Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

( 236 )



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 ...

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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?

Now available in paperback for the first time, Ishmael is the winner of the Turner Tomorrow Award--a prize for fiction that offers solutions to global problems. When a man in search of truth answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious students, he finds himself alone in an abandoned office with a gorilla named Ishmael.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A thoughtful, fearlessly low-key novel about the role of our species on the planet . . . laid out for us with an originality and a clarity that few would deny.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[Quinn entraps] us in the dialogue itself, in the sweet and terrible lucidity of Ishmael’s analysis of the human condition. . . . It was surely for this deep, clear persuasiveness of argument that Ishmael was given its huge prize.”—The Washington Post

“It is as suspenseful, inventive, and socially urgent as any fiction or nonfiction book you are likely to read this or any other year.”—The Austin Chronicle

“Deserves high marks as a serious—and all too rare—effort that is unflinchingly engaged with fundamental life-and-death concerns.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Quinn ( Dreamer ) won the Turner Tomorrow Award's half-million-dollar first prize for this fascinating and odd book--not a novel by any conventional definition--which was written 13 years ago but could not find a publisher. The unnamed narrator is a disillusioned modern writer who answers a personal ad (``Teacher seeks pupil. . . . Apply in person.'') and thereby meets a wise, learned gorilla named Ishmael that can communicate telepathically. The bulk of the book consists entirely of philosophical dialogues between gorilla and man, on the model of Plato's Republic. Through Ishmael, Quinn offers a wide-ranging if highly general examination of the history of our civilization, illuminating the assumptions and philosophies at the heart of many global problems. Despite some gross oversimplifications, Quinn's ideas are fairly convincing; it's hard not to agree that unrestrained population growth and an obsession with conquest and control of the environment are among the key issues of our times. Quinn also traces these problems back to the agricultural revolution and offers a provocative rereading of the biblical stories of Genesis. Though hardly any plot to speak of lies behind this long dialogue, Quinn's smooth style and his intriguing proposals should hold the attention of readers interested in the daunting dilemmas that beset our planet. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Winner of the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship, a literary competition intended to foster works of fiction that present positive solutions to global problems, this book offers proof that good ideas do not necessarily equal good literature. Ishmael, a gorilla rescued from a traveling show who has learned to reason and communicate, uses these skills to educate himself in human history and culture. Through a series of philosophical conversations with the unnamed narrator, a disillusioned Sixties idealist, Ishmael lays out a theory of what has gone wrong with human civilization and how to correct it, a theory based on the tenet that humanity belongs to the planet rather than vice versa. While the message is an important one, Quinn rarely goes beyond a didactic exposition of his argument, never quite succeeding in transforming idea into art. Despite this, heavy publicity should create demand. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/91.-- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553375404
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 37,773
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Quinn's first book, Ishmael, won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship, a prize for fiction presenting creative and positive solutions to global problems.  He is also the author of Providence, The Story of B, and My Ishmael.

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Read an Excerpt


The first time I read the ad, I choked and cursed and spat and threw the paper to the floor. Since even this didn’t seem to be quite enough, I snatched it up, marched into the kitchen, and shoved it into the trash. While I was there, I made myself a little breakfast and gave myself some time to cool down. I ate and thought about something else entirely. That’s right. Then I dug the paper out of the trash and turned back to the Personals section, just to see if the damn thing was still there and just the way I remembered it. It was.

TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.

An earnest desire to save the world! Oh, I liked that. That was rich indeed. An earnest desire to save the world–yes, that was splendid. By noon, two hundred mooncalfs, softheads, boobies, ninnyhammers, noodleheads, gawkies, and assorted oafs and thickwits would doubtless be lined up at the address given, ready to turn over all their worldlies for the rare privilege of sitting at the feet of some guru pregnant with the news that all will be well if everyone will just turn around and give his neighbor a big hug.

You will wonder: Why is this man so indignant? So bitter? It’s a fair question. In fact, it’s a question I was asking myself.

The answer goes back to a time, a couple decades ago, when I’d had the silly notion that the thing I most wanted to do in the world was . . . to find a teacher. That’s right. I imagined I wanted a teacher–needed a teacher. To show me how one goes about doing something that might be called . . . saving the world.

Stupid, no? Childish. Naïve. Simple. Callow. Or just fundamentally dumb. In one so manifestly normal in other respects, it needs explaining.

