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Publisher's Summary

The most widely translated book in world literature after the Bible, Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living. Following the phenomenal success of his own version of the Tao Te Ching, renowned scholar and translator Stephen Mitchell has composed the innovative The Second Book of the Tao.

Drawn from the work of Lao-tzu's disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius's grandson Tzussu, The Second Book of the Tao offers Western readers a path into reality that has nothing to do with Taoism or Buddhism or old or new alone, but everything to do with truth. Mitchell has selected the freshest, clearest teachings from these two great students of the Tao and adapted them into versions that reveal the poetry, depth, and humor of the original texts with a thrilling new power. Alongside each adaptation, Mitchell includes his own commentary, at once explicating and complementing the text.

This book is a 21st-century form of ancient wisdom, bringing a new, homemade sequel to the Tao Te Ching into the modern world. Mitchell's renditions are radiantly lucid; they dig out the vision that's hiding beneath the words; they grab the text by the scruff of the neck - by its heart, really - and let its essential meanings fall out. The book introduces us to a cast of vivid characters, most of them humble artisans or servants, who show us what it means to be in harmony with the way things are. Its wisdom provides a psychological and moral acuity as deep as the Tao Te Ching itself.

The Second Book of the Tao is a gift to contemporary readers, granting us access to our own fundamental wisdom. Mitchell's meditations and risky reimagining of the original texts are brilliant and liberating, not least because they keep catching us off-guard, opening up the heavens where before we saw a roof. He makes the ancient teachings at once modern, relevant, and timeless.

©2009 Stephen Mitchell (P)2009 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Second Book of the Tao

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

it will take you there

For those who have listened to or studied 'The Tao', this will bring smiles. Irreverant, yet relevant. From me, there is no greater compliment. I was not sure I wanted to continue my Audiobook subscription. Just to be able to re-listen to this title is worth more than I can say.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Sequel to the Tao Te Ching

Of course there was never a Second Book of the Tao... not until now. I was introduced to his fiction writing with Meetings With the Archangel, but Stephen Mitchell is more widely known for his translations and adaptations of ancient classics such as The Tao Te Ching. He is the translator of Rainer Maria Rilke and the book of Job as well as Gilgamesh and the Bhagavad Gita. One would think it difficult to pen one preeminent translation of a text thousands of years old. But Stephen Mitchell has done just that; over and over again.

The Second Book of the Tao consists of adaptations from the work of two ancient Chinese scholars: a Laotzu disciple, Chuang-tzu, and Tzu-ssu, the grandson of Confucius. While I have read several translations of the Tao Te Ching, there is none to compare with that of Stephen Mitchell. There is no other anthology for the “second book” and so Mitchell’s rendition must remain the best also. This book would be an impossible act to follow were it not written by Stephen Mitchell. As one reviewer put it: “It takes you there.”

9 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good, but falls short...

A "Second Book of the Tao" (the Tao Te Ching being the "First Book of the Tao") is an interesting idea, and I admire Mr. Mitchell for attempting it - unfortunately I find it uneven and to fall a bit short of the mark.

First, let me begin by saying I enjoyed Mitchell's version of the "Tao Te Ching", and I think he is a great reader; smooth and relaxing. I do not want to come across as disparaging his efforts with this work or any other.

Second, I greatly appreciate his use of "he" AND "she" and wish more modern versions would adopt this practice.

Yet, I consider it noteworthy that this text does not offer a new translation, but something that is probably better considered as a synthesis of existing translations. Mitchell has translated from German, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish; but his versions of the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Gilgamesh and so forth are not true "translations", but rather -- in Mitchell's own words -- "interpretive versions from existing translations".

I don't hold this out as a major flaw or to dismiss this book - but I do think it is important to understand where the text itself is derived from.

A larger issue for myself -- although I suspect some people may consider this a bonus rather than not is the Commentary following each "verse". There are two problems with the Commentary: it breaks the flow of the "source material" and with all due respect to Mitchell, his Commentary is his understanding and to have it interspersed with the source material detracts because I do not consider it at the same level.

