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After my recent Great Course exploration of modern Philosophy I decided to pick up How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Faith and Politics at the End of the World.
I also subscribe to an online magazine, Christ and Pop culture, Alissa Wilkinson used to write for. (She is now a writer for Vox and a professor at King's College in NYC after having been the main film reviewer for Christianity Today.) The title may not really describe it well, but this a perfect example of why the magazine Christ and Pop Culture exists.
Christianity can sometimes ignore the importance of stories, in spite of the fact that Jesus (and the bible) seem to have primarily taught through stories. The Great Courses lecture on modern philosophy was occationally hard to track because it did not ground the philosophy enough in experiential examples so that the listener could understand why a particular philosophical idea mattered.
Wilkinson and her co-writer Robert Joustra have grounded their discussion of philosophy in the recent TV and movie obsession with the apocalypse and dystopian stories. Long explorations of Battlestar Galactica, the Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and a number of other shows give context to philosophy so that the reader can understand not only the philosophy being explored but also can understand how good media criticism can give insights into the stories in a way that isn’t possible with just casual watching.
While there is far more than just Charles Taylor’s philosophy explored here, it was the Charles Taylor that I was most interested in. I have read James KA Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular, which is also an exploration of Charles Taylor. I think both books are helpful and there is surprisingly little overlap in content because they come at Taylor’s work in such different ways.
There is no way to really fully describe How to Survive the Apocalypse because it is a very wide ranging book. But I do want to note that you don’t have to have watched all the movies or TV shows to get something out of the book. I was reluctant to pick it up because other than Battlestar Galactica and reading the first four books of Game of Thrones, I have not seen hardly any of the TV shows or movies being discussed. But I had a basic idea of the story of most of them. And there is enough background in the discussion to keep me engaged even if I have not seen what is being discussed.
This is a book that I need to read again. I listened to the audiobook, which was well done by Gabrielle de Cuir (she has narrated a number of Orson Scott Card’s books). But this is philosophy, so a second run at the content in print I think will be helpful.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to How to Survive the Apocalypse again? Why?
Yes. The book is smart, fun, and witty!
Who was your favorite character and why?
The book does not have "characters" per se.
Which character – as performed by Gabrielle de Cuir – was your favorite?
The narrator, Gabrielle de Cuir, did an amazing job. Perfect inflection!
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
It would make a nice documentary. Fun and fast-moving story.
Any additional comments?
An unexpected combination of cultural and religious themes. Fun and thoughtful.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful