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West of Jesus

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  584 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
After spending two years in bed with Lyme disease, Steven Kotler had lost everything: his health, his job, his girl, and, he was beginning to suspect, his mind. Kotler, not a religious man, suddenly found himself drawn to the sport of surfing as if it were the cornerstone of a new faith. Why, he wondered, when there was nothing left to believe in, could he begin to believe ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published June 13th 2006)
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Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw the title of this book, I thought that Kotler was taking on too much. Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief? Quite a bit to chew on. But then again, Kotler has had a ton of life experience (he describes his recovery from Lime disease in this book), is really smart, and surprisingly, he ties it all together in this book with grace, wit, and some impressive prose. I really enjoyed it, notably his attempt to recreate (through a little-known surf myth) how religions and mythologies ...more
Dec 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jane by: matt
Kotler covers a lot of ground which was new and interesting in many ways.. I particularly liked getting a sense of the physics of surfing which I still think is somehow not humanly possible. I am intrigued by his explanation of our need for mythos and the startling info on the similarity of our myths v. logos in our dna, I guess. The search for belief to match our needs is kind of disappointing, why is it that we are so blind to this side of us? The evidence- as he details it- is so broad and vi ...more
Mar 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm certain it has alot to do with where I am in my personal life, but this is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. It takes on the three topics I would never bring up at a dinner table: surfing (at least one person will question your sanity), religion, and science. It is a novel that I would recommend to everyone and anyone. However, if you've spent any extended amount of time on a board (or fighting the forces of nature by any means), this is me :::shoving the book in your face ...more
Ann M
Jun 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophers, extreme sports types
Shelves: nonfiction
It's a good book, gets somewhat dry 1/2 way in, but he's done a lot of research and he writes well. The first half had five stars, the second half dropped to four. I'm also not that interested in why surfing (he says) produces more mystical experiences than, say, snowboarding. But those are small complaints. This is a great book, but could have used some better copyediting as well as proofreading. There are sentences in the second half that just do not make sense.

It bugs me that for $13.95 they
Dec 23, 2006 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: surfers/philosophers
Very esoteric story about a man with lyme disease and his decision to put his life on hold in search of the cultural origins of a mythical being capable of controlling waves.

Starts of great as he details his sickness and how surfing has helped him both physically and mentally, but the book really slows down as he starts his search for "the conductor"

If you are into the cultural aspects of surfing, and its existence as a lifestyle and a state of mind rather than just a sport, check this book out
Beach Bum
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title has no real basis in the book. After suffering with Lime disease for years the author set out on a quest to find the origin of the surfing legend of the "Conductor" who can control the ocean. While surfing very exotic locations, meeting all sorts of great people, and discovering a lot about himself he writes about the universe, spirituality, and Humanity's place in the greater scheme of all things. No bible thumping ever appears in this book.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: skaters/surfers/adrenaline smokers
Recommended to Jordan by: NPR?
It had its moments, and there are parts that I really agree with, that really inspire me, or at least present ideas I want to explore, but as a whole, it's kind of a pointless book. I wouldn't take that to mean that you, dear reader, shouldn't check it out. It's just that it's like sudoku: it's fun while you do it, but don't expect me to talk about it on Saturday.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steven Kotler is a spiritual, surfing Jon Krakauer, meaning that he is not afraid to admit he is at a dead-end, on a precipice, and in need of assistance. Then, generously, he takes us on a journey. Steven's Lymes disease is ultimately his spiritual evolution. Even without the humility of disease, how could one surf and not contemplate the divine? How could one surf and not be led to consideration of the spiritual? Indeed, if we are among those who are daily not hit by buses, by cancer, by hatre ...more
Mary Ann
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“West of Jesus” explains the spiritual effects of surfing, bungee jumping and high diving. Does one need to be an athlete? No. One can lose oneself in music, dancing and a hundred other things. Spiritual experiences occur in a variety of ways. Evidence exists that near-death experiences, which, of course, are very spiritual, are similar to GLOC, the 12 to 24 minutes of unconsciousness suffered by jet pilots during acceleration.
Kotler begins searching for the origins of a tale about the Conductor
Jess Kogel
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably one of the most enlightening books I read which in turn opened reading back up to me. I hit a stumbling block in college because of my lack of time to read and I read this to and from my plane ride to Texas to see my mother as well as lying on the beach in Rockport Texas where my mother lives.

It really had an effect on me and I think more so because I experienced things in life which if I read this book in HS, I wouldn't have gotten it.

I feel this book is a must read for an surfer and m
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it on a plane trip from Boston to Bahrain. The time in the air was more than enough to complete the book. While I am not a person of faith, the closest I've come to any "spiritual" experience is when I surf, and Kotler attempts to explain this spiritual "state" and the creation of belief systems through science. In the time since reading it I've never taken the time to look into/check the veracity the sciences he uses to explain these, but having "been there" on a board and spending much of ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this book to many people for many different reasons. It's a book about surfing, about the search for spirituality, about the connection between the body and the mind. The author easily walks the line between science and spirituality- very facinating stuff. Truly a great memoir to read. And it added to my long-time desire to become a surfer:)
Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not just a book for surfers. The author deals with depression and illness and delves into surfing and the quest to discover what about surfing makes it so different. He looks at spirituality in a super interesting way, by researching cool studies and stories and portraying it in a relatively unbiased way. Thanks to Gabe for recommending this and shipping it to me in Zambia.
Kerry Brewer
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: surfing lovers
Anyone who loves surfing knows that there is some great force acting on your out in the water. This book brings together ideas of spirituality, nature, and how we interact with it (through activities such as surfing)
Daniel Bigott
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captivating, and inspiring, in more than one field.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I made my first attempt at surfing during our recent vacation to Hawaii, so I thought this book might be a good beach read. Boy - what a mistake it was to spend any time with this book.

