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The Good Book: A Humanist Bible

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  816 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A book of extraordinary audacity from a remarkable thinker--a secular bible drawn from the wisdom and humanity in the world's great literature.

The Good Book is an inspired work of insight, wisdom, solace, and commentary on the human condition drawn from the world's great humanist traditions of thought and literature, Western and Easter alike. Consciously following the
Hardcover, First US Edition, 597 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Walker Books
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Collin Duncan
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book off and on for the past 6 months I decided to start my first read through of it. I have to say that this book is one of the few that has gotten me incredibly exited and profoundly changed my outlook on life for the better.

I am forever the cynic, a complete pessimist. I often tend to gravitate toward literature, statistics, and news that just reinforces my belief that humanity is utterly flawed and completely horrible to the core. Consequently, it was refreshing to read
Preston Page
Apr 14, 2011 is currently reading it
This 700 page book is written in the same format as the Bible with the modern numbering of sections of the bible. While the title listed in the add is "The Good Book: A Secular Bible," The title appearing on my copies are, "The Good Book: A Humanist Bible." The author states his reasons for the book in the first section of the book entitled, Epistle to the Reader. He states in this epistle that the reader, becomes more than they were before, and that none should come to harm.

The books chapters
Al Bità
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
In a sense this book is a kind of benchmark. It encapsulates many excellent examples of secular norms and values which could very well stand for true and excellent human values suitable for any walk of life, without succumbing to the usually more punitive values espoused by many religions. Grayling's sources are many and varied, and global in their extent. There are no gods here, nor angels and/or demons: just human beings, offering advice and interpretations about our human existence and how to ...more
Jennifer Johnson
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As the book is structured like The Bible, this may take me a while to read, but I'm enjoying the eloquent language and mediations on life and wisdom I have read thus far. A couple verses I particularly appreciated are:

"The wise would rather be least among the best than first among the worst: As they have said, be rather a tail to a lion than a head to a jackal."

"Passion may offer a quickened sense of life, may give the ecstasy and the sorrow of love...Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the
Dec 08, 2012 is currently reading it
A philosophy mash up. I don't mind the scripture feel, however, not knowing who said what, when, and under what historical context, is slightly annoying. Also happens to be one of my complaints about religious scripture.

Thus far, at Lamentations. I am enjoying the writing with one caveat. From my personal point of view, with a rewrite, it would be nice to have less male centric vocabulary. It is already being taken out of context and distanced from its authors, why not update the language to be
Thomas Quinn
Apr 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
A.C. Grayling tries exhaustively to bring biblical richness to the cause of secular philosophy--a laudable goal. But even to this skeptic, his book is dry and sleep-inducing. It's too self-consciously biblical in flavor and structure, and it uses tales from ancient Athens as moral fables akin to those in the Old Testament. Even chapter headings have names like "Genesis, Wisdom, Parables, Lamentations, Proverbs", etc. I liked perusing through the Proverbs. But the overall project, despite it's ...more
I've only read the first few pages so far (Genesis) and the description of how things began (scientifically) is awesome. Highly recommended.
Bastiaan Koster
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
The current meaning of a "Bible" is "the handbook of life". Your life would change for the better after reading and studying the Bible. At many points, the Tenach and Christian scriptures have failed at being a Bible. Therefore, I think a new version is needed.

Compared to the original Bible, this book is a serious upgrade. I'm glad I bought it.

However, The Good Book isn't perfect. There are issues with it.

It is written in the style of the Bible and other classical texts. This is a style
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Haven't read all of it but skipped around and read a ton on my roadtrip this weekend. Loving it a lot. The parables are fantastic, as are the proverbs.
Hiram Crespo
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: philosophers
Its difficult to do a fair and complete review of a book that will likely take a lifetime to read and is not meant to be read in one sitting or within one week or one month even. But the Good Book deserves some attention, as it constitutes a modern attempt to produce a scripture that fits within naturalist philosophy and, in some ways, continues the work of Epicurus, Lucretius and other great philosophers of antiquity.

The basic idea of the Good Book is that it celebrates the format of scripture
May 21, 2011 rated it liked it
The Good Book: a secular Bible

AC Grayling

Reviewed By Lloyd Geering | Published NZ Listener on June 27, 2011

By accident, I recently heard AC Grayling being interviewed on Radio New Zealand Nationals Saturday Morning with Kim Hill. Grayling holds a chair of philosophy at Birkbeck College in London and is president of the British Humanist Association. I warmed to what he said because I agree with his assertion that the humanist tradition has a long, widespread and noble history. To demonstrate
May 05, 2011 is currently reading it
This is a great book to have on your bedside table. It'll probably take me a long time to finish this as I rather prefer to jump around different parts of it every now and then. I found a number of editing errors too (e.g. spelling, numbering), which I hope would be corrected in future editions.

