. Arendt, herself Jewish, must have believed him. And that's good enough for me, in any case.
But there is so much more to their relationship than just this point. Her presence in his life upset Elfride Heidegger. There is a curious absence of Hannah's letters to Martin, and perhaps Elfride or Jorg or Hermann decided against preserving them. It's a pity. They clearly had an impact on Martin. Nonetheless, the story of their emotional and philosophical lives continues apace, and the real hallmark of this story is that it succeeds in getting the reader to think, as Heidegger so desperately wanted humans to do, about the little things that we often take for granted, and yet open the way to what is hidden. Hannah has a brilliant description of what Heidegger is about about midway through the book, just before the "Autumn" section begins. It is an analysis that only comes from someone who honestly knows the person she admires, loves and respects, and it thoroughly presents Martin Heidegger as he is.
This isn't weighty stuff for the advance seminars, just a brilliant and extraordinarily personal view of the two greatest philosophical minds of the twentieth century. And it is quite moving. ... Read more


17. Do What Thou Wilt : A Life of Aleister Crowley
by Lawrence Sutin
list price: $18.95
our price: $12.89
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Asin: 0312288972
Catlog: Book (2002-01-16)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales Rank: 36621
Average Customer Review: 4.19 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Aleister Crowley was a blustery coward, an arrogant, misogynistic racist with fascist leanings, and a callous user, as often threatened by his sexuality as he claimed to be liberated by it. But he was also a groundbreaking poet and an iconoclastic visionary whose literary and cultural legacies extend far beyond the limits of his reputation. This controversial individual, a frightening mixture of egomania and self-loathing, has inspired passionate—but seldom fair—assesments by historians. Sutin, by treating Crowley as a cultural phenomenon, and not simply a sorcerer or a charlatan, convinces skeptic readers that the self-styled "Beast" remains a fascinating study in eccentricity.
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Reviews (31)

5-0 out of 5 stars A real life look at the Prophet of the new aeon.
Sutin has written the best biography of Aleister Crowley ever written. That being said, don't expect a glowing, praise filled, "Uncle Al is a God" type biography. You won't get it and it's a good thing you won't because AC was nothing like that. Sutin approaches Crowley's life as a biographer, not a follower. That's what makes the book so good.

Crowley's life was one long mess, mostly of his own making, and Sutin doesn't leave out a thing. After reading "Do What Thou Wilt" you will find yourself questioning everything you ever thought you knew about Aleister Crowley. However, you will also recognize the genius of the man, his wit, his wisdom, and penny-anti carnival shyster antics that made him both the scourge of the Victorian era, and the broken down, drug addicted, lonely old man in Post WWII England.

Crowley had moments of Divine inspiration and moments of madness. Unfortunately, Crowley often couldn't tell the difference between the two.

5-0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal biography of a very tricky subject
If you've never read ANYTHING about Crowley (I hadn't), this is the place to start. This biography leaves out no detail, no matter how small. This book puts Crowley under a microscope with unstinting clarity that is completely balanced - the biographer gives Crowley credit where credit is due but never tries to whitewash the mess that the man made of his life (and of other's lives). Crowley's innovations are not easy ones to understand, and his impact is complex. Mr. Sutin gets it just right.

If you're the type of person who wants a biography that draws the big picture by supplying all the minute details (journal entries, letters, receipts, financial records, decorating schemes, sexual partners, travel plans, etc), this is the Crowley book for you.

Really, my only complaint is that there weren't more photos. However, for all I know, there are few existing photos, given the time in which Crowley lived. This book inspired me to read more by and about Crowley, which is the best praise a biography can be given.

1-0 out of 5 stars Is Aleister Crowley boring? Is that possible?
It's a shame that this book is so tedious, because the author knows his subject. I read Lawrence Sutin's biography of PK Dick and I was impressed, so I had high hopes for this one. But there's no structure to the story, no plot. Sutin moves from one moment of Crowley's life to the next, never making it clear if he's describing a high point, a low point, a turning point, etc. Halfway through, I promised myself I'd finish the book, sure that as Crowley's life reached the end, Sutin would bring things to a climax. But he didn't. Sutin knows the facts but didn't present them in a compelling way.

5-0 out of 5 stars Enthralling Perspective of the life of Aleister Crowley
This is an Enthralling Perspective of the life of Aleister Crowley.... "the rest of the story."

