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Good Book, The [Hardcover]

A C Grayling
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 26 2011
Few, if any, thinkers and writers today would have the imagination, the breadth of knowledge, the literary skill, and-yes-the audacity to conceive of a powerful, secular alternative to the Bible. But that is exactly what A.C. Grayling has done by creating a non-religious Bible, drawn from the wealth of secular literature and philosophy in both Western and Eastern traditions, using the same techniques of editing, redaction, and adaptation that produced the holy books of the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic religions. The Good Book consciously takes its design and presentation from the Bible, in its beauty of language and arrangement into short chapters and verses for ease of reading and quotability, offering to the non-religious seeker all the wisdom, insight, solace, inspiration, and perspective of secular humanist traditions that are older, far richer and more various than Christianity. Organized in 12 main sections----Genesis, Histories, Widsom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts, and the Good----The Good Book opens with meditations on the origin and progress of the world and human life in it, then devotes attention to the question of how life should be lived, how we relate to one another, and how vicissitudes are to be faced and joys appreciated. Incorporating the writing of Herodotus and Lucretius, Confucius and Mencius, Seneca and Cicero, Montaigne, Bacon, and so many others, The Good Book will fulfill its audacious purpose in every way.

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Praise for The Meaning of Things 'Deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment' Financial Times 'Grayling writes with clarity, elegance and the occasional aphoristic twist...straight alpha material' Sunday Telegraph 'An enthusiastic thinker who embraces humour, common sense and lucidity' Independent

About the Author

A.C. Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius, and Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times, Financial Times, Economist, New Statesman, and Prospect. Grayling's play "Grace," co-written with Mick Gordon, has played to full houses in London and New York, starring Lynn Redgrave; its central debate over the virtue of religion gives Grayling a strong platform for The Good Book. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars King James for Humanists May 15 2011
By Eric Lawton TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of A.C. Grayling and have read almost all his books. This one is quite different, and I found it a little difficult to know what to make of it.
It is an attempt, as the cover says, to make something like The Bible, for humanists (the cover of mine says "A Secular Bible", subtly different from the cover now shown "A Humanist Bible" - it is both).
The likeness to the King James (Authorised) Version (KJV) is obvious. It is about the same size, laid out in the same two-columns-per-page layout as the two Bibles I own, comes in short verses assembled into chapters and then into books, and the language is similar in style; although both bibles have different styles for different chapters, they both have a common feel. For example "But set in opposition to this how much better it is to be conscious of gaining a victory over what leads you astray".
It borrows ideas and modes of expression from many other books. For example, the book "Wisdom" has most chapters ending with a repetition of the verse "The question to be asked at the end of each day is, 'How long will you delay to be wise?'", and you will find similar repetitions in the Qu'ran.
The books themselves are on well-known biblical themes: Genesis, Wisdom, Songs, Histories, Proverbs, Acts, Epistles...
The book expresses Grayling's science-based humanist philosophy throughout, but draws on hundreds of authors throughout history and across the world.

When I got the book, I was a bit disappointed, because I like Grayling's other books so much and I had hoped this would be similar. In fact he has books in a more familiar style in which he explicitly talks about some of the authors which he draws on here.
However, after a while, I was hooked.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful! June 25 2011
The subtitle of this book could have been chicken soup for the thinking man's/women's soul. It is a celebration of reason and science. Comfortingly written in prose and poetry, with the added benefit of being true. I do not need to be convinced of the evils of religion, history has provided ample evidence of that. Nor do I need to be convinced of the power and beauty of science, what I require sometimes is a positive book. I search for positive books that do not feel the need to justify or apologize for being reality based. I am thankful they exist, but this book is different. This book is simply beautiful. It is beautiful in thoughts. It is beautiful in language. It is beautiful in vision. A book about being good and truly a good book.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why all the filler? Sept. 2 2011
I respectfully have to disagree with the reviewers above. I approached this book hoping to learn advice that would help me become a better person. After all the subtitle of the book is "A Humanist Bible." While there are chapters in the book that provided good guidance(e.g., Wisdom, Proverbs, Parables, Concord) there are also about 200 pages of the history of the Greek-Persian wars in the chapter called History and around 100 pages of the political intrigues in ancient Rome (Cicero, Cato, Caesar) in the chapter titled Acts. I asked myself as I plowed through this material if A.C. Grayling had included this filler to fulfill his contract with his publisher. Unless you're a history buff, I would not recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  82 reviews
437 of 447 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Atheist's Review April 14 2011
By Sapere Aude - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book with no expectations. I had read an article about it, as an atheist I liked the idea and wanted to support Grayling's work so I bought it. I really was pleasantly surprised.

This book is not a compilation of work. You will not open it up and find passages from various works called out by author. It is truly written in the style of the Bible - Grayling has taken the collected wisdom of hundreds of secular philosophers and melded it together in the flowery prose form typical of the Bible. There is no reference list at the back to tell you where anything came from, he has taken the ideas and the texts and melted them together.

