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4.1 out of 5 stars686
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on December 5, 2003
Before ever reading Quinn's work, I had already heard much gushing about it. Being the uber-liberal that I am, it seemed likely that this book would fit me like a handtailored suit.
But this is not the case. The thing is, Quinn makes a lot of interesting points and often times in very novel ways. But even as such there is a degree of ease and glossiness to his opinions that the issues he covers do not deserve.
Analogy is the main method of myopia here (mine of course, is aliteration) and this maybe a primary selling point, and failing, of the book. It is important to note that analogy is an extremely good way of getting ones point across, but not as good away of shedding optimum light on complicated subjects.
With Quinn, some pretty complex stuff gets boiled down to some pretty simple (yet beautiful) stories. And this is where Quinn loses me. I think he is on the right track more often then not here, but sometimes he can't see the forst for the trees. This is ironic because this a very large point made in the book.
I suggest reading Ishmael, but remember that a good reader should act as a filter, not a sponge.
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on July 11, 2004
Great novels, even those written with an overt political agenda in mind, capture the emotions and imagination of the reader. By doing so, they are able to win over the hearts and minds of believers and skeptics alike. Judging Ishmael by this standard, I can conclusively say that Ishmael is not a great novel in fact it barely passes as a novel at all. At best Ishmael is an intriguing lecture loosely disguised as a novel. At worse it is pure simple-minded propaganda. The overall premise of the book, that the world is not Man's domain but rather Man is just one member of the earth family, is an important message that should be embraced by society. Nevertheless, just because a novel is based on a solid or noble premise does not make that particular novel noteworthy or even relevant. Ishmael, does not posses compelling characters or a captivating story. It's dialogue, is dry and even at times mind numbing. The arguments and ideas that the author puts forth lack credibility because Ishmael essentially ignores alternative perspectives and counter-arguments. (I believe that is due in large part to the fact that many of the arguments put forth in Ishmael would shrivel up and die when exposed to even basic intellectual scrutiny. See the recently published "Empty Cradle" by Phillip Longman.) It saddens me to see so many reviews raving about this "life changing" book. In my opinion it is a testament, not to the quality of Ishmael, but rather how susceptible we are to propaganda either due to naivety or due to prejudices and assumptions already deeply imbedded in the mind of the reader. I would not recommend this book to anyone. There are far too many great novels out there waiting to be read to waste your time with this book. Not to mention that there are far better ways to educate oneself about the environment and Man's great responsibility as caretaker of the earth. When truth is on your side there is no need to use propaganda to convince your audience to join your cause.
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on March 28, 2004
Aren't we a magnificent genius, Mr. Quinn? ! While Ishmael may wow naive college students, anyone who is at least marginally introspective has probably already discovered the ultimate moral of this novel on their own. And since the whole book only exists for this one conclusion, there is no real reason to read it.
Quinn sounds like he comes from the same soap-boxing style that Ayn Rand likes so much-- you'll discover the life lesson in the first few chapters, then drag through several dozen more only to discover Quinn has the same moral as an episode of Captain Planet.
To be fair, he does have an interesting explanation for the origin of the Adam and Eve myth. But that is hardly worth suffering through the rest of this plotless dialogue.
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on October 20, 2006
I read this book because other reviews and overviews indicated that this book was in line with what I already knew. It gets extremely lonely fighting everyone around you, so I just wanted to make sure I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Still the book taught me some things. I couldn't put it down. It's a very short book (took me less than 12 hours), linear plot, though it can be hard to follow who is speaking sometimes. The analogies work. The logic is sound. The protagonist was very easy for me to identify with.

The only thing I can say to people who didn't like this book, is that they did not understand it.
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on July 3, 2014
so gooooodddd
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on February 11, 1999
Jsut Read It
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on June 22, 2004
as i say in my other reviews, i'm not a scholarly bookworm type of person. i read books for the heck of it. i don't read it to impress anybody or to portray an intellectual self or none of that madness. so here are my bullet points:
1. this book is profound in all ways possible. quinn does not come off w/far fetched concepts like other philosophers. what is amazing about ishmael is that it just restates the obvious. it uses tangible examples.
2. tangibility. you do not have to stretch your imagination to grasp his ideas. he simply makes you look at things from an outside perspective. things that already exist!!! it's great.
3. he has the same ideologies and mindsets as me. marx, durkheim, etc.
4. the story if b is a must read if you like ishmael. in all honesty, i like the story of b more.
5. this book does not drag! it took me a week to read it. that's fast considering that my days are filled w/boozing, barhopping, going to the beach, and spending time w/my beautiful girlfriend.
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on April 9, 2003
I think that Ishmael was a story that could have been summed up in maybe 20 pages, but was elongated into a couple hundred. I would have given it zero stars, but that wasn't one of the options. It was about a talking gorilla, a gorilla that is smarter than most humans are. The gorillas name was Ishmael, and he had opinions about the world; that evolution was not supposed to stop with man. I completely disagree with this though, i believe that god created man to live in this world how he wanted to. Ishmael kept talking about how man took living into his own hands and out of the gods, but I disagree with this also. This story was also really boring. It lacked action completely, the whole thing was almost completely dialogue. I could barely pay attention to what the book was about, i found my mind wandering all the time. The idea of a gorilla talking throughout the entire book made me so tired and bored. I know a lot of people disagree with my opinion, but that is what i think of it. I think this book is unnecessary to read, I didn't get anything out of it except a sore [backside].
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on July 18, 2004
I read this book in one day. It is good. See for yourself. So now everyone can stop fussin. I cleared it all up. Next stop, Melville....
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on November 12, 2003
In my opinion this book is a philosophical piece of crap and if being taught the deeper meanings in life by a gorilla is your cup of tea, then by all means enjoy. However I did not enjoy this book. Throughout the book I feel as if Daniel Quinn is just babbling on about what is wrong with the world today, but he offers no solution. Not only did I not agree with many points in the book, but I found it also to be a very boring read with almost no action at all. Most of the book is dialogue between a man and a gorilla. I found the main point of the book to be that humans are on a path to self destruction and that we keep trying to fix it but keep messing up. The importance of the gorilla is so that we can see things through a different perspective. This is the only book that I have read by Quinn but after reading this book I take him to be a nature lover. Some people may call this stereotyping but I believe people who think that anything else on this earth is equal to man is dad wrong. Are we supposed to run amuck on this planet and cause chaos and conquer it? The answer to that is no, I am not saying to go and kill every animal in sight but if one species becomes extinct on a remote island then who cares. Some people do care and see this is a big problem. I however cannot relate to this at all, seeing as how this species would never relate to me and the world is neither a better nor worse place without it. There are some life forms on this earth that are just to exist whether they have a purpose or not. God put man here to be stewards of this planet but we cannot always walk on egg shells. Man is the supreme being and if some animals have to die in order for us to live then that is the cost that must be paid. My review of this book would be that it's point is totally helpless and on top of that is an extermely boring read. I would give this book zero stars based on those two points. If Quinn wanted to do something to help the world he could have just never wrote the book that caused so many trees to die. If you enjoy animals to a very extreme extent and see yourself as an equal to a jellyfish then this is the book for you, but if this is not you, then stay very far away.
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