Book Review: Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn

Book Review: Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn

Title: Ishamel: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
Author: Daniel Quinn
Series: Ishmael, Book 1
Publisher: Bantam
Paperback: 266 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man in search for truth. He answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned office with a full-grown gorilla who is nibbling delicately on a slender branch. “You are the teacher?” he asks incredulously. “I am the teacher,” the gorilla replies. Ishmael is a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story to tell, one that no other human being has ever heard. It is a story that extends backward and forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time to save. Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to come from within ourselves. Is it man’s destiny to rule the world? Or is it a higher destiny possible for him—one more wonderful than he has ever imagined?

Buy from the Book Depository!

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Ishmael is a novel mostly focusing on philosophical ideas about the way we’re currently living and how we could create a more sustainable society. While it’s an interesting concept, I don’t really think this story should have been presented in novel format; it mostly consists of presenting ideas and historical worldviews. There’s a little plot by the way of these ideas coming from an ape who learned telepathy, but other than that side note, it really is mostly an essay on the idea of how our current lifestyle is unsustainable and how we might be able to fix it in order to keep the world healthy and keep surviving. I understand that he probably doesn’t have enough notoriety to publish this as a non-fiction essay, so it was easier to be published as a novel, but it just didn’t fit with the idea of a “novel” for me.

With that said, however, this book presents interesting ideas about humanity’s mentality regarding the world and our place in it; our relationship with other species; and our relationship with nature itself. It certainly gave food for thought and makes me want to explore the history surrounding the agricultural revolution a bit further, as well as thinking of ways to still keep our technology and industry while also being more in tune with nature and making sure to be kind to other species and the world itself. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in exploring new ideas of what humanity’s role is in the world and how we should strive to become more attuned to nature.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn

  1. This book still gives me guilt trips… I do agree with tour point about it not being very “novel-ish”, but I guess it was just a way to present those ideas to a larger circle of people.

    1. I totally agree with you! It’s just jarring to think you’re going to read a novel and then get a rather long philosophical essay instead. It does make some excellent points, though, especially with how we treat other species. I definitely felt some guilt with those sections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *