PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn Iyer’s hands, the search for paradise, the way out of the ego, doubles as an internal journey ... No stranger to the travel genre, the prolific Iyer is after something more here. His chronicle, which begins with an appreciation of the sophistication, beauty and culture of Iran, becomes a requiem for a world — and an existence — estranged from itself ... A lonely, nostalgic and haunted quality emerges as Iyer casually intersperses bits of his personal history. There is a formula to many of the chapters ... Empathy is not the only thing going on; Iyer is also looking within. And as he looks, things get dizzier and dizzier.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThis is beautiful stuff. In admitting to his failure as a husband, Brooks tantalizes with a promise to chronicle his own unsteady recovery. In this, he only partially delivers ... What follows reads, unfortunately, like one long commencement address ... His argument, inspiring in his introduction, quickly becomes repetitive and tendentious. He has a penchant for lists...for italicized Greek and Hebrew words (chessed: Hebrew for loving kindness) and for the kinds of stories politicians often cite in proclaiming what they take to be the enduring goodness of their version of real Americans ... His book would be immensely more powerful with more [doubt]. Nor is there any of the self-deprecating humor we might expect from someone who has climbed the second mountain ... Despite lots of illuminating and profound quotes and stories, he never makes us smile.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"A recounting of [Pagels\'] personal story has been a long time coming. Her husband and child died more than 30 years ago, and reading about her life, love, work and unimaginable pain, we can feel how difficult it has been for this reserved scholar of early Christianity to enter the black hole of her feelings. Her account has none of the frenzied and claustrophobic madness of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking; nor the wild pain and rushing love of Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave, written in the aftermath of the sudden death of her family in the 2004 tsunami ... Fueled by her intellect, and fortunate to have access to the Gnostic Gospels... Pagels, bravely, forthrightly and with a characteristic minimum of fuss, cracks herself ajar. This is a minimalist work of great majesty, akin to a shimmering Agnes Martin painting, whose stripped-down aesthetic allows light to pour forth from her canvas.\