"Do What Thou Wilt" fills-in numerous gaps in Crowley's own writings and maintains an open perspective until the last few chapters. This is good balancing material to add to a Crowley research library.

Throughout most of the book, the author seems to have an (almost) non-judgmental perspective--giving us a "here's the facts" biography. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. It was very nice to read-about all the things Crowley sort-of Glossed-over in his own works. Also, I found it interesting that the author began the book with a list of Crowley's accomplishments that would have been well-recognized, if not for his "Beastly" reputation and eccentric (self-destructive / self-defeating) behavior. The author had access to a wealth of information, including access to individuals in the O.T.O.

I felt that the author maintained his mostly non-judgmental view until the last few chapters--when it becomes evident that the author had pretty-much written Crowley off as a "Dirty Old Man"--a sad case of Self-deception and a delusory drug addict.
However, unlike most of the biographical material I have read about Crowley, this book tries very hard to show the positive achievements of "The Beast" as well as the more scandalous aspects of the man. Yet, it is very difficult to perceive Crowley in a positive light, when the Misogynistic (wife-beating) scenarios are brought to light--which, if true, obviously makes Crowley a criminal worthy of little respect.

Over-all, the book is quite impressive and it seems to give a more-or-less positive outlook on Crowley's life, although it does tend to dispel illusions of Crowley's grandeur and "Prophet" status. However, this book also leaves one with the impression that Crowley did, in fact, follow the "Do What Thou Wilt" philosophy to the utmost.... The man never had to work an honest day's labor, yet always had enough money or duped enough people into taking care of him, and he *Always* had plenty of sex, women, men, etc. to keep himself "happy" in that department.

I was a bit disappointed that this author doesn't really cover the Occult aspects of Crowley's life very well....he mostly seems to concentrate on Crowley's disreputable behavior, abusive relationships, and the more Tabloid aspects of his life....and seems to gloss-over the details of the writing of "The Equinox" (a 5 year project, skimmed-over in this biography) --I would have enjoyed a detailed break-down of the formation of that work and the people involved. The author sort-of skips-over Crowley's connections with Blavatsky, with minor references.

Although this is an amazing, and well-written, biography of Crowley, one is left with the impression: "So....when did he do Occult stuff ?" (the Occult workings almost seem mere footnotes). This book details his "Book of The Law" workings and the related occult workings, but one gets the impression that the O.T.O. was just something Crowley wrote letters about as an afterthought, occasionally, when he needed money from the members (yet, wouldn't touch L500 of OTO $ under his bed, while lying on the same bed in extremely poor health).

As a member of various organizations, I know that it takes a tremendous amount of work to keep any kind of Masonic or Occult group operational....so, it seems a bit odd that this aspect of Crowley's life seems almost like a background story, or basic framework for Crowley's Love Life.

A more appropriate title for this book would be: "Do What Thou Wilt: The Life and Loves of Aleister Crowley."

Don't get me wrong--I loved this book and learned a lot--but, I feel a large aspect of Crowley's life was given the back shelf to his enormous sex drive. Yet, considering the fact that Crowley and others have covered the "Occult" territory numerous times, this book makes a fine addition to a Crowley collection and fills-in many gaps that Crowley's admirers or apologists would not care to reveal--one would be hard-pressed to portray Crowley as a "Spiritual Leader" if one included the extremely Misogynistic / Abusive behavior (depicted in this book) of Crowley in a biography extolling his virtues as "Prophet of The New Aeon."

5-0 out of 5 stars Faix ce que veult
There is a mystery to the end of the nineteenth century in the sudden appearance of figures such as Nietzsche, Gurdjieff, and Crowley, out of the blue, trying to rewrite the rules of various games, and in each case with a vicious sadistic streak. We fail to see the connection, or suspect one, but with Crowley we have a clue, albeit a misleading one, almost like a decoy. And then we see the Hitler phenomenon. With Crowley we see the explicit connection between autonomy pursued and autonomy occulted, as Nietzsche suddenly becomes transparent, thrasing around, he never knew what hit him. Your move, beware of reaching in the cookie jar here. Do you have potential Faustian propensities? If you have gotten this far, I'd be worried. Click on Paton's The Categorical Imperative for the Kantian take on will. Much better, first rate, when Crowley is second rate, though interesting, and pitiable. He would be of no importance were it not for his 'book of the law' and 'new aeon' swindle, which nonetheless expresses, and distorts, an important thematic that needs to be salvaged from the occult altogether, to be seen in its true form.
This is a useful biography of Crowley whom the author understandably wishes to defend, at least to the degree of a biography, given the rote excoriations, which are inevitable, and in the end deserved. Crowley's 'magic' is a waste of time, but one meets enough idiots in this field to require some leery investigation. A man of many talents, the colorful self-realization of his 'career' is something you could never imitate so beware of trying. A good poker player folds often, very dull. A bad one reaches into the cookie jar. With Crowley, fold, I would say, just observe.
A useful account. ... Read more