During one Q&A session (here:, a guy asked whether he could read the Christian bible side-by-side along with this book... Well, of course you can! While
Jan 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
A rather bland compendium of decontextualised and deliberately unreferenced quotations and platitudes with pretentions to providing a kind of alternative 'bible' for atheists of the British liberal ilk. As a collection of what the author claims to be great 'non-religious' wisdom of the ages (with a strong preponderance of Ancient Greek and Roman material) it is pretty dull and ordinary. A demonstration that historical context is of the essence.
P.M. Bradshaw
Dec 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
I did not like it. To write an alternative to the Bible, and then write it in a pretentious bible-like format seemed self-defeating from the get-go.

Is Mr. Grayling intelligent?
Is he well-versed in literature?
Is this book too long and boring?

There are many, many books on Humanism.
This is not one I would suggest to people.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well there is some really good stuff in it, but also a lot of Greek and Roman history. There are other books which describe it more in depth, and makes you feel the book is "all over the place", which to me blurred the useful lessons a bit
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It was indeed a good book. As with the Bible, I read it in stages. I now keep it nearby for reference. It has much to offer for words on any subject, with an ethos that I can embrace.
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book to read for a mediation. Grayling is considered the velvet atheist.
Block Beard
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful resource. I'll be returning to it again and again.
R Nair
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The book is structured to mimic the Judeo-Christian Bible in style and language. This although a laudable effort, especially considering the richness of text used to replicate the scriptures in a secular format, also makes it difficult to follow at times. Additionally the lack of footnotes and references might be frustrating if the text is seen as a scholarly effort. However, once the book is read simply for the sheer pleasure of reading philosophy without worrying about where the ideas have ...more
Eric Wurm
Feb 24, 2013 rated it liked it
I expected this book to be a humanist book that provided a guide for living. It is that, but in Biblical form. It has parables and historical narratives like the Bible. If you're looking for a book in Biblical form, this is for you.

This book is exactly what it says it is, a Humanist bible. A.C.Grayling has produced much better works and I view him as a great philosophical writer. This book mirrors in form the writing in the Bible, and it drones on as such. I would rather have the author have
Ian Pollock
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have been pecking away at this for some time. It's certainly polarizing for its intended audience, but I liked it a great deal. Essentially, it presents lessons from the ancient world woven together by theme. The readings are heavy on Greece, China & Rome. For those who enjoy such an aesthetic, a marvelous book.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I heard an interview with Grayling on the radio and the book sounded great. Was disappointed to find that it's not an anthology of the sources but essentially a ground up rewrite, with no references back to the originals. Sorry I didn't get it out from the library first before buying it.
Paulo Adalberto Reimann
Sep 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Feels like the book has no continuance. Boring, complex, unexplained, cocky. I am not criticizing if it is all about atheist or not. The book is boring. Period.
Doram Jacoby
Nov 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
I haven't actually finished this book but have read a number of chapters (around 10%).
As a humanist I was hoping to connect with this book but, despite being very clever and with lots of interesting points, I found the book itself extremely boring and it felt forced, pretentious and condescending.

Regretfully, I will not recommend it to anyone as there are much more interesting books on the subject of Humanism.
Cathy Drolet
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this and there are some very nice sections. Unfortunately, there is a nearly 200-page section called "Histories" that could put an insomniac to sleep. I also would like some sources. "...over a thousand texts by several hundred authors..." Well, who the heck were they and why didn't you put their names by their writings?

While I find parts of it interesting I really wouldn't recommend it.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Interesting and pretty enjoyable. It's written in a way which more or less parallels the sections of the Bible, but without any actual divine influences. Good stuff, for sure, but a little contrived. Pretty much everything that's in here is already in other sources (the author LOVES parables and Greek philosophers), so why set it out as a Bible for those who don't want a Bible?
William Schram
Sep 05, 2020 rated it liked it
The Good Book is a distillation of wisdom over the centuries. The only section where I knew the author was the Histories chapter since they took that entirely from Herodotus.

So I would have liked the book more if they included the original authors, but that would have changed the style of the book. I understand what the author was trying to do.
Kylie Abecca
Sep 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Very deceiving title. Basically a choppy out of order history book filled with opinionated viewpoints. Very difficult to follow as its all over the place. One of the worst reads Ive endured tbh. Really not my sort of book. ...more
Roger Paine
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The chapter "Histories" is inspiring and memorable
Cass Danz
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I liked the idea behind the book. Just wasn't a great read. Probably like most bible like books
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Goodreads Librari...: please combine editions of AC Grayling book 7 18 Jun 13, 2017 02:53AM  

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Anthony Clifford "A. C." Grayling is a British philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991. He is also a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.

He is a director and contributor at

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