Nathan's Reviews > The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions

The World's Religions by Huston Smith
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's review
Oct 05, 2009

really liked it

A fine overview of the world's major religions and their primary subdivisions. The book's first strength lies in its unbiased writing: one can tell that Smith equally reveres each of the religions. In this vein, Smith beautifully extracts the essence of each religion, providing the core that cleanly shows why and how people place their faith. This portrays each religion in its most desirable and respectable light.

Religion is a complex social phenomenon and cannot be fully separated from the historical and geographical context surrounding its followers. These matters are also treated, though Smith carefully evades turning the book into a history of religion. Furthermore, all of the social consequences are skirted (e.g. the many negative consequences of religion, the current conflicts due to religion, etc). I appreciated that the book knew its place and admitted its approach from the beginning. The content, in summary, is just what I wanted.

After having read some fantastic non-fiction writers lately, perhaps the bar was set too high. Stylistically I felt that Smith wasn't concise enough and lacked the poignant, direct style necessary for non-fiction. For instance, his narrative devolved too often into a high-school book report style. Too many phrases introduced the following sentence, effectively doubling the words necessary in order to relay one concept. This style didn't increase the readability -- if anything, it dragged the book out over a number of months. I read this book academically, trying to absorb as many facts as I could and highlighting the finest ideas stemming from each religion. This was fruitful, yet time consuming.
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