It came about in this way.

During the children’s revolt of the sixties and seventies, I was just old enough to understand what these kids had in mind–they meant to turn the world upside down–and just young enough to believe they might actually succeed. It’s true. Every morning when I opened my eyes, I expected to see that the new era had begun, that the sky was a brighter blue and the grass a brighter green. I expected to hear laughter in the air and to see people dancing in the streets, and not just kids–everyone! I won’t apologize for my naïveté; you only have to listen to the songs to know that I wasn’t alone.

Then one day when I was in my mid-teens, I woke up and realized that the new era was never going to begin. The revolt hadn’t been put down, it had just dwindled away into a fashion statement. Can I have been the only person in the world who was disillusioned by this? Bewildered by this? It seemed so. Everyone else seemed to be able to pass it off with a cynical grin that said, “Well, what did you really expect? There’s never been any more than this and never will be any more than this. Nobody’s out to save the world, because nobody gives a damn about the world, that was just a bunch of goofy kids talking. Get a job, make some money, work till you’re sixty, then move to Florida and die.”

I couldn’t shrug it away like this, and in my innocence I thought there had to be someone out there with an unknown wisdom who could dispel my disillusionment and bewilderment: a teacher.

Well, of course there wasn’t.

I didn’t want a guru or a kung fu master or a spiritual director.

I didn’t want to become a sorcerer or learn the zen of archery or meditate or align my chakras or uncover past incarnations. Arts and disciplines of that kind are fundamentally selfish; they’re all designed to benefit the pupil–not the world. I was after something else entirely, but it wasn’t in the Yellow Pages or anywhere else that I could discover.

In Hermann Hesse’s The Journey to the East, we never find out what Leo’s awesome wisdom consists of. This is because Hesse couldn’t tell us what he himself didn’t know. He was like me–he just yearned for there to be someone in the world like Leo, someone with a secret knowledge and a wisdom beyond his own. In fact, of course, there is no secret knowledge; no one knows anything that can’t be found on a shelf in the public library. But I didn’t know that then.

So I looked. Silly as it sounds now, I looked. By comparison, going after the Grail would have made more sense. I won’t talk about it, it’s too embarrassing. I looked until I wised up. I stopped making a fool of myself, but something died inside of me–something that I’d always sort of liked and admired. In its place grew a scar–a tough spot but also a sore spot.

And now, years after I’d given up the search, here was some charlatan advertising in the newspaper for the very same young dreamer that I’d been fifteen years ago.

But this still doesn’t explain my outrage, does it?

Try this: You’ve been in love with someone for a decade–someone who barely knows you’re alive. You’ve done everything, tried everything to make this person see that you’re a valuable, estimable person, and that your love is worth something. Then one day you open up the paper and glance at the Personals column, and there you see that your loved one has placed an ad . . . seeking someone worthwhile to love and be loved by.

Oh, I know it’s not exactly the same. Why should I have expected this unknown teacher to have contacted me instead of advertising for a pupil? Contrariwise, if this teacher was a charlatan, as I assumed, why would I have wanted him to contact me?

Let it go, I was being irrational. It happens, it’s allowed.


I had to go down there, of course–had to satisfy myself that it was just another scam. You understand. Thirty seconds would do it, a single look, ten words out of his mouth. Then I’d know. Then I could go home and forget about it.

When I got there, I was surprised to find it was a very ordinary sort of office building, full of second-rate flacks, lawyers, dentists, travel agents, a chiropractor, and a private investigator or two. I’d expected something a little more atmospheric–a brownstone with paneled walls, high ceilings, and shuttered windows, perhaps. I was looking for Room 105, and I found it in the back, where a window would overlook the alley. The door was uninformative. I pushed it open and stepped into a large, empty room. This uncommon space had been created by knocking down interior partitions, the marks of which could still be seen on the bare hardwood floor.

That was my first impression: emptiness. The second was olfactory; the place reeked of the circus–no, not the circus, the menagerie: unmistakable but not unpleasant. I looked around. The room was not entirely empty. Against the wall at the left stood a small bookcase containing thirty or forty volumes, mainly on history, prehistory, and anthropology. A lone overstuffed chair stood in the middle, facing away, toward the wall at the right, and looking like something the movers had left behind. Doubtless this was reserved for the master; his pupils would kneel or crouch on mats arranged in a semicircle at his knee.

