November 30, 2008

Book reviews: Urban Soul Warrior (Lalania Simone) and Creating Peace By Being Peace: The Essene Sevenfold Path (Rebbe Gabriel Cousens)


I love working for Elephant Journal.  I do.  One of the coolest parts of my job is getting to read some pretty great books.  However, not every book is created equal, and unfortunately, these two books aren’t exactly gems in the collection.

To be frank, Urban Soul Warrior didn’t start off well for me.  I’m getting a bit tired of the co-opting of images of the Buddha, whether it’s climbing holds or book covers.  Initially I was drawn by the cover and thought perhaps that the book would address living a more mindful life in the midst of urban chaos.  Aside from the meditations (which are apparently optional if you just don’t dig meditation), there really isn’t anything Buddhist about the book.  Instead, the book is filled with the stereotypical “affirmations” found in just about any and every other self-help book out there, including a love letter to write… to myself.  Umm… what?  No, I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.  The intent is good, but this book just didn’t do anything for me.

Creating Peace By Being Peace: The Sevenfold Essene Path is the eighth book from Rebbe Gabriel Cousens and is another book of good intentions that just didn’t end up appealing to where I am.  The book portrays itself as part history, part spiritual guidance, but the author’s intentional choice to not cite documentation of his “facts,’ defending his choice by stating that “the ideas are more important than the supported ‘hard-fact’ evidence,” causes the whole book to become suspect, particularly since Cousens attempts to use God and the Essene culture to push vegetarianism on the reader.  His message of peace is most certainly valid, but his constant speaking in the third person and beginning each chapter with pictures of himself looking beatific smacks of vanity in the most irritating sense of the word.

In short, both books most definitely have the absolute best of intentions, and for that, the authors get my appreciation and respect. Unfortunately, along the way the execution interfered with the message, and I found myself disappointed in both books.  Urban Soul Warrior is from Soft Skull Press; Creating Peace By Being Peace is from North Atlantic Books.  Both can be picked up at your local, independent bookseller.

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