First of all - the writing is just terrible. This point alone should explain why the author Steven Kotler has repeatedly failed in his career attempts as an independent journalist.

As a foundation for the book, Kotler begins by describing how he has washed-out from society, and how he uses surfing as a self-rehabil
Jun 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a person that dreams of spending more time on a board in the water but lacking the time and the skills, I approached this book hoping to be coaxed into finding the time to develop the skills and just get in the water.

Instead, I found an interesting book about the neuroscience of "being in the zone" that moment when you are completely enveloped in a dangerous activity where "now" is all there is. He explains why it's addicting and why it's been a part of human spirituality since time began
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am still reading this! (I tried putting it on my currently reading list, not sure how to do that. apparently!) But I have been reading it slowly in bits because I enjoy it and don't want it to end.

In a paragraph describing how air pressure makes wind, and then wind creates waves, and then waves ripple and catch more wind and become bigger and travel across the ocean's surface, he finally ends with this thought:

"When I heard the roar of that wave behind me at Nusa Dua, what I was actually hear
Oct 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most certainly if you are a surfer you will enjoy the descriptions and story parts of this book. I suppose someone more attuned to "riding the waves" than I would have appreciated the authors attempt to connect to a belief system, however.....for me it was a boring and ill-fated try.

I did like learning about what makes a wave one that people travel the world to surf. That has always been a curiosity to me having a brother-in-law who is one such person.
Luca Rossetto
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exciting journey through the best spots in the world in search of the mystical roots of surfing.
Like every mystical search, the book becomes deeper the closer it come to the answer of the quest, what is the origin of belief?
Kotler's powerful narration leaves with you an incredible desire to take a surfboard and to throw into the waves, even if you live near a hopeless-flat-part of the Mediterranean sea!
lisa church
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
don't let jesus in the title scare you away. very interesting story about guy who loses everything after a long battle with lyme disease and finds his way through surfing. it's really not a surf story, either. he searches for three years for legendary Conductor (legend is this man controls the surf with a baton made of bone. smart, well written. history, philosophy, a little of a lot of things.
Chris Cusick
Possibly the most anti-climactic travel story ever written. I get that this is a journey of discovery, and for the better part of the book, I was right there with the author, his highs, his lows, and philosophical musings. It all seemed to work... initially. But when it became evident that the discovery on which the story depends would not be made, I couldn't help but feel cheated. I'm never getting those hours of my life back...
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little scattered, but there's some interesting stuff in there. The best info is about biological explanations for why people consider surfing (and other nature/action/danger sports) a spiritual experience. He does a good job of not using science to dismiss the spiritual aspect, but rather to give it a physical basis.

Not the best-organized book and I was definitely frustrated with it at times, but if you're interested in the subject it's worth a quick read.
An interesting biography of a man finding himself through surfing and, more importantly, finding the origin of a surf legend.
This was recommended to me by an intern three years ago and I finally got around to reading it. An interesting premise and well-written. I don't know that much about surfing and this didn't really grab me. But an okay read and an interesting addition to the collection of spiritual-type books that I've been reading lately.
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great stuff, ideas and concepts Both spiritually and humanly perspective, but some ideas not so novel or original. Nice surfing discussins and getting in the head of the pathology of surfing, but the book ended quickly without much of a bang. The writting is not so spectactular, but neithr is mine.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worth-reading
I read this book when I had just started surfing. However, I picked it up because the premise sounded interesting, and Amazon recommended it after I had read all the J Marteen Troost books.

I don't really need to describe the book. The title says it all, but its part surfing adventure, part personal journey and part interesting philosphy.
Tom Aciukewicz
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very nice book weaving a surfing myth with introductory neuroscience reporting about how humans percieve religious thought and the idea of flow...ingenious and inventive, it helped me appreciate how I'm trapped in my mind but there are windows out from which i can experience the world and all of life.
Christopher Rex
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever wondered about why people become addicted to surfing, this is a great place to start. Told by an ex-surfer bed-ridden with Lyme Disease who decides to try find some new meaning by returning to the sport he forgot. Told partially as a travelogue it is the science & spirituality of stoke. Funny & interesting.
Nov 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book. I was intrigued and happy with the story line as well as the details. I greatly appreciated how well read Steven Kotler was and the many references that he made to videos, authors and books.

If you enjoy critical literary theory and a story of travel and adventure this would be great read to pick up.
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
Several stories about sport, illness and spirituality that don't really tie together. The most interesting part of this book was a look into the chemical v. spiritual aspects of why surfing and other extreme sports are so addicting.
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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His articles have appeared in ...more
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