And where were these pupils, who I had predicted would be present by the hundreds? Had they perhaps come and been led away like the children of Hamelin? A film of dust lay undisturbed on the floor to disprove this fancy.

There was something odd about the room, but it took me another look round to figure out what it was. In the wall opposite the door stood two tall casement windows admitting a feeble light from the alley; the wall to the left, common with the office next door, was blank. The wall to the right was pierced by a very large plate-glass window, but this was plainly not a window to the outside world, for it admitted no light at all; it was a window into an adjacent room, even dimmer than the one I occupied. I wondered what object of piety was displayed there, safely beyond the touch of inquisitive hands. Was it some embalmed Yeti or Bigfoot, made of cat fur and papier-mâché? Was it the body of a UFOnaut cut down by a National Guardsman before he could deliver his sublime message from the stars (“We are brothers. Be nice.”)?

Because it was backed by darkness, the glass in this window was black–opaque, reflective. I made no attempt to see beyond it as I approached; I was the spectacle under observation. On arrival, I continued to gaze into my own eyes for a moment, then rolled the focus forward beyond the glass–and found myself looking into another pair of eyes.

I fell back, startled. Then, recognizing what I’d seen, I fell back again, now a little frightened.

The creature on the other side of the glass was a full-grown gorilla.

Full-grown says nothing, of course. He was terrifyingly enormous, a boulder, a sarsen of Stonehenge. His sheer mass was alarming in itself, even though he wasn’t using it in any menacing way. On the contrary, he was half-sitting, half-reclining most placidly, nibbling delicately on a slender branch he carried in his left hand like a wand.

I did not know what to say. You will be able to judge how unnerved I was by this fact: that it seemed to me I should speak–excuse myself, explain my presence, justify my intrusion, beg the creature’s pardon. I felt it was an affront to gaze into his eyes, but I was paralyzed, helpless. I could look at nothing else in the world but his face, more hideous than any other in the animal kingdom because of its similarity to our own, yet in its way more noble than any Greek ideal of perfection.

There was in fact no obstacle between us. The pane of glass would have parted like a tissue had he touched it. But he seemed to have no idea of touching it. He sat and gazed into my eyes and nibbled the end of his branch and waited. No, he wasn’t waiting; he was merely there, had been there before I arrived and would be there when I’d left. I had the feeling I was of no more significance to him when a passing cloud is to a shepherd resting on a hillside.

As my fear began to ebb, consciousness of my situation returned. I said to myself that the teacher was plainly not on hand, that there was nothing to keep me there, that I should go home. But I didn’t like to leave with the feeling that I’d accomplished nothing at all. I looked around, thinking I’d leave a note, if I could find something to write on (and with), but there was nothing. Nevertheless, this search, with the thought of written communication in mind, brought to my attention something I’d overlooked in the room that lay beyond the glass; it was a sign or poster hanging on the wall behind the gorilla. It read:


This sign stopped me–or rather, this text stopped me. Words are my profession; I seized these and demanded that they explain themselves, that they cease to be ambiguous. Did they imply that hope for gorillas lay in the extinction of the human race or in its survival? It could be read either way.

It was, of course, a koan–meant to be inexplicable. It disgusted me for that reason, and for another reason: because it appeared that this magnificent creature beyond the glass was being held in captivity for no other reason than to serve as a sort of animate illustration for this koan.

You really ought to do something about this, I told myself angrily. Then I added: It would be best if you sat down and were still.

I listened to the echo of this strange admonishment as if it were a fragment of music I couldn’t quite identify. I looked at the chair and wondered: Would it be best to sit down and be still? And if so, why? The answer came readily enough: Because, if you are still, then you will be better able to hear. Yes, I thought, that is undeniably so.

For no conscious reason, I lifted my eyes to those of my beastly companion in the next room. As everyone knows, eyes speak. A pair of strangers can effortlessly reveal their mutual interest and attraction in a single glance. His eyes spoke, and I understood. My legs turned to jelly, and I barely managed to reach the chair without collapsing.

“But how?” I said, not daring to speak the words aloud.

“What does it matter?” he replied as silently. “It’s so, and nothing more needs to be said.”

“But you–” I sputtered. “You are . . .”

I found that, having come to the word, and with no other word to put in its place, I could not speak it.

After a moment he nodded, as if in acknowledgment of my difficulty. “I am the teacher.”

