Monday, April 10, 2017

Review of Non-Fiction Book by Tim Spiess - The Light of the World

This is not a review of the Book Content. My review is based upon my experience in beginning an actual review. As many of you who routinely read my reviews, I have a specific format in which I determine and share the author's credentials... 

There was none in the book. I went to Amazon this morning to find what was of little help regarding credentials to write a scholarly book in the genre Christianity and similar reference books. It is not listed under memoir, self-help, or autobiography.

Tim Spiess was born in New York City (1962) and put up for adoption. He was adopted by a Physician and his wife and raised in middle Long Island New York. He earned a B.S. degree at the University of Vermont (1984) and later completed a Master's Degree at PACE University (1989) in New York. In 1990, Tim experienced a deep and fundamental change in his understanding of his life and life's purpose while living in South Florida. Since that time, he has been on a Journey essentially out of religion and into faith. He now spends his time bringing the Life he has found to others, and that mean's bringing change to a world that desperately needs it.

The request to review this book was from a publicity agency, there was no reference to its being an ARC, therefore I assumed that the book I received was a complete book, so I began by reading the back cover. It sounded ok, but I must say that I assumed that the author had some type of background in religious studies. Apparently a mistake???

The title page indicates: The four "gospels" books with commentary by a student of the Light, not by a "bible scholar," ancient language expert, or popular religious leader.  I was puzzled... Then I found that there is no regular copyright page material, no ISBN, nothing to indicate that the book was published, although I had found it on Amazon. I still have no idea whether this book is what is presented for sale; however, it certainly is the book that was sent to be reviewed.

On Page 5, The Purpose of this Book is presented. My first discovery, there was no Table of Contents, nothing to show what was in the book, where it was located, no way for readers to refer to specific parts of the book. Certainly a questionable beginning for a nonfiction book in my many years of experience.

Page 7, Every Person's Basic Need

Every living person has hope in something because it has been proven time and time again that a person without any hope (some self-perceived purpose for their life-existence) will seek to destroy themselves through suicide or other destructive behavior in order to try and end the inner emptiness of life-level hopelessness. The reader should ask why that is. Why is it that human's alone (not animals) need a future reason for living (known as hope or purpose) or else they seek to dull or to end their existence?

That's a pretty strong statement, I thought, so I wondered immediately what references he used in writing that statement? For myself I thought of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in establishing my rudimentary understanding of what has been established in theory about a person's needs. I have not read statistics about suicide and wondered about what was being said...

There were no footnotes, no references given in the book. There was no basis for understanding the knowledge and experience of the writer in supporting his words.

Next came: Human Beings Fundamental Problem: A Nature of Self-Pride, Fear and Selfishness...

Given another fairly heavy statement about humans, I began to be concerned. Who was the author, what are his credentials? Does he have a psychological background? On what is he basing his "blanket" judgmental statements?

Now I had earlier read an article on his website about no longer calling Jesus, Jesus...Here in the book, the author states that Joshua is a more accurate translation of what has been traditionally translated Jesus...  Again, no reference...what kind of translation was made from where? And why has no other person ever stated this? Or had they and just no reference to the time and place it was decided that Joshua should replace the name of Jesus... Nevertheless, the reader is reading about Joshua...not Jesus...throughout this book.

The Book of Matthew begins on Page 37. No formal chapter Heading division, no formatting guidance that we are now beginning to read directly from a Bible. That continues to page 342... So, in essence, you will be buying four chapters of another book that you may have on your bookshelf already, referred to as The Bible.

Within those pages, the author stops from scripture and inserts commentary. They are not footnoted except just under the particular part of the scripture being commented on.

There is no list of comments in the back of the book, there is no way to find a specific commentary note except by flipping through each page, or, I suppose, remembering the specific place in a specific book of the Bible, in which the author added his comment. 

The comments themselves are written in clear authoritarian statements:

3. Fortunate are the followers of Joshua when they are insulted, persecuted and slandered, not because of their religious label--being a christian or wearing strange clothes or religious rituals or practices - but rather because they speak the Light's truths and behave as he says we ought to behave, which is what he means when he says, "because of ME." A Muslim hating a christian because of their label or outward religious stuff, is NOT what Joshua is speaking of her. It is NOT our label that matters, but rather what we speak (e.g., Joshua is the Son of God) and how we behave (e.g., not affirming people when they want us to).

Since I was only on page 40, I stopped to ponder the subtle issues in this commentary paragraph. Note that christian, included twice in the paragraph, is not capitalized while Muslim is... Note the NOT's in all caps...Again, no reference, no footnote, nothing other than what the author is writing...

About then after reading this far, I began to struggle with just how I could "review" this book... So I tried to find John 3:16, a very common scripture reference...First, I had to look to the bottom left and find I was in Matthew. I couldn't go back to the Table of Contents to find the page on which John started, so I flipped around until I found it... within a full paragraph--there is no consistent use of Verse references except by finding that particular verse within a paragraph, which isn't necessarily bad, if you could easily find the specific book, and the specific chapter easily.

By that time I had read "somewhere" that the author had stated something like, no religious leaders should be trusted (my memory of the words only, I had no way of again finding that bit of commentary. But my mind started thinking about what I remembered Jesus said about the Holy Trinity, in that Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in each of His followers... So I wanted to follow through on that thought. 

In order to do that, I turned to where I expected to find an Index. There is none. More specifically, there is NO WAY to find Jesus' words on the Holy Spirit in this book unless you go page by page... In fact, there is no way to know that it is even in the book. Oh, yes, well I went to my Bible, a book I have read, went to the Index and found the reference in John... Then I went back to this book, flipped through to find John, then, because of the method by which chapters are not defined, you can easily fail to see when each chapter change is made, with then each verse numbered without regard to the chapter. 

I gave up. I skimmed the pages after page 342 and found I was not prepared to understand what was there. 

With having read only about 40 pages, and skimmed and wandered through the rest of the book, trying to keep track of where I was--don't dare leave the book without marking your place...

Other than the excerpts used above to illustrate my concerns about how the book was written, I found the book tedious to use, totally impossible to be used for anything other than a straight read. With over 50 years of experience in university administration, publishing and book reviewing, as well as over 600 continuing education courses in addition to college-level courses, and having read thousands of books in nonfiction as well as fiction genres, I feel my credentials allow me to find a book unacceptable for the average reader's use. I am fully experienced in book formatting, presentation and proper guiding tools for, in particular nonfiction books, having studied books on how to prepare material for readers' use. I could probably call myself an expert, but I will only state that I have a bias regarding a book's format preventing me, the reader, from reading and using the book in any reasonable fashion. I found there were too many obstacles in the book for me to effectively grasp and use the content itself. It is, at best, a very rough draft of a manuscript that has not yet been turned into  a book.

I had assumed that this book would be a study guide, a reference book...I cannot recommend this book for that use. If you are able to sit down, read a book specifically written in reference to a well-known book without any knowledge of background and experience of the author, other than the statement that he is a student of "The Light," go for it. However, I encourage you to read other reviews that may be written.... This review is on the book itself and its presentation and usability by readers. I will not comment on the book's content except in relation to my attempting to read and use the book as I normally would for nonfiction.


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