Perhaps it works better as a printed book? I do not mind some versions of similar texts that have a Commentary at the end -- in fact, I enjoy the Commentary then quite a bit.

However, when listening you have Commentary after every single verse (and although it's clear when the Commentary starts, it's easy to miss when it ends) and the length of each Commentary is always(?) longer than the source material, it means there is more Mitchell in the experience than traditional Taoist material.

Finally, I'd like to say the majority of these stories are fairly well-known and, for my money, better handled in the "Zen Speaks" illustrated book series.

I realize this comes across as a very negative review; but overall this book, while an interesting idea, just can't quite live up to its promise, at least not in audio form. That being said, I'm still glad I got it -- I just haven't been able to return to it time and time again like I have been with the Tao Te Ching.



3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Painful

I forced myself to listen to a full hour of this book, before abandoning it. So stupid.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Second Book on the Art of Living

If you could sum up The Second Book of the Tao in three words, what would they be?

Work of Art

Who was your favorite character and why?

"Stephen Mitchell", I can't help wondering, what goes on in his mind. It is amazing how he can break it all apart, and put it all back together again, in another way, that I can understand. Great book.

Which scene was your favorite?

The whole book.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both, and I love the vibrations, rushes. That is my favorite reason I listen to audible books. I can just meditate, and let Stephen Mitchell read the book, and I can enjoy the vibes!

Any additional comments?

I would call it spiritual poetry. It is like a performance for me. I can meditate along the path that Stephen Mitchell, walks me thru. Very well written, and performed. It is another work of art, that I will enjoy having in my library.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Really true to knowing nothing of the way.

I hesitated on this book, how can you get a meaningful follow up hundreds of years apart. Nm Stephen's not being Lao- Tru. it's just brilliant.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sublime!

Would you listen to The Second Book of the Tao again? Why?

I would and have listen to this book again. It is an excellent book and I enjoy the commentary from Stephen Mitchell. This book gets you closer to the ineffable nature of the Tao. I loved Mitchell's translation of the Tao De Ching, but this book offers even more perspectives. There is humor and stories that illustrate what the Tao may be or look like. However, if anyone is familiar with the Tao, then they would know not to even try to know what it is!

What other book might you compare The Second Book of the Tao to and why?

This book was written as companion book, or at least that's what Mitchell states.
I believe he has done an excellent job with following-up to the original. Though I listen to the original often, The Second Book of the Tao has an entertainment quality to it.

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

Yes, I have listen to the Tao De Ching and they are both 5 star ratings.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, in the sense it brought the Tao into clearer focus, if such a thing could be even be done.

Any additional comments?

I study Aikido and this book is an excellent book about non-doing. It doesn't matter if it is Aikido, Golf, or cooking, the Tao is in all actions. This book will help you understand things are the way they are because they are supposed to be that way. With that, approaching everything without effort is truly liberating.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Short Book Explaining Tao

It's an excellent book on the Eastern philosophy of Tao with commentary to explain some of the obscure passages. There are a few commentaries that don't fit the tone of the topic, like using foreign words like "bravo" and "muchacho" (perhaps to sound hip??).

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful wisdom - beautifully delivered

A delightful delivery of ancient wisdom - yet it's so refreshingly fresh. For anyone interested in Zen or Tao - this book is like drinking nectar.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing companion to the Tao

As a reviewer already stated, this book will get you there. I have listened to this and Mitchell's translation of the Tao, dozens of times each. This book has made understanding the Tao a little easier. I still find myself laughing out loud while listening to this book. There is so much depth to this book that I cannot be put into words. I purchased this audiobook years ago and each time I listen to it, just like today, I have an a-ha moment of insight. As Mitchell reads his own work, he adds a hidden dimension of intuitive understanding that goes beyond the words. I often found myself "knowing" what was said before my analytical mind could wrap itself around what was said. Nevertheless, whenever I find myself so far from center that I can't meditate or quiet my mind, listening to this audiobook has been a infallible tool in helping me reclaim my center. Just like today, hence the needed review.

1 person found this helpful