For a time, we gazed into each other’s eyes, and my head felt as empty as a derelict barn.

Then he said: “Do you need time to collect yourself?”

“Yes!” I cried, speaking aloud for the first time.

He turned his massive head to one side to peer at me curiously. “Will it help you to listen to my story?”

“Indeed it will,” I said. “But first–if you will–please tell me your name.”

He stared at me for a while without replying and (as far as I could tell at that time) without expression. Then he proceeded as if I hadn’t spoken at all.

“I was born somewhere in the forests of equatorial West Africa,” he said. “I’ve never made any effort to find out exactly where, and see no reason to do so now. Do you happen to know anything about animal collecting for zoos and circurses?”

I looked up, startled. “I know nothing at all about animal collecting.”

“At one time, or at least during the thirties, the method commonly used with gorillas was this: On finding a band, collectors would shoot the females and pick up all the infants in sight.”

“How terrible,” I said, without thinking.

The creature replied with a shrug. “I have no actual memory of the event–though I have memories of still earlier times. In any case, the Johnsons sold me to a zoo in some small northeastern city–I can’t say which, for I had no awareness of such things as yet. There I lived and grew for several years.”

He paused and nibbled absentmindedly on his branch for a while, as if gathering his thoughts.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 236 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 236 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Major Influence

    A reviewer of this book once wrote that she defines all the many books she's read into two categories: those "before Ishmael" and "after Ishmael". I agree, but with more muscle...I tend to define my entire worldview (yes, it is THAT provocative!) into ideas I had Before/After Ishmael. I've given away over 20 copies of this book to friends and family with the hope that it will touch the people I love with the same kind of grace I felt when I read it. Truly remarkable.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2007

    Phast Phood Philosophy

    I read this book as an agreed-upon title for discussion in a book club, otherwise I don't think I could have finished it. The author droned on and on in a simplistic and didactic imitation of the classical and biblical philosophy motifs: dialogue and allegory. In the process, he subverts dialectic and intellectual epiphany into his own personal megaphone for propaganda. He presents tired armchair renditions of Marx and Rousseau, whining for the redistribution of wealth, condemning the great religions, and with a sycophantic paean to the 'noble savage'. Quinn spends the whole book lamenting the development of agriculture and impuning white males as carrying the 'Mark of Cain' in a crudely racist attack. He goes on to extol the dismal falacies of Malthus as inevitable, and longs for his fantasy of everyone returning to a hunter-gatherer 'paradise'. Like all utopians, Quinn is insufferable and is happy to offer a Jacobin solution to famine- let the bastards starve. If these obtuse premises were not bad enough, the writing itself is awful: overextended metaphors,inaccurate historical, anthropological, and philosophical references, and the incredibly annoying voice of the author stroking his own ego through the dialogue. In a world where time is so precious, I resented wasting mine on such pap. I had anticipated hearty 'food for thought' based on recommendations, but ended up instead with a bag of pork rinds. Yeccccch!

    8 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    Disappointing--Not worth the effort

    Reading through the back cover, the first few pages of this book, and at some of the reviews for 'Ishmael' gave me hope that this assigned reading was somewhat inspiring or at the very least, thought provoking. It was none of this. Yes, a gorilla and a man converse telepathically about the fate of the world, human destruction of the environment, and how the world came to be this way. Yes, it gives historical and biblical context as to the Big Bang, human evolution, and the mindset that humans are superior to any other species on this planet. But if you are a human and have been living in the past century in any developed nation and have had spare time to think or ponder on the horrors of the world, of the problems that plague this nation and ravage humanity, then you already know all of this. Quinn writes in this annoyingly pretentious and self-righteous tone when describing the story of the 'Leavers' and 'Takers' that it is hard not to fall asleep or balk at his audacity in treating his readers like five-year-olds. On another note, Quinn's views on global population control and food production are discussed and he suggests birth control and restraint from developed nations to aid nations suffering from famine. On a biological and completely clinical diagnosis, yes, we could cut Mother Nature some slack and slow down the population growth and let people starve to death. Quinn, of course, notes that humans are not the ones who dictate what happens, but the gods. It seems completely contradictory that this book is meant to inspire people to save the world at the expense of human lives, at the cost of the human heart and our own souls. So sue me if I want to help Third World nations reeling from famine and poverty. There are, in the real world and outside of Quinn's fantasy land of gorilla-speak, organizations like Heifer International that seek to end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability. How this book has inspired people is beyond me. It shows us what humans are capable of, what we have already destroyed, and what we will end up destroying. It is nothing new. What angers me the most is that Quinn offers no real guide or solutions to even aiding this idealistic cause that he so highly regards. Ishmael tells his pupil to teach others what he has learned from these discussions, but this is reality. This is a world where the human race, as Quinn points out, is so flawed beyond belief that we wage wars against the most innocent and undeserving of enemies. It takes more than teachings to change the world and save it from ourselves. It takes real plans, goals, and fresh ideas enforced by a body that is recognized on an international level. This book is idealistic at best, and at its worst, with its nonexistent plot line and boring recount of human history and time, is too optimistic and simplistic to be real. Call me a cynic, but the world did not get to be this way because everyone listened to each other and played nice. What makes Quinn think that saving the world from ourselves should be this easy?

