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Publisher's Summary

How (Not) to Be Secular is what Jamie Smith calls "your hitchhiker's guide to the present" - it is both a reading guide to Charles Taylor's monumental work, A Secular Age, and philosophical guidance on how we might learn to live in our times.  

Taylor's landmark book, A Secular Age (2007), provides a monumental, incisive analysis of what it means to live in the post-Christian present - a pluralist world of competing beliefs and growing unbelief. Jamie Smith's book is a compact field guide to Taylor's insightful study of the secular, making that very significant but daunting work accessible to a wide array of readers.  

Even more, though, Smith's How (Not) to Be Secular is a practical philosophical guidebook, a kind of how-to manual on how to live in our secular age. It ultimately offers us an adventure in self-understanding and maps out a way to get our bearings in today's secular culture, no matter who "we" are - whether believers or skeptics, devout or doubting, self-assured or puzzled and confused. This is a book for any thinking person to chew on.  

©2014 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (P)2018 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

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Accessible Charles Taylor!

I have tried to read Charles Taylor... many times. Couldn't make it through. James Smith explains Taylor in a way that everyone can understand. The narration is spot on. Nice job! Worth a listen.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Charles Taylor... Explained

Would you listen to How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor again? Why?

Yes. I am a huge fan of Jamie Smith. Love this book in print... and with that voice of the narrator = perfection in audio!

What did you like best about this story?

Not really a story. Accessible analysis of Charles Taylor. Very thoughtful.

Have you listened to any of Trevor Thompson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. Solid and competent narration. Golden voice.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

Listen to this book!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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skip the audio read the print

Four years ago, I was very favorable toward How (Not) to Be Secular, since then I have read a number of books that have interacted with Charles Taylor, although none of them have attempted what Jamie Smith has attempted here. In How (Not) To Be Secular, Smith is attempting to summarize Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age while at the same time critiquing some of A Secular Age's weak points. Other very helpful books have talked about broad ideas or using A Secular Age as a jumping off point. In some ways, it is easier to understand Taylor if you do not have to take the full range of ideas and the full development of Taylor’s argument. 

After four years and a number of books about Taylor, I have decided that this fall I need to start reading Charles Taylor directly. I have a couple reasons for that, but primarily what I am interested in is Taylor’s work on how we create identity differently in our current world and how faith works in created identity. I am going to be reading Taylor with a strong eye toward how minority (both racial and other) identity works in his system of understanding the world around us. 

I have been intimidated by Charles Taylor. Too many people that I know, and respect as smarter than I, have talked about how difficult Taylor can be to understand. I picked up How (Not) to Be Secular as a preparation and like I tend to do I changed formats on a second reading. And because the audiobook of How (Not) to Be Secular was released recently I picked up the audiobook. Audiobook is not a format that works well with this book. 

I really do appreciate that Eerdmans has been releasing a number of their books in audiobook formate lately. I do not like that so far, none of them have been synced to the kindle edition. The problem with the lack of syncing is that I cannot alternate back and forth easily and I cannot easily find print form of a text if it is difficult to understand in audio. Or quickly find a quote I want to highlight to write about later. I have no idea how hard it is to sync the audio and kindle versions, but I do hope that Eerdmans and other smaller niche publishers can learn how to do it and see it as a valuable tool for the reader.

I did listen to all of this and it did help me remember parts of the book that I had forgotten. It has not made me more comfortable approaching Taylor directly because it was so hard to understand in audiobook format. But I am going to go ahead with starting with Taylor by picking up one of his older books, Multiculturalism, since it directed addresses one of my questions about Taylors project. 

0 of 5 people found this review helpful