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The Book Against God

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  213 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Thomas Bunting, charming, chaotic, and deeply untruthful, is in despair. His marriage is disintegrating, and his academic career is in ruins: instead of completing his philosophy PhD, he is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork, a vast atheistic project he has privately entitled 'The Book Against God'.

But when his father is suddenly taken ill Thomas returns
Published (first published June 23rd 2003)
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May 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No one really likes this book except for my father and myself, but I'm quite fervent about it. It's a serious and funny book, and if you happen to find the perambulations of middle-aged British pseudo-Anglican religion-drowned atheists engaging, it's for you.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found the protagonist inaccessible and the prose too studious to be enjoyed. It simply didn't work for me on any level.
Jan 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After slogging through this point, I still don't know what the point was.
Martin Spellman
James Wood has had an enviable career learning how to appreciate books and then reading and writing about them for a living: Durham Cathedral School, Eton College, Cambridge Uni, Chief Literary Critic of the Guardian, Senior Editor at the New Republic in Washington DC, currently staff writer at the New Yorker and he is only 47. But he basically always writes about himself and the academic/journalistic world he lives in. If only I could take my experience banging and bending two-motion selectors ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Wood is probably as successful as a "literary critic" gets having become a staff writer for the New Yorker, and released a few well-received books of essays. The Book Against God is the Brit's only novel and it kind of reads like it's written by someone who has studied the craft of literature very, very hard. While not quite laborious, Wood's prose is certainly studious, and his story of an intellectual failure struggling to come out from his father's shadow hearkens back to the comedies o ...more
Thomas Bunting, the main character of James Wood's novel, is a compulsive liar, self-absorbed sponge and the epitome of arrested development. His reason for being, apart from smoking, drinking and lying around idly, seems to be to build a case against God that also is a case against his father, a parish priest. Woods' book is entertaining and quite funny in places, but it's really a story about love and redemption/loss in the end. It's also a reflection about untruths:

"We can't schedule the cons
The American Conservative
'This novel is an unexpected delight. The Book Against God reads almost as if Evelyn Waugh were alive again, and had decided to write in his graceful, fluid prose about one of Walker Percy’s heroes: the distracted, contemporary sons of comfort whose search for religious meaning is indirect, halting, and thoroughly believable. Wood speaks in the voice of Thomas Bunting, a youngish, intellectual skeptic religiously obsessed with disproving the existence of God. Bunting is not a conventional unbeli ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'll begin by saying I really enjoyed this book. I found it generally amusing and quite funny at points. I can't say I was incredibly attached to the characters, but the basic plot line was well done. What makes this book better than an "amusing read," in my opinion, is how it goes beyond simply being funny or being a novel of ideas. There are complexities within the simplicities. First of all, it's a book by an atheist in which the protagonist, an atheist, is writing a book "against God," i.e. ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
A hard book to assess from the wise and articulate book critic for The New Republic. Preoccupied with religion & religious arguments (mostly against), with quite a bit about music as well (the main character's wife is a professional pianist), by one of my favorite critics, it's a book that ought to have been intensely interesting. Unfortunately, the main character is so incredibly (and I use this much overused--& misused--word advisedly) selfish & immature that it was hard to care mu ...more
I wish Wood considered himself a writer of fiction, rather than a ccritque, and writer of essays.After reading his December offering in the New Yorker, I knew I had to see what fiction he had written. This is the story of Thomas, a weak, lazy character with strong opinions, The only son of a son of a rector, Thomas is "working" on a PhD that never gets finished, and is happy to let his wife pay the bills, and carry on with being an adult. When it comes time to think about children, he lies and c ...more
The writing sentence by sentence is wonderful but I didn't feel attached to the characters at all...and the plot was thinner than is a book of ideas. It was as if James Wood created a bunch of puppets to voice the conversations in his own head....conversations between the different sides of himself regarding writing, faith, meaning and family...deceit and truth as related to the nature of reality. All interesting and thought provoking but might have been better as a collection of essay ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable and interesting. It has a sort of Nick Hornby sensibility in the nature of the main protagonist - particularly his dishonesty. But it has loftier aspirations than Hornby's work with a serious and earnest discussion as to the existence of God.
I think it slightly fails on both counts - it is not as likable or funny as Hornby but nor does it go deep enough into the existential questions. It is understandably not an easy dichotomy with which to wrangle which is why I maintain that it is a
Aug 31, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: theologians, philosophers
Shelves: fiction
I like reading Woods the critic and I liked reading his novel, but was surprised a bit by the tone of the novel. Despite its concern with theodicy it manages to be--almost--lighthearted. It pokes fun at academic life with a lead who owes a little to Ignatius J. Reilly, albeit in a more restrained, more English fashion. Which, really, is high praise. The theodicy debate goes unresolved of course as does the ending but it hardly matters as it's a fun read. Who would've guessed?
Robert Wechsler
Better than Id expected, and yet it was lacking something. The writing was good, and Woods handling of ideas was excellent. What seemed to throw a blanket over it all was the protagonist. Why did he have to portray an atheist as so unappealing, so lacking in everything: personality, courage, energy, cleanliness? It was sort of like loading the dice.
Sep 13, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jess by: becki l.
[spring 2008] recommended by becki l. and thoroughly enjoyed by me. smartly written, with the theme of compulsive lying frequently providing its own plot twists, and the lies themselves at times practically characters of their own.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting novel. Though the title announces that it's about theology, and indeed there is a great deal of theological and philosophical content to chew on, the novel is really all about truth and lies. Lies especially.
Nov 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am enjoying this so much! It's like reading my husband's mind, with the bonus of being able to put it down when I'm tired..
so he's not the greatest novelist. he's still the greatest reader of novels that we have, and he should be read as such.
Enjoyable -- at times quite moving -- but somewhat slight, both in character and plot development.
Ian Oeschger
A novel with such an august name and by such a great critic ought to be better than this felt to me.
Mar 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Lost interest in this book. Quit halfway through. Main character is unappealing (lazy, loser PhD candidate living off his girlfriend) pace too slow, plot without sufficient conflict.
Alas, couldn't get past the first few chapters.
Nick Frangipane
rated it really liked it
May 17, 2010
Stephen Williams
rated it it was amazing
Jun 07, 2015
Matt Thackeray
rated it it was ok
Mar 20, 2017
Ronald Soetaert
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Dec 09, 2014
Aaron Woodsworth
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May 23, 2008
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Feb 15, 2009
Peg Pursell
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Jun 07, 2017
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Aug 19, 2012
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James Douglas Graham Wood is an English literary critic, essayist and novelist. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University (a part-time position) and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine.
Wood advocates an aesthetic approach to literature, rather than more ideologically-driven trends in academic literary criticism.
Wood is noted for coining the genre t
More about James Wood...