Today’s book review is another reference-type book – with a clever title and interesting conceit. My review copy of How to Pick a Religion was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading.com, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on March 7 (available here).
How to Pick a Religion
I am weird I guess, because I enjoy reading/reviewing reference books. Not dictionaries or how-to guides, but self-proclaimed reference books aimed at helping regular people make regular decisions (like how to tip, how to evaluate the literary canon, etc.). I also enjoy reviewing snarky things (which so many of those self-proclaimed reference-type books often are). So imagine my excitement when I saw today’s book on the LuxuryReading.com book review list!
“How to Pick a Religion: A Consumer’s Guide.” What a great title. And the jacket blurb is even better: “entertaining yet factual consumer guide… a no-nonsense cost-benefit analysis of your religious options… help you find the best religion for you, to secure a place in the next life, while still making the most of this one.”
Teehee. Sounds delightful, no, with tremendous snark-potential? I thought so too. Alas, alack – not so much.
In truth, I felt that the book offered much more on the factual side than on the entertainment side. Which is perfectly fine and useful and all that, but not exactly what I was expecting. It is organized by the elements of life (money, sex, food, worship and contemplation, death and the afterlife), and compares the relevant dogma of the major world’s religions on each of those elements. It is, quite literally, organized like a consumer’s guide to buying a television or new car.
Which, when I think about it, IS kind of snarky. Just not the way I envisioned.
The writing style is educational, informative, and pleasantly enjoyable. The organization is clever and useful. I originally thought it was intended to be a funny book that offered some information. After reading it, I believe it’s quite the opposite. This really is intended to be a consumer’s guide to making a decision on the deeply divisive, controversial, and extraordinarily personal issue of religious belief.
The author, Trevor Barnes, is omnipresent but rather mysterious (teehee, draw your own parallels there, readers of a book on religion) – there is no author photograph or biographical blurb. I googled him, and still don’t know a thing about him (other than that he has published a number of other books) – so perhaps the mystery is intentional. Regardless, he has compiled a rather handy-dandy guide to the major world religions and seems to genuinely want to help people find a religion that is right for them.
It was not quite the book I thought it would be. But if you’re looking for a Theology 101 or Comparative Religions 102 overview – or to actually pick a religion – then this is a great place to start.