Obey the Beast

If you’re a regular reader of the Killing the Buddha blog, you already know about how KtB contributor Brook Wilensky-Lanford, author of Paradise Lust, gave a lovely review in The Boston Globe to KtB emeritus-type Jeff Sharlet’s new book, Sweet Heaven When I Die. Now Brook and Jeff, who’ve never met in real life, meet again in the book reviews: Both books are included on The Daily Beast‘s weekly list of “Must Reads.”

Brook first:

A charming account of the people who quixotically search for the fabled Garden of Eden.

One of the most enduring and mysterious places in the Bible, the Garden of Eden has fascinated people around the world since ancient times. Those who believe that it is a real place are referred to as Eden seekers, a diverse and prominent group of personalities that Brook Wilensky-Lanford describes in her lively new book. She set off on her research after discovering that her great-uncle had once planned to hire a plane to fly over Mesopotamia in search of the spot. The desire to put Eden on the map is a timeless quest to discover our origins, all told in charming detail.

And “Jeff Sharlet’s brilliant portraits of the religious fringe”? Here’s more:

Veteran journalist Jeff Sharlet delivers sharp portraits of the wacky, fanatical, and just plain fascinating characters.

Jeff Sharlet’s subjects are first sketched physically, and then, over the course of a few pages, fleshed out in lush three-dimensional detail—a lifetime in a dozen pages, a biography distilled to its purest elements. His newest book, Sweet Heaven When I Die, is a collection of compact, highly accessible profiles that zoom in to examine various denizens of the American religious fringe. Though each of his subjects has devoted their life to a highly specific cause, Sharlet manages to portray them with utmost sympathy, examining the motives that animated them and the forces that shaped them, so that the reader can understand precisely how they came to inhabit their respective niches. Even when faced with subjects whose views lie well outside the mainstream—say, Rob Luce, who peddles a singular brand of militant youth evangelism—Sharlet impresses with his ability to mine the common humanity that lingers in even the most radically minded thinkers.

The Daily Beast says both books are “Must Reads.” Not “you should read this” — “must.” As in, you don’t have any choice. That’s an order. From The Daily Beast. Which is like the devil. So don’t mess around. Obey the Beast. Buy these books. Both of them. Now.

Paradise Lust   // Sweet Heaven When I Die