    7 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    justSO - SO

    I was given this book by a friend and told that it was a must read. This is going to be a very unpopular star rating, but... Daniel Quinn is spot-on in saying that Mother Culture has brain washed the masses, even the more enlightened ones.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2007

    phenominal work

    I will agree with those who said this book was hard to get through. It was. I didn't enjoy the style of writing or the tone of the book and I didn't feel a connection to any of the characters. Normally those points would not allow me to enjoy a book at all. The strange thing is that I HAD to get through this book - because the ideas Quinn wanted to convey were so powerful. I always tell people that this book is worth getting through to get the background information and then move on to a much more well written book by the same author, 'The Story of B'.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Preachy uninspiring

    I decided upon this book because I was told it was a must read. If you like preachy books without explanation then this just might be for you. It felt like "The Secret" where the author is demeaning and telling you how you should feel instead of just proving their piece. I do not recommend to any age group. Boring, preachy, slow... etc

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    This book did NOT change my life

    At one point in the story, Ishmael, the gorilla, discusses the Bible story of Cain and Abel. Ishmael says that Cain was a group of people at the beginning of the agriculture revolution around 8,000 B.C. that started farming and Abel was the pastoralistic Semites, the ancestors of the Hebrew people. Ishmael goes on to say that Cain kills Abel for the land and that Abel wrote Genesis 4 to show that God was on their side. But, in Genesis 4, Cain is the pastoralist, or animal herder, and Abel was the farmer. This completely contradicts what Ishmael is attempting to say.

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    This book will change your life

    Ishmael will challenge the way you think and live, in a very good way. After reading this book you will want to do anything and everything to save the world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    it really will change your life

    I read a lot of reviews on this book before buying, and most of them talked about a life changing experience. Well, I completely agree. This is the story I've always wanted, and it has confirmed the way I've always felt about humanity and the world as a whole. This book well forever change the way you look at the world. By the end of the book I was on the verge of crying. GET THIS BOOK.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Read this book as soon as you can

    I have never come across something that has changed my outlook on life so drastically.

    This is a must read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Change the way you think

    This books seems a bit silly whenever I try to describe it: "Well, you see, a gorilla teaches a man how to save the world." That doesn't do it any kind of justice. What this book will do is change the way you see the world and the people in it. You might start acting a bit differently, start thinking of third-world countries with a bit more respect, and you might start up a conversation with the gorilla at the local zoo. Read this one just to get yourself questioning the world a bit, if for nothing else.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2008

    A life altering story.

    This is a phenomenal story that, while fiction, sets your mind in motion. I have bought several copies because I felt that the people I love just had to read it. All students would benefit from this book as well as the recreational reader.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2008

    Changed My Life

    This book changed my perspective on life, opended my eyes to ideas and enlightenment I never knew existed.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2013

    Meh. Kind of pretentious.

