Book Review: A Life at Work by Thomas Moore

January 13, 2010 in Book Reviews, Religion by pacejmiller

The moral of the story is: don’t buy a book you can’t look inside before you pay.

I was on a literary shopping spree in Taiwan’s 24-hour book store, Eslite (I’m going to blog this place soon), picking up all the English book specials I could find.  Just as I was about to head to the counter, I see this neatly wrapped book (in clear plastic) called A Life at Work by Thomas Moore.

‘The joy of discovering what you were born to do’, the cover says.  Oh my goodness, I exclaim silently.  As as person torn between leaving a financially stable job he doesn’t really like and starting over in a risky field he loves, I took it as a sign.

(Read on by clicking ‘More…’)

This Thomas Moore guy is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Care of the Soul, the cover says, so there’s credibility there.  Then without hesitation, I threw the book onto the pile and headed to the registers.  At 183 pages, it was the thinnest book of the lot, but also the most expensive.

To put it bluntly, the book was a major letdown.  I should have known better.

Turns out, Thomas Moore is a ‘spiritual writer’.  If you know what that means, then you’ll know that A Life at Work is a book full of fluff.

The premise was sound.  Moore wants to help you find your ‘life work’.  This is not limited to just your dream job, but also things outside of it that will make you live a well-rounded, happy life.

However, while there was indeed the odd line here or there that had me nodding ever so slightly, the book is so full of sentimental ‘spirituality’ and flowery language that it felt like I was reading a cross between a horoscope and a hypnotherapist’s handbook.

Alarm bells rang immediately when the Preface was titled “Alchemy: The Opus of the Soul”.  And so began an irritating string of references comparing your ‘life work’ to alchemy throughout the entire book.  Moore is a good writer, but he loves to talk about your spirit, the meaning of dreams, taking care of the soul, your ‘daimon’ (WTF?) and even your freaking ‘duende’ (double WTF?) – and he does it with an abundance of allegories, metaphors, parables, fairy tales and even Greek mythology stories.  Of course, there are also many subtle references to religion.

You probably figured it out by now that Moore is a pretty spiritual dude.  If I had known that he left home at 13 to join a Catholic monastery and didn’t leave the ‘religious life’ until 26, I would have never touched A Life at Work.

Here is an excerpt from the book to illustrate my point:

The alchemist peers into his retort.  The mass of material has been stewing there for days, weeks, or even months.  The heat has been constant, sometimes red-hot, sometimes just simmering.  He imagines he sees a white bird, this time flying down into the material, time after time.  This is the bird of spirit, an inseminating figure that represents vision, values, ethics, philosophy, compassion, and spiritual understanding.  It brings the primal stuff to life, refines it, matures it, and ultimately completes the project.

Yep, the whole book was pretty much like that.

I don’t want to discourage ‘spiritual’ people from reading this book (I’m sure they’ll love it), but if you want real, pragmatic, useful  answers to finding a job you can feel passionate about, a job that makes you willing to take a pay cut to do, a job that makes you excited to get up for every the morning – then this book is not for you.

1.5 stars out of 5…