18. Simone Weil (Penguin Lives)
by Francine Du Plessix Gray, Francis Du Plessix Gray
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0670899984
Catlog: Book (2001-06-01)
Publisher: Lipper
Sales Rank: 266318
Average Customer Review: 3.22 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Writing with her customary grace and acuity, Francine du Plessix Gray, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated At Home with the Marquis de Sade, examines an equally extreme character at the opposite end of the moral spectrum in Simone Weil. Weil (1909-43) displayed early the ferocious intellect that took this daughter of affluent, highly assimilated French Jews to the peak of her country's rigorous educational system and made her an important modern philosopher. But Weil remains a beacon to activists because of her passionate, intensely personal commitment to the world's oppressed and her need to directly share their sufferings. This need had its neurotic aspects, and Gray's elegant biography does not gloss over Weil's lifelong anorexia, her distaste for physical contact, her peculiar brand of anti-Semitism, or the unyielding self-righteousness that led her to cut off friendships for minor offenses. Yet the overall tone is one of sympathetic respect for an extraordinary human being unable to develop the willed blindness that enables most of us to live comfortably while others go without. Weil gave up prestigious teaching jobs to do manual labor; she performed dangerous work in the Resistance; and, when threatened by a Vichy policeman who exclaimed angrily, "You little bitch, we'll have you thrown in jail with the whores!" she replied coolly, "I've always wanted to know that milieu." Her slow, exceedingly tentative movement toward Christianity grew from her need to affirm her solidarity with the world's "slaves," and her prescient denunciation of Communism at a time when most radicals embraced it arose from her understanding that Soviet apparatchiks abused the working class just as egregiously as their putative opponents, the fascists. This is an outstanding introduction for general readers to the influential thought and rivetingly conflicted life of a seminal figure in 20th-century intellectual history. --Wendy Smith ... Read more

Reviews (9)

1-0 out of 5 stars A bad book about a fascinating writer
It is hard for me to understand why someone would choose to write a book about a person they obviously dislike and then do a bad job of researching their lives. There are some wonderful biographies of Simone Weil out there, including one by her friend Simone Petrement. This books has gotten most of the facts wrong and turned a young woman searching in her own way for truth into a weird, comical figure which she certainly wasn't. Most of the stories quoted by the author are anecdotal at best. Reading this book is a waste of time. If you want to know Simone Weil, read her books.

2-0 out of 5 stars Value judgements/ not enough supporting arguments
I had read a few of Simone Weil's essays and admired them greatly, but didn't know much about the woman herself. This book is a good source of basic biographical facts, but the author leaves a lot to be desired in discussing Weil's philosophy. Yes, this is a biography, not a philosophy text. This being a biography of a philosopher, however, one might expect *some* sort of argument to be presented when the subject's philosophy is being dismissed.
The anti-semitic opinions Weil held are obviously distasteful to most intelligent people and no explanations are needed as to why these views of hers were wrongheaded. But when the author is dealing with Weil's specific criticisms of the Old Testament, she calls her readings of it "skewed" and "distorted by the bizarre conception of God" she had developed through studying various world religions, yet she gives no reasons why Weil's readings were skewed or why her conception of God is so bizarre. From what I've gathered in this book, Weil's conceptions of God were quite reasonable.
I'm glad this book presents the faults along with the virtues of this great thinker, but such swift and unreasoned dismissals of certain parts of her philosophies are off-putting, and this book is rife with them.
A little nit-picking: the author goes back and forth between calling her "Weil" and "Simone" with no ostensible rationale for doing so. Also, at one point in the book, for no apparent reason, she describes events in Weil's life in the present tense for a few pages.
All that being said, the book has mostly satisfied my curiosity about Weil's life. I wouldn't say it's not worth reading.

1-0 out of 5 stars Please avoid.
Lovers of the great, tender Weil will have no need for this little book. The danger here lies in a reader new to Weil, picking this up, reading it, and struggling with Gray's simplistic, biased agenda concerning Weil's abandonment of leftist politics(not true), hatred of sex and romance(not true), defaming and misuse of Jewish thought and history(certainly not true). In fact, du Plessix Gray spends more time celebrating Simone Weil as a sort of 1930s French version of the hideous David Horowitz(once left, now far right), then she does helping the reader understand the heart and soul of Weil's holiness and unending compassion. So don't waste your time here. Rather, try instead: Jacques Cabaud's "Simone Weil: a Fellowship in Love"; Simone Petrement's "Simone Weil: A Life"; or, "Simone Weil: A Sketch of a Portrait" by Richard Rees.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fair and Sober
Along with Carol Shields' "Jane Austen" and Douglas Brinkley's "Rosa Parks", Du Plessix Gray's "Simone Weil" demonstrates three qualities that make the Penguin-Lives series unique and important:

1. gripping-- and friendly-- narrative style,
2. vibrant guidance through historical times, and
3. subjects that are infuratingly flawed but alter the course of history.

As we trace Simone Weil's life we get a unique picture of France's situation during WW2. A brief sample: we travel south with the Weils as they flee Germany's invasion of France, spend time with the revels during the Spanish civil war, and receive an unflinching description of factory life in mid-century France.

Furthermore, Du Plessix Gray's examination inspires conflicting feelings towards Weil. Sometimes I felt admiration for her intellectual bravery and exhaustive examination of dangerous factory life. At other times her fixation with masochistic actions, manipulation of friends, stubborn personality, and, worse of all, her rabid anti-semitism makes Simone Weil hard to take seriously.

This meditation of a short, but action-packed life, is a rewarding and thought-provoking read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Waiting for God Should Come First.
While this is the first book on Simone Weil that provides a coherent biography and chronology of Simone Weil's life and thought (and it is excellent in that regard) I think that it would be a shame if new readers had not read Weil's 'Waiting for God' before this volume. Otherwise they would have a hard time figuring out what the fuss is about. ... Read more


19. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography
by Eberhard Bethge, Victoria J. Barnett, Victoria Barnett
list price: $39.00
our price: $25.74
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0800628446
Catlog: Book (2000-02-01)
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Sales Rank: 26595
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Eberhard Bethge's exhaustive biography of Bonhoeffer is recognized throughout the world as the definitive biography. Victoria Barnett has now reviewed the entire translation for this edition, correcting hundreds of mistakes and omissions, and adding in sections from the German, for example, on Bonhoeffer's childhood, that have never before appeared in English. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Testament to Excellence
About 20 years ago, I read an older translation of this biography. Then, as now, a reader cannot help but be impressed by the thorough and meticulous scholarship that went into its preparation. Because of its size and scope (900+ pages), it may be somewhat daunting to new readers who may be just now encountering Bonhoeffer. However, given the nature of his literary output (Bonheoffer was still a young man when he died, and many of his ideas exist only in limited or underdeveloped forms), this in-depth look at the man and his motivations by the individual who probably knew him best is essential to an informed understanding of his work. For Bonhoeffer admirers, it doesn't get any better than this.

5-0 out of 5 stars A classic -- Bethge is indispensable
Eberhard Bethge was Dietrich Bonhoeffer's closest friend and the lifelong editor and interpreter of his life and writings. For the first time we now have the completely unabridged biography in a revised and updated English translation. This is not only a classic of twentieth century biography; it also addresses key issues not only of German and European history, World War II, and the Holocaust but also, through Bonhoeffer's theology, the church and modernity. It sharply poses the question of authentic Christian life. A big book and a challenging read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Now I know Bonhoeffer
In this work, Bonhoeffer's student and friend brought me closer to Bonhoeffer than I thought possible. Previously, I had thought Letters and Papers From Prison was as close as I could get to understanding the "religionless" Christian -I was wrong. Bethge's opus gives an incisive look into the formation of Bonhoeffer the man and the theologian which sheds more light on his Christian fortitude in the Nazi tempest. I whole-heartedly recommend this work for it has been an inspiration to me as a human being as well as a student of theology ... Read more


