Praise for Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker

Posted on June 23, 2014

Devra Lehmann

  • Winner, 2014 National Jewish Book Award, Children’s and Young Adult Literature
  • 7 Part biography, part history, part exploration of Spinoza’s philosophy: wholly engaging. . . . Throughout this ambitious and thorough narrative, Lehmann does an outstanding job of illuminating Spinoza’s concepts in a clear, concise and logical manner and gives them contextual relevance by illuminating the pertinent political and social upheavals of the time. . . . Clarity, accessibility and spot-on relevance to issues facing modern society make this a must-read.
    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    In this lucid introduction to Spinoza’s life and thought, Lehmann walks readers through the contexts that led Spinoza to his belief that man’s chief responsibilities are to think for himself and follow the dictates of reason wherever they lead. …[H]er clear prose and short chapters make this an accessible historical biography for young adults; her exploration of Spinoza’s relationship with Judaism gives the book particular interest for many collections.—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Recommended

    ”This is a highly readable, engaging and illuminating portrait of one of history’s most important philosophers. It is especially pleasing to see a book that introduces Spinoza and his thought to young readers without over-simplification and condescension, one that takes seriously the ideas and their continued relevance.”
    —Steven Nadler
    Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Author of Spinoza: A Life and A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age

    ”Devra Lehmann does such an admirable job of telling the story of Baruch Spinoza’s life and ideas that I expect grownup readers will enjoy the book just as much as her intended younger readers. Even more importantly, Lehmann’s treatment of Spinoza will inspire her readers with one of the most important lessons they can learn: Truth matters.”
    —Rebecca Goldstein
    Professor of Philosophy, New College of the Humanities, London
    Author of Plato at the Googleplex and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity

    Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker flows elegantly and offers a compelling portrait of Spinoza both as a person and as a philosopher. In both respects, Spinoza exhibited a characteristic combination of fearlessness and caution, a duality wonderfully presented by Lehmann’s gripping narrative and her accessible engagement with Spinoza’s religious and political thought. The target audience of the book — young adults — will be struck by the way in which Spinoza honestly and unflinchingly faced the conflicting demands of tradition, authority, politics, and reason and, in so doing, developed into ‘a passionately religious man without a religion’ The many illustrations in the book are a most welcome feature that brings Spinoza’s life to life.”
    —Michael Della Rocca
    Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
    Author of Spinoza

    ”Spinoza comes alive for young (and less young) readers alike in Devra Lehmann’s Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker. Lehmann deftly interweaves Spinoza’s philosophy with the story of his life and times, explaining how his thinking evolved against the backdrop of his society and his upbringing, and spins it into a seamless narrative. Most illuminating is to see how his writings, radical in his day, remain radical in ours even as we have incorporated many of his beliefs into our modern thinking. But mostly this is the story of a man who had the courage of his convictions, and who thought deeply about the issues that continue to compel us all today, and who struggled against mighty odds to remain true to himself.”
    —Roberta Israeloff
    Executive Director, The Squire Family Foundation (Advancing Philosophy Education)
    Author of Kindling the Flame: Reflections on Ritual, Faith and Family

    ”Beautifully described. If I were a young person reading this it would come as a revelation to me.”
    —Jonathan Israel
    Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton UniversityAuthor of Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 and Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre

    Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker is certain to inform and inspire not just young adults, but their parents as well. Devra Lehmann’s sympathetic treatment and lucid prose provide an outstanding introduction to this seventeenth-century intellectual giant. But her book does far more than present the man and his times: it prompts readers to ponder questions of religion and history, and to reconsider their own place in a world forever indebted to someone unafraid to think for himself.”
    —Geoff Bakewell
    Professor of Greek and Roman Studies, Rhodes College