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It is a wonderful feeling to recognize the unity of a complex of phenomena that to direct observation appear to be quite separate things. - Albert Einstein


There are so many thousands of books, so many thousands of good causes out there. Why such a fuss over this one? In short, why Ishmael? Well, there are a number of reasons. If you have read Ishmael, you are probably familiar with some of these. If you have not yet read it, hopefully by the end of this page, you will realize why you must at least take the short time to read it, and judge for yourself.

Ever Wonder What's Missing?

page 5 of Ishmael, Quinn's narrator explains why he could never quite accept the idea that all there is to life is to "get a job, make some money, work till you're sixty, then move to Florida and die." A lot of us have a hard time with that concept, even feeling that somewhere someone has lied to us about a few things, though we can never put a finger on just what. We instinctively feel that there must be something more than this, yet day in and day out we trudge off to take our part in this story. How else are we going to put food on the table and pay the bills? If we work hard enough, we tell ourselves, perhaps one day we can be one of the rich and famous.

The sad thing is, however, that even reaching that level of the rich and famous isn't much of an answer. These days, even those who supposedly gain the most from our way of life don't seem all that thrilled with it. The stories of suicide, divorce and drugs among the rich and famous are rampant, and show that at some level, even with what we label unsurpassable success, something important is missing in our very way of life these days. But what is it?

Not Satisfied With the Usual Answers?

Our culture provides a lot of answers to this question of why we feel something is missing. Our clergy will tell us the answer lies in finding salvation in religion. Psychiatrists will tell us that it lies in the chemicals in our brains. Some claim that it's in "raising our consciousness" through meditation. Others brush the question off and just label those who bother to think about it as uptight or even crazy. Many take advantage of this popular feeling that something is missing by preying on it to sell snake oils and pills of all kinds claiming to have the answer. Our late night infomercials are filled with audiotape sets, hair replacement systems and exercise machines of all shapes and sizes promising to offer that one little change we need to be back on the road to happiness. But most of us who have really sought the answers have found all of these solutions incomplete.

Sick Of Empty Solutions?

The narrator of Ishmael begins his journey upon finding an ad in the newspaper that reads "Teacher Seeks Pupil. Must Have An Earnest Desire to Save the World. Apply in Person." If this were a late night infomercial we would hear the narrator begin to explain how thrilled he is about this prospect of saving the world. But not this narrator. He throws the ad down in disgust. He's sick of being given temporary answers that finally prove to be incomplete, just like most of us are. We live in a society that is apathetic and sick of being offered empty solutions that fail year in and year out. Daniel Quinn doesn't expect you to believe that what you are going to read will change your mind. He expects you to be ready for another letdown. And then he surprises you.

An Answer That Gets To The Root Of The Problem

The reason that
Ishmael succeeds where so many others fail, in offering a real answer to that feeling of what is missing, is that it deals with the most important question of all: How did it get to be this way? In answering it, Quinn shows the connection between so many of the manifestations of that feeling that something just isn't working. In our culture today we are surrounded by drugs, crime, poverty, abuse, every social ill imaginable. Some of us are lucky enough to escape these problems, but have our own issues. We work long hours for little pay. Or we have a job that we are told is great, but still don't feel fulfilled somehow. We have poor relationships. We feel isolated from our communities.

In the wake of all of these issues, thousands of different causes have arisen. There are environmental groups to deal with the tearing down of the rain forest. There are animal rights groups to deal with the abuse of animals. There are child rights groups, labor unions, human rights organizations, and so on. There are hundreds of self-help books ready to explain how to make your job, your marriage or your pocketbook more fulfilled. While many of these solutions do wonderful work, few of them get to the root issues which lie behind all of the problems. Does it sound unbelievable that there are common causes behind all of these problems, from the devastation of the rain forest to the low salary on some of our checks? From the problems in global warming to the violence of children in schools? Most would find it hard to believe that these issues are connected, until reading Ishmael.

Ishmael Making A Big Impact

Because of the way that it explains the root of so many of our current problems, Ishmael has influenced people in an unbelievable spectrum of areas. As mentioned, it has inspired the likes of
Oprah Winfrey, Pearl Jam, Hollywood producers and CEO's. But it is also influencing everyday folks like doctors and teachers throughout the world. Visit the Ishmael in Action section to learn more about the incredible diversity of people being changed by what they learned from Daniel Quinn.

Read how Ishmael has impacted readers like yourself on our Reader Testimony page or on The Ishmael Community Network.

Read Ishmael First, But Don't Stop There

Upon finishing Ishmael, many readers still have questions and clarifications that they would like made. Luckily, Daniel Quinn is no one hit wonder. His subsequent books have gone on to open new eyes, while further enlightening those who had already read Ishmael. There is much more to learn even after you finish Ishmael. However, because of the history of how the books came to be written, we recommend that readers begin with Ishmael. Certainly, some readers have read his other books first, but in general, we feel that reading Ishmael first gives the broadest understanding possible.

We wholeheartedly endorse Quinn's other work, in addition to Ishmael, and wish to make it clear that
Ishmael is only the start, an introduction to Quinn's ideas. We strongly urge you to continue to read the rest of his books, especially (in order) Story of B, My Ishmael and Beyond Civilization, which round out his main thesis that was initiated in Ishmael. Reading the books in that order makes sense because each book was written as a response to questions that Quinn received in response to the previous one. Ishmael lays out the foundation that is used in all of the subsequent books.

Check Out Ishmael For Yourself For Free!

Experience Daniel Quinn's words for yourself!
Read the beginning of Ishmael, as well as Quinn's other books, free online.

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