This I believe : the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women

by Jay Allison (Editor)

Other authorsDan Gediman (Editor)
Paper Book, 2007





New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2007.


Presents a collection of eighty essays exploring the personal beliefs of a diverse assortment of contributors, both famous and unknown, who reflect on their faith, the evolution of their beliefs, and how they express them.

User reviews

LibraryThing member karieh
Because I can’t really comment on the usual things one does in a book review….plot, characterization, writing style, thematic elements… I will simply summarize the quotes from this amazing book that touched me the most.

Novelist Isabel Allende: “Give, give, give – what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don’t give it away? Or having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Or having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and the divine.”

Composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein: “I believe that she (America) is at a critical point in this moment and that she needs us to believe more strongly than ever before in her and in one another, in our ability to grow and change, in our mutual dignity, in our democratic method. We must encourage thought, free and creative. We must respect privacy. We must observe taste by not exploiting our sorrows, successes, or passions.”

Also – “…one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it.”

Elizabeth Deutsch Earle (from 1950): “Johnathan Edwards, a Puritan minister, resolved never to do anything out of revenge. I am a modern, a member of a church far removed from Puritanism, yet I have accepted this resolution. Since revenge and retaliation seem to have been accepted by nations today, I sometimes have difficulty reconciling my moral convictions with the tangled world being handed down to us by adults.”

Also – “If I were to discover that there is no afterlife, my motive for moral living would not be destroyed. I have enough of the philosopher in me to love righteousness for its own sake.”

Law professor Michael Mullane: “The law is wonderfully strong and terribly fragile. In times of crisis and threat, there is a temptation to stop believing in the rule of law – a temptation to think that it weakens rather than protects us….”Maybe we do need to sacrifice personal liberties to be safe, but then I remember that generations of Americans bled and died to create and protect the rule of law, and I wonder: If we ignore it now, how will we ever get it back?”

English historian Arnold Toynbee: “To imagine that one’s own church, civilization, nation or family is the chosen people is, I believe, as wrong as it would be for me to imagine that I myself am God. I agree with Symmachus, the pagan philosopher who put the case for toleration to a victorious Christian church, and I will end by quoting his words: The universe is too great a mystery for there to be only one single approach to it.”

This book, these essays are such amazing pieces of humanity. I was the most impressed by people whose names I did not know, people who had not had practice writing or giving speeches or being in the public eye. It was the cabdriver, the teacher, the sixteen year olds whose view of the world was most enlightening. And so it should be in everything.
After reading this book, I of course started to think about what I would write. I believe so many things…but which belief is the defining one? Which belief could I sum up in under 500 words? Which belief would I feel comfortable telling others about?

“This I Believe” is a wonderful collection of words and thoughts and dreams. Almost every essay contained an inspirational memory or thought that improved my view of humanity. That changed my idea of a person whose name I knew well.

But I must finish this review with a quote from an essay that didn’t change me at all – and that certainly didn’t surprise me at all, given my impressions of the writer. “I believe that the world is inherently a very dangerous place and that things that are now very good can go bad very quickly.”

