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Book Review: The Buddha and the Bard by Lauren Shufran

Welcome to the next book I’ve officially reviewed, and I adored it. I got this one from the Speakeasy Theological Review Network, and you can find the full disclaimer here.

Overview: 5 stars of 5

The Buddha and The Bard: Where Shakespeare’s Stage Meets Buddhist Scriptures by Lauren Shufran (amazon, author’s website, author’s instagram) is a beautiful, enlightening, and witty read through the clear and natural parallels between Shakespeare and Buddhism and can be used as a primer on either one.

Lauren Shufran paints evocative pictures of each nuanced understanding of the tenets of Buddhist belief, breaking down sometimes complex concepts into their component parts and pulling useful and poignant parallels from the Shakespeare canon.

Readability: A-

This book was a quick read and beautiful to behold (very high production value on the physical copy), and the only reason I docked readability was that Shufran would consistently use non-English words in the body of her descriptions. I’m not referring to the first reference of a Buddhist term, or where she talks in a beautiful and useful way about how difficult or easy it is to translate the word into English and the nuance of meaning it conveys, but after these references, she continues to use the term. I presume it’s a habit within Buddhist communities, and that makes perfect sense, but as someone who is a theologian of another religion and who has great respect for Buddhism but much more familiarity with Shakespeare, the consistent use of the non-English words beyond the discussion of their etymology lowered the readability. 

Obviously, this wouldn’t be an issue for a reader who was a practicing Buddhist, and they might go ahead and give the text readability an A+, which otherwise it was.

Shufran takes great care and obvious joy in sorting through the essence of the words themselves, pulling out double and triple meanings, but treating them with a beautiful flow that aids readability.

Relevance: A+

I gave this book an A+ in relevance because Shufran made clear and obvious to me the essence of Buddhism in a way previous study had failed me. I’m the sort of person who enjoys reading Thich Nhat Hahn occasionally, and I’ve found one or two of Pema Chodron’s books helpful. I’ve read about Buddhism specifically, its founding and its basic tenets, but that had been all so much dry information. By putting each specific detail of the foundation stones of the religion in terms of various exquisitely parsed out quotes from Shakespeare, Shufran brought Buddhism alive for me in a way nothing else had.

And any time an author can do that for a religion the reader doesn’t follow… that makes the book instantly and perfectly relevant.

Joy: A+

I loved this book. Imma go read it again, just as soon as my spouse is done with it.

Fine Print: This book was furnished to me free of charge from the Speakeasy Theological Review Network in return for a fair, unbiased review. For the full disclaimer, click here.

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