Joe's Reviews > The Tao of Pooh

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
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Jun 21, 2008

it was ok

I picked up this book because it seemed so charming. The author took the stories and characters of A.A. Milne and juxtaposed them with the Taoist teachings of people such as Lao Tzu.

Pooh as western Taoist starts off interestingly enough but halfway through it I came to the realization that it was making me want to just read the actual Milne, who was frankly probably a genius writer. Those were great books with great characters, each with their own type of intelligence.

Then about two thirds through the book, it just becomes insulting. The author is against pretty much anything useful. Rather than believing in the give and take of Ying and Yang (or any other name it may go under) he's against intellectuals who are secretly foolish for trying to figure anything about the world, against people who work hard and care about their jobs or contributions (again that's just foolish), people who enjoy sports or exercise...heck he's against leaving your house or caring about the rest of the world. I understand the idea behind the Busy Backson rant, but is there no middle ground at all?
The idea of the Indian American culture being superior to that of the almighty Puritans is used as an example, which could be built upon in several interesting ways, but instead the author chooses to illustrate how everything that came after was just silliness without supplying a single idea about how it could be done better...yet useful.

At one point he actually uses the example of (paraphrasing here) turning on the T.V. news to hear "`Thirty thousand people were killed today when five jumbo airliners collided over downtown Lose Angeles" *click* Stop worrying about everything and go about life. Listen to the birds chirp, they will tell you more about the world." ---wait, we shouldn't care about thirty thousand humans being killed in a horrific accident?

I am in no way an expert on Taoism, but unless everyone who IS finds that idea posing as a representation of their philosophy to be offensive, I want nothing to do with it. It isn't enlightened to go around hating everything while doing nothing. And I'm sure the author realizes this since he spends so much time writing best-selling books.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 21, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Lise Joe, you're right many Taoist ideas were misrepresented in this book, in particular certain things being utterly and irremediably BAD. Hoff says something in the beginning of the book about weaknesses becoming strengths when used appropriately, which is a key idea not only in Taoism but also of most classical Chinese thought, which is built on the concept of continuous changes requiring constant adjustments. In other word, there is no black and white concept of good and evil, what is good in situation A may well be bad in situation B and vice-versa. A piece of advice, don’t go anywhere the Te of Piglet, which starts with a sermon on the Golden Age which should be taken as something real rather than a myth, making Hoff sounds even more extreme than the worst creationists in his world view! And of course a perfect insult to human intelligence, which Taoism definitely isn’t, quite the opposite in fact.


Micaela I COMPLETELY agree with your review. I have been looking forward to reading this book for YEARS and YEARS and I just finally did it and was completely disappointed. Like you said, it starts out okay, then goes downhill. :( So much for wanting to read the Te of Piglet. ha ha


Elisabeth Ditto.


Christina Sanchez I've heard so many good things about this book and finally got my hands on a copy. I have 30 pages left and have been asking myself what I'm missing. Then i decided to check out some of the reviews and yours is exactly what i have been thinking to myself while reading it.


message 5: by Rebekah (new)

Rebekah Thank-you for preventing me from wasting 99 cents in an Audible sale.


Lise The example given above is extremely clumsy, the key idea in Taoism is that if you spend all your time worrying about things on which you can have no influence, not only will you be wasting a lot of energy, but it's also highly likely that you will miss the things where you can make a real difference. A lot of Chinese philosophy is about choosing your battles wisely, but that doesn't mean being indifferent to other people fate.
You put your finger on one of the key problem of the book: oversimplification twisting complex ideas.


message 7: by Rebekah (new)

Rebekah Thank you Lise. Your explanation has intrigued me enough to do some research into Taoism. I now can put a name to the approach I've been taking to the National political scene in recent years.


message 8: by Adam (new)

Adam I stopped reading right after that shockingly insensitive aircrash line.


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