    Not nearly as eye-opening as Quinn clearly thinks it is, but has some interesting points.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Horrible. Just horrible. I wasted $14 dollars on this book. I gi

    Horrible. Just horrible. I wasted $14 dollars on this book. I give it a star because I cannot go lower. Honestly, how does Ishmael change people's lives?
    It's about a contradicting gorilla, guys!!! (LIFESAVING ALERT)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    I did not enjoy this book. I admit there were bits of interestin

    I did not enjoy this book. I admit there were bits of interesting parts. However, it felt as if I was almost reading a bible. This is not a favorable feeling. I prefer novels with more of a plot, which Ishmeal, in my opinion, lacks. Although the language is appropriate and the novel is even well written, I detest the story line. I don't recommend this book for those looking for a creative experience. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013


    This book will make you want to scream shout laugh and sing.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2010

    Didn't like

    Book Review on "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn
    This book review is on the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. In this book a man reads a newspaper article that describes a teacher who is seeking a student with an earnest desire to save the world. The man gets very angry and mad for some reason and throws the article in the trash. The next day he goes to the address written in the newspaper just out of curiosity to see if anyone came. But when he realized no one is there he goes inside and finds a Gorilla. For the rest of the book the Gorilla is teaching the man philosophical material on how mankind is destroying the world. I don't recommend this book for readers like me, teenagers, or anyone younger. But I would recommend this book to adults interested in philosophy.
    The book "Ishmael" is a very slow going and long book. From the side it may not look very large, but when you start reading, it seems much larger than it really is. When I was reading this book I found myself not even paying attention to what was going on. After that I had to go back and start reading at the part where I had just the slightest idea of what was happening, and only after that would I read on.
    The book was very slow at getting to the points that the Gorilla wanted to teach the student. I got the impression the student was not the smartest person around, because I was answering, in my mind, the questions asked by the Gorilla pages before the student even had the closest idea of what the teacher was talking about.
    However, this book does have some good parts to it. For example, the ideas Daniel Quinn is talking about make a lot of sense. Unfortunately I can not give you one of those examples because I would have to put in five pages to get to the point of what is going on.
    So, if you are a teenager like me, I would not recommend this book for the reasons described above, but if you are willing to try to pay attention to what the author is talking about, feel free to read this book. You will only get smarter.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Ever feel like there has to be a better way to live?

    Ishmael was recommended by a friend, and I am very glad it was. What an utterly unique and thought provoking book this is. If you like an intellectual challenge, if you like to have your thoughts and beliefs challenged, then you will enjoy this story.

    A teacher, unlike any other, is looking for a student. The student he is looking for needs to have a strong desire to save the world. The student he gets thinks he knows what he is getting in to, but after his initial shock, he is challenged into having to find the answers buried deep within his own subconscious and in mankind's own history. There are so many interesting facts and ideas brought up in their interactions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    Ishmael: A new insight as to how we became

    Some people believe that the world was created for man, however other species believe that the world was created not only for man, but for all species and creatures; and that man is just a part of the world's species. Will other species continue to evolve and in the future pass the evolved species of man? As our world continues to change and evolve, what will become of man? How can man stop destroying the world?
    "TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." (Daniel Quinn, P 4) In the beginning, there was man, in the end, no one can predict what lies ahead for the world and all of it's inhabitants. The question is always asked in our society how did man come to be, along with the story that was told by mankind's ancestors? There are many different versions of how mankind came to be in a world full of growth and development. Some believe in the theory of evolution through the rapid development of primitive species. Others seek and find comfort in the story of the gods and the meaning behind Adam and Eve. Many are unsure how man came to be, and no one can really prove who is right in a society filled with opposition and variety.
    The readers of this book will find "Ishmael" not only intriguing but persuasive as well. "From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories-the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after" (Jim Britell, Whole Earth Review Front Cover) Many readers of Ishmael will find themselves questioning their own beliefs on how man came to be, and how Ishmael has altered entirely the way they view their own actions on this Earth. Readers will be very intrigued by the appearance Ishmael portrays in the book and how the pupil is just a normal human on Earth has his whole life changed due to how Ishmael portrays mankind, him not being human. Ishmael is suspenseful and inventive. The world seeks to fix the flaws that have been caused by mankind however only mankind can fix these flaws in order to survive and continue to conquer in peace with all other species around them.
    Daniel Quinn, the author of Ishmael was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1935, and went on to study at the St. Louis University along with the University of Vienna in Austria, and Loyola University of Chicago. However in 1975, he abandoned a long career in publishing to become a freelance writer which included later writing Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael, Providence, and Beyond Civilization. ( Ishmael was originally written in 1977. It ended up being written six different times until the final copy was published in 1990. Daniel Quinn has written over a dozen books, and Ishmael was the inspiration and plot behind the 1999 film, Instinct starring Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding, Jr. This film received the Genesis award in 2000.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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