This book is a series of conversations between a Western (American, IIRC) psychiatrist and the 14th Dalai Lama. Eminently compassionate, this book off...moreThis book is a series of conversations between a Western (American, IIRC) psychiatrist and the 14th Dalai Lama. Eminently compassionate, this book offers practical advise on how to lessen the suffering in ones life experiences. Such advise could be characterized as something like "Tibetan Buddhist cognitive psychology". This work is refresingly free of religious dogmatism, simply sticking to general advise from Mr. Tenzen Gyotso. The book does an admirable job of giving the reader an idea of the attitude and personality of the Dalai Lama. (less)
This book is the incredible autobiographical account of a remarkable and beautiful Somali rationalist. Born to humble origins in Somalia, she eventual...moreThis book is the incredible autobiographical account of a remarkable and beautiful Somali rationalist. Born to humble origins in Somalia, she eventually rises to become a member of Dutch Parliament. It was interesting learning about the cultural differences between the various places Ayaan lived during her childhood, of the clan based Islam in Somalia, the more layed back system in Kenya, and the Sharia in Saudi Arabia. She experiences culture shock when she moves to Europe, and eventually abandons her religious views. This is a story of what its like for an immigrant from the 3rd world to move to a wealthy country, a rags to riches story, a story of abandoning the darnkess of religious faith for the light of reason, and a struggle for free expression and women's rights. The problems of multiculturalism and crass relativism are brought to bear.
Given that her genitals were mutilated as a child and that she lives constantly under the threat of assassination, I was expecting such bitter rancor and condemnation of Islam that Christopher Hitchens would seem like a pusilanimous wimp by comparison. What I found was a remarkably restrained and mild-tempered treatment of the subject matter. While Ayaan describes how she was feeling during the time of the events described, she never deviates from a style of cool tempered equanimity in her writing. Remarkable when you consider the heavy shit that this poor woman had to go through, and not just regular heavy shit, AFRICAN heavy shit, which is way worse than regular old heavy shit. (less)