20. The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe
by Glenn Clark
list price: $5.00
our price: $5.00
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Asin: 1879605074
Catlog: Book (1989-06-01)
Publisher: Univ of Science & Philosophy
Sales Rank: 60971
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This biography of Walter Russell, known as the modern Leonardo da Vinci, a musician, illustrator, portrait painter, architectural designer, sculptor, business advisor to IBM, champion figure skater, scientist, philosopher, and author of Five Personal Laws of Success. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars An advanced soul and we can also tap into this genius
This is a very good book describing Mr. Russells life. A man who was able to achieve anything he put his mind to. I suggest buying some of the books he personally has written on the understanding of the universe and its laws. Also if you really want to knock your socks off read: Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence by Godfre Ray King. This tells the story of a remarkable man known as St. Germain who immortalized his body, is hundreds of years old and can use this universal energy to do whatever he desires.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Important Man to Know About!
I am always thrilled to come across small volumes that pack a great punch, because they are the kinds of treasures you can give as gifts without feeling that you've overwhelmed the recipient - after all, it seems very few of us have the time to read all the books our friends and family recommend. Golden Rule in mind, I like giving something that will take little of someone's time, but that will truly inspire or enlighten.

The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe is one of these short and sweet titles. It is a bibliographical account of a brilliant man of this century - one Walter Russell - who appears to have been sadly overlooked as someone we all should know. I'm not against us keeping stats on and remembering always the world's greatest athletes - sports seem an important part of our lives for what they represent. But when we remember every great athlete without remembering the greatest spiritual pioneers, I wonder about priorities.

So much can be learned from the life of Walter Russell, and I believe he is one man we could teach about in schools in order to exemplify spiritual principles without preaching and persuading. A life is a much more powerful example than any words, and as we look at Mr. Russell's life, we can perceive how a different approach can bestow such a very different result! Probably my favorite example from within the book is when it tells of Russell taking a summer job as a bellboy, and startling himself by refusing his first tip. Tips were the primary income for bellboys, and the only real reason to take the job ... one would think. When he came to grips with his action, he decided he would refuse all tips from that point on, yet would work harder and offer more service to the guests than anyone else. The results are astounding, as he won the hearts of all the guests, including many wealthy ones who returned their support in other ways.

This kind of living brought Mr. Russell into quite influential company, and he commanded the respect of all as he began dominating a number of fields - from the sciences to the arts - that he entered into. His early theories on the universe are today being confirmed. And how did he become so dominant? The answer is as simple as a spiritual experience, which awakened him to the simple principles of the universe. It is from these principles that all else is derived, and living from these principles meant great success for Walter Russell, as I believe it would for anyone living them.

This book is really just an introduction to Walter Russell's ideas and philosophy (as well as an excellent account of all that he accomplished). If you tackle this little and inexpensive volume (my edition is about 55 pages minus many pictures), you may well find yourself wanting to pursue what Russell himself wrote - and there is plenty to be found. This is a book to try out, and to give away to others!

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
This very small, short book is written in a sensational style that usually turns me off, but the subject -- Walter Russell -- is so exceptional that I could not help but overlook it. This is a man who was an architect of a building still standing in New York city, yet he never went to school past the 8th grade. He sculpted the Mark Twain Memorial, though he never studied art. He even created the Co-op system for housing in New York (but later denounced it as politicians and real estate developers caused the system to degenerate into the state it's in now). I love to pass this book around to friends -- they always appreciate it. I highly recommend this introduction to his highly unusual experiences, philosophy, and unique relationship with the Universe.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Things Come in Small Packages
Despite its short length this little book is packed with useful and interesting information. You need to read it twice just to begin to take in the new concepts it presents. Walter Russell did a great deal for American Art & Science. He is one of the most understated men of history. May the knowledge of his accomplishments continue to grow and inspire.

5-0 out of 5 stars Required reading for those seeking an enlightened life.
Walter Russell was one of those people who just "get" it, and fortunately for the rest of us, shares it freely. This fantastic little book packs a big punch. The philosophies stated go along with other greats such as Edgar Cayce and Jose Silva. They, also, had great faith and tapped into the universal conscience and spread that knowledge for the betterment of the world and its people. The world will truly be a heaven on earth when all people utilize these concepts. This book should be required school reading. ... Read more


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