Book Buying Instructions from God

Some very nice things that have been written about Killing the Buddha editor Jeff Sharlet’s new book, Sweet Heaven When I Die. You should probably buy it if you don’t want to piss off God. Also, if you want to piss off God? Same deal. This book goes both ways.

“The book belongs to the tradition of long-form, narrative journalism best exemplified by writers such as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Norman Mailer and Sharlet’s contemporary David Samuels. Sharlet deserves a place alongside such masters, for he has emerged as a master investigative stylist and one of the shrewdest commentators on religion’s underexplored realms.”

–Michael Washburn, The Washington Post

“For Sharlet, the story of American religion is not a polarized one of fundamentalists vs. secularists. It’s a vast landscape, and each essay in his remarkable new collection of literary journalism explores a different crag or cranny of it…. There’s no better guide to this ‘country in between.’”

–Brook Wilensky-Lanford, The Boston Globe

“Superb… Compelling…  Stunning… A fine book, by a deeply thoughtful writer.”

–Steve Yarbrough, The Oregonian

“A Must-Read…. Brilliant portraits of the religious fringe… fleshed out in lush three-dimensional detail—a lifetime in a dozen pages, a biography distilled to its purest elements…. Sharlet impresses with his ability to mine the common humanity that lingers in even the most radically minded thinkers.”

The Daily Beast

“Sharp and intimate.”

Rolling Stone

“All I had to do was open to the first lines of  ‘Sweet Fuck All, Colorado’: ‘When I was eighteen I fell hard for the state of Colorado as embodied by a woman with long honey blond hair and speckled green eyes, who drank wine from a coffee mug and whiskey from the bottle.’

The Paris Review, Staff Pick

“The characters in Sweet Heaven When I Die are rough, unfulfilled, often doomed. But that’s what makes this collection so strong, so human. We always suspect that by the end, they will be betrayed by their beliefs, will be disillusioned or destroyed. But failure doesn’t make belief meaningless. It may be the only thing that gives faith meaning at all.”

–Eric Scott, Kansas City Star

“[A] collection of beautifully written narratives… Sharlet’s previous works have incisively critiqued fundamentalism and American power; Sweet Heaven is equally thoughtful, but tender, acknowledging that between the extremes of snake handlers and nihilists, most of us wander through life groping for meaning, with consolation that in the act of finding, we too, may be found.”

–Lisa Sorg, Durham, NC Independent

“A collection of powerful, moody, hopeful, sad, unsettling and even uplifting essays into the deepest realms of truth, belief, hope, and the blues.”

Lebanon, NH Valley News

“[Sharlet] uses his gift for clear, resonant prose to slowly unravel each subject…. Rich and intriguing reading.”


“In the end, [Sharlet] says, it’s in not knowing the ultimate answers, in leaving ourselves open to the possibility of change, that we can continue to draw hope…. Call it narrative journalism or creative nonfiction, Jeff Sharlet’s collection of feature-length pieces demonstrates his mastery of the form.”

–Ron Hogan, Shelf Awareness

“In every wonderfully told, intimate, (auto-)biographical detail, we learn something of more wide-ranging significance. Perhaps we learn a bit about how to die and how to live. At the very least, we learn a lot about the religious field in America…. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth, much like Cornel West after him, drew from Christianity’s concept of love a model of “protest against the course of the world,” a way of being ethical in a world mired in injustice. Sharlet searches for such pockets of love-as-protest that persist in unlikely places in America—from personal relationships in the heartland to radical politics in New York City. It is rewarding to join him on this search.’
–John D. Boy, The Immanent Frame / Social Science Research Council

“A fascinating collection of essays… outstanding, at both reportorial and literary levels…. Strongly recommended.”

Scholars & Rogues

“[Sharlet’s] quest is personal, and Sweet Heaven is richer for it: infused with both his searching and his skepticism, the collection is documentary journalism with a hint of poetry. Recommended.“

New City Lit

“Part reporter, part prophet, Jeff Sharlet is an American visionary in the lineage that runs from Twain to Robinson Jeffers to Sam Shepard and Joan Didion. In Sweet Heaven When I Die, he scours the desert margins of our culture, politics, and religion, training his eye on outlaws, anarchists, fanatics, and saints. In this way, he reveals the unexpected shape of our nation’s center, which is to say, our heart.”

–Peter Trachtenberg, author of 7 Tattoos and The Book of Calamities