The Good Book begins with Genesis, where you can see the ideas of Darwin laid out in an inspirational way. Reading through this I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I'm used to this language being peppered with things I don't believe in, and listening to it at weddings or funerals generally gives me a lump in my stomach. Here was the same kind of lofty language, but saying the things I believed! I didn't realize how much I would enjoy hearing Darwin's theory of evolution told as a beautiful story of how we began and the cycle of life.

As you make your way though the book, you can clearly see where he has incorporated Plato's dialogs, but without specific references. Characters are mentioned in the same way as the Bible, introduced without preamble, just snippets of conversation or story which attempt to showcase an idea. There are passages on grief and death as well.

If you are looking to learn the works of these philosophers in an intellectual way, this is not the book for you. This book is meant to absorb the ideas they upheld in a more spiritual feeling way. I wish this book had been published before I got married, I would have looked for a passage from it to read at my wedding. I could see reading it at a funeral, there really is something cathartic about having grief and death and moving on with life written in this way.

I feel in some ways as an Atheist this may have been what I was missing and didn't realize it. I didn't have anything to help me find a way to feel good about my place in nature's greater story, I just felt the absence of the belief in an afterlife. I also feel like this is a book I could read to my kids to help them figure out how to be a good person in a world which is not always good and in which you cannot rely on a all powerful being to save you from your problems. The language is flowery and poetic, but its also much more accessible than say Kant's Metaphysics of Morals. I minored in philosophy in college, I'm by no means an expert, but I have read some of these works and they are by no means easy to absorb.

So, I think for what this book is trying to accomplish, what it says it is in the description, it is a great work.
258 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free your mind April 3 2011
By Kate Perez - Published on
What ever your religious outlook, even if you do not have one, I can recommend this genuinely wonderful and wise book to add to your library. Grayling has taken his whole life of learning and crafted it into a beautiful and uplifting, humanist and athiest, book of wide wisdom. It is the sort of book that you can read from cover to cover, and become totally engrossed, or you can take any page, chosen at random, and derive great food for thought from it. Grayling crafted his language like music and it reads like a fresh flowing mountain river. I do think that this book will be around for a few more thousand years.
85 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A box of gems to open and discover every day...and to read to your kids! April 12 2011
By Sean P. Cooper - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is absolutely fantastic! Last night I stayed up with my 10 year old daughter and my 7 year old boy reading the Parables chapter - the story of the leopard and fox. They couldn't get enough of it. I read untill I was horse and they wanted more. I had to cut it off and go to bed however after I put them to bed I read it under my covers to not wake my wife. Honestly I can't put it down and I can't wait till I get off work today so I can go home and read it. Thank you AC Grayling!

Regarding the criticism of the lack of footnotes - valid point, at first I was a bit disappointed that there were no sitations of the author, however I think I am actually glad he didn't put them in because it truly would be a distraction for me. I could see myself not focusing on the passage and become more concerned about who wrote what. Then I'd have to go look it up, etc. It seems a bit more pure this way with only the wisdom and poetry to focus on. I bought 4 copies for friends and family. I treasure this text like a box of gems to open and discover every day. I'm lucky to have found out about it and yes it is far superior and a lot less scary than the original.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Temper your expectations Nov. 18 2012
By E. Raslich - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are a lot of reviews on here less than 5 stars. Carefully read some before you pass this book over. A.C. Grayling has produced a timeless work worthy of the highest esteem. Some descriptions make this sound like an anthology, a refutation of the bible, or worse. It is none of the above. It is painstakingly crafted, beautifully laid out on the page, and an immense volume that you will enjoy for a long time. I found myself pondering passages carefully. They are written in beautiful prose sometimes and clever rhymes at others. There are quotes within quotes within stories told be sages, and voices from unknown and unidentifiable speakers.
Others say dense, I say full of subtleties.
Others say hard to read, I say filled with english of the highest degree.
Others say devoid of references, I say the knowledge is timeless.

Do not delve into this looking to have atheistic beliefs reinforced, passages by ancient authors quoted, summarized, and referenced, or to have science presented as a refutation to the biblical history of the world. This is a work that should be taken wholly unto itself. Enjoy.
402 of 465 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read April 4 2011
By Kingdom Come - Published on
Following on the heels of "Moral Landscape" (not in the "Dawkins Delusion" pathetic flea way, but in the happy coincidence way), a book that helps Humanism, Free-thought, atheism, of just plain irreligious secularism to inspire people to be human.

I never found the Christian Bible to be of any value. The writing is poor quality, with only a few memorable lines in the whole vile volume of bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and feces obsessions. The Jewish and Muslim versions started or continued that same trashy series. The Mahabharata is no better, though the unintelligible and incoherent mess of characters makes that book more confusing than revolting.

Here is a book I am not afraid to let my child read. No stories about daughters banging their drunk dad. No stories about sacrificing unnamed daughters to some god. No cooking food over dung. No genocide. No deaths of all first born sons. No promises of cured illnesses. No appeals to an end of the universe. No masochistic gods having themselves beaten so they can become a zombie. Nope. Just a clean book of good thoughts. Probably the book they would have written 3000 years ago if they weren't ignorant, warmongering, polygamous, and genocidal tyrant sheep herders too busy laying siege to their "promised land" to give a hoot about kindness or charity.
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