- Newt Gingrich.
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LibraryThing member ambeyer
Good stories. Many were really good - some were not my favorite. The length of the stories was ideal. The stories I liked best were ones written by people like you and me. I wasn't as impressed by the stories by "great" people.
LibraryThing member jrbeach
My five star rating is for the audio edition I listened to on my mp3 player. I don't know if I would give it the fifth star if I read the book - I love listening to an author read his/her own words. It especially was interesting hearing the voices of current writers, like John Updike, and famous names from the past - Eleanor Roosevelt, and the serendipity of listening to Jackie Robinson just 10 minutes before the all-star game. The title is a little misleading - it depends on your definition of "remarkable". While many entries were from the famous, many were from "ordinary" people. I found all were interesting. Not having a book in front of me I don't know how many essays there are, but I was struck by how similar many were in their beliefs, even tho they were expressed in very different terms.… (more)
LibraryThing member alspray
The essays themselves are wonderful, delightful, thought-provoking. It's the format - the compilation - that leaves me underwhelmed. Essays for the 'This I Believe' project are typically either played on the radio or printed in journals once a week, a format that lends itself to careful consideration over time. The book - if you must read the book - is to be slowly digested. Plus I miss the audio. I'm familiar with many of the essays from NPR and though its true that the written essays each have a strong "voice"... I miss the real one (sans quotes).… (more)
LibraryThing member debs4jc
Anyone would benefit from listening to this illuminating look at the beliefs that guide people in their everyday life. It includes excerpts from a project in which people from all walks of life share their personal views on what they believe about life. Originally it was a radio show that aired in the 50's, so some of the people sharing their beliefs are historical figures like Helen Keller and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is fascinating to listen to and is well produced. I was wishing for a volume II as soon as I popped the last CD out of my player.… (more)
LibraryThing member mzonderm
I really wish I had listened to this in smaller chunks. It's a lot to take in. Some of the essays were not exceptional, but others were absolutely wonderful. Topics ranged from the rule of law, love, and freedom to barbecue and jazz. And listening to this collection, rather than reading it, really does add a lot to the experience. Not to mention the opportunity to hear such voices as Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jackie Robinson.… (more)
LibraryThing member Josh_Hanagarne
Fascinating range of personal philosophies, from the woman who believes in attending funerals to the man who swears by barbecue as the apex of life's pleasures. Even better as an audio book, read by the authors
LibraryThing member anniecase
What a great read! It is filled with insightful, thought-provoking essays, some very surprising, such as thoughts on barbecue, jazz, cultivating one's talents, feeding monkeys, being cool to the pizza dude and leaving flowers on graves. I listened to this book and found that some of the older essays were far too formal to enjoy. That formality is off-putting and stuffy. I also found that many of the essays by well-known people were seemingly contrived. John McCain's essay on service to one's country and Newt Gingrich's essay on the importance of American leadership fell flat, but Gloria Steinham's amazing thoughts on the nature vs. nurture debate opened new doors for me. I think everyone will find one point of view that challenges his or her own beliefs and provokes further contemplation, something we don't seem to do enough without external provocation.… (more)
LibraryThing member WholeHouseLibrary
From the popular NPR segment of the same name, this is a well-rounded sampling of the essays aired both from its current incarnation and from the original show around the time I was born, in the early 1950s. This anthology is nothing if not inspiring, and as an added bonus, it’s a very fast read. One is compelled to reflect momentarily on the author’s words and begin anew with the next essay. I will confess that a few of these personal accounts infuriated me, and some I saw more as an attempt to garner political points (you’ll know them when you see them), and I readily admit that it may have not been intended that way, but in my interpretation. Most, however, seemed genuine and forthcoming, and I am inspired to write one of my own. The editors include guidelines as to length and content, and even provide a website for submission. I also appreciated the several pages of black-and-white photos of some of the essayists. I thought it was an added treat to see the faces of those who wrote such thoughtful, deeply-felt, private feelings. This ought to be required reading for anyone, anywhere.… (more)
LibraryThing member debnance
I couldn't stop myself from buying this book at the Texas Book Fair. I so liked the concept. The actual chapters, however, tended to be humdrum, broad and run-of-the-mill. The few exceptions were bright chapters by unknowns. Not as interesting as I had hoped.
LibraryThing member realbigcat
This book is based on the popular National Public Radio program that bears the same name. There are famous people and ordinary people that give their personal essays on what they believe in. The essays date back to the 1950's thru today. I found the essays of the not so famous people more interesting than some of the famous. A very inspirational book and worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member Pferdina
For me, the pieces were too short. I like to sit down for an hour or two at a time with my books, and these little essays were too brief, making the experience feel choppy. Also, maybe I was expecting more profound insights than most of these people offered. My favorite essay was the one by Penn Jillette who wrote about why he is an atheist and how he believes that frees him to be a better human, but the rest were not even memorable.… (more)
LibraryThing member Marliesd
This is based on the NPR show of the same name, which is a revival of an early version of the show that broadcast in the 1950s. Very well worth it!
LibraryThing member Maggie_Rum
A refreshing collection of beliefs, morals, hopes and ideas, not all of which are based on religious thought. Lovely.
LibraryThing member Fledgist
Brief personal essays about belief and identity. These are extraordinary personal statements of self-definition.
LibraryThing member theadawn
Absolutely loved reading this book. I remember writing my own "This I Believe..." in high school and found it fascinating to read about what other people believe and why. Some things seemed completely random, while others were inspiring and still others challenged my own ways of thinking. Wonderful book/
LibraryThing member tnociti
I really enjoyed reading these essays. Written by common citizens as well as easily recognized people of fame, they tell of the personal philosophies that these people have developed in their lives. Some are religious, some are political, some are very deep and philosophical, and some are light and funny, but all are worth the time spent reading them. I read the book as I read a novel, but honestly, you could just sit and pick it up whenever you have a couple of minutes and cherry pick an essay that appeals to you at that moment. My favorite two essays were one written by Jackie Robinson, "Free Minds and Hearts at Work", and one written by a 16 yr old boy, "Tomorrow Will Be a Better Day". I will be re-reading these essays over and over again and at some point I hope to take the time and write my own. I think it's an important skill - to be able to put into words what you really believe.… (more)
LibraryThing member dele2451
I enjoy NPR and was really excited to read these essays, but was left a bit disappointed. It felt as if many of the individual essays were written "off-the-cuff" or rushed without the usual polish and editing normally associated with a printed work as opposed to a radio interview. A good read overall but, if you're looking for the punch of a TED talk or something similar, you could be left wishing for more.… (more)
LibraryThing member mcelhra
The essays in this book were from both the 1950s version of the This I Believe radio show and the current day version of the show. Both famous and everyday people are included and they run the gamut from liberal, conservative, spiritual and secular. The best part - the essays are only three pages long, not long to suffer if you don't agree with the writer's views. My favorite essays were from a woman who wrote one for the 1950s show when she was 16 years old. The producers of the current show asked her, now a woman in her 50s, to write another one. It was interesting to see how a person's views change over that length of time.… (more)



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