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Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel Paperback – July 7, 2009

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Frequently Bought Together

Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel + Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to  Enlightenment + Yoga School Dropout: A hilarious, hapless and desperate quest for mystic Indians and Tantric bliss
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030738165X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307381651
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cushman, coauthor of the nonfiction From Here to Nirvana and contributing editor to Yoga Journal, has written a hilarious take on the quest for truth that manages to respect the journey while skewering many of the travelers. Amanda, a 29-year-old fledgling yoga teacher, ekes out a living as a freelance writer in San Francisco and seizes the chance to go to India when her editor assigns her to research a guidebook about enlightenment. Soon she's traipsing around India pursuing trendy gurus and yoga masters and scoring insightful encounters with ordinary folk along the way. She also collects a traveling companion: the sweet-natured, celibate truth seeker Devi Das, who, upon viewing the polluted Ganges, advises Amanda to Think holy, not E. coli. The discovery that she's pregnant makes Amanda's quest for meaning all the more poignant, forcing her to review her choices while she struggles to uncover the elusive secret to happiness. Cushman brings devastating wit and a thorough knowledge of her subject to her first novel, evoking an India that fills the senses and stirs the spirit even as it occasionally turns the stomach, and making it possible for the reader to both laugh with and root for Amanda as she comes to terms with her messy life. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cushman’s engaging debut novel follows Amanda, a 29-year-old yoga teacher in northern California, on a tumultuous journey to India and back again as she researches a guidebook on finding inner peace. Her quest becomes as much a personal journey as a writing project as she attempts to shake her attachment to her fickle photographer ex-boyfriend, Matt, and discover her own role in life. While in India, Amanda meets Devi Das, a celibate hippie with flowing dreadlocks who is looking for meaning in life following a personal tragedy. Together, they travel to ashrams and yoga centers from Bangalore to Mount Arunachala, all the while searching for elusive enlightenment. Cushman brilliantly interweaves snippets of Buddhist teachings with the mishaps and successes of their journey, infusing the book with wisdom and humor. Devi Das, an amusing philosopher-king who uses the royal “we,” helps her accomplish this goal. As for Cushman’s protagonist, when unexpected circumstances arise and Matt turns up in her life again, Amanda is forced to reexamine her search for enlightenment and where it may take her. Over the course of her quest, she realizes enlightenment may be closer to home than she imagined. --Katherine Boyle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 39 customer reviews
My only criticism of this book is that it is a bit too long.
The story charts Amanda's path through a slew of ashrams, temples, and hermitages as she desperately searches for spiritual enlightenment.
P. J. Swanwick
I really enjoyed the writing style - the author uses humor and dry wit and it works very well.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By L. Erickson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found this book accidentally at my local library, loved it, and recommended it to students in meditation classes that I teach. As the main character travels through India, she encounters virtually every spiritual tradition taught there, from hot yoga, to Vipassana Buddhism, tantric sexuality and complete renunciation. What I really love about the book is that it offers a real education on all of these traditions in an easy to read context. It actually reads like your standard chick-lit summer fare, but in the end, the concepts it is covering are more than a little sophisticated. It affectionately parodies many of the most famous (or infamous) contemporary spiritual teachers, such as Amma, Sai Baba, and Gangaji, and some of their more over-the-top devotees. It manages to do this in a way that doesn't diminish these teachers' spiritual lessons, but does pose important questions about what true faith and spiritual inquiry is. If you are interested in yoga, meditation, or all things India, check it out.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra on April 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushman follows Amanda, a twenty-nine year old wanna-be yoga instructor who pays the bills by writing instruction manuals for the "For Idiots" series of books (as in Computers for Idiots, etc.). Like many twenty-somethings, Amanda is struggling with the realization that her life doesn't look or feel anything like she thought it would back when she was younger. She lives in an apartment filled with beat-up furniture; has eccentric hippie roommates; is struggling to make ends meet; and she left her "perfect on paper" fiancé for a rootless photographer named Matt who makes her heart race but after three years says that he doesn't believe in labels like "girlfriend".

After Amanda and Matt decide to take a break from their tumultuous relationship, Amanda accepts an assignment in India where she is supposed to find enlightenment and write about it in a book called Enlightenment for Idiots. Amanda discovers more than spirituality and enlightenment in India and her life is forever changed by one monumental and unexpected discovery (which I won't reveal so as to not spoil the book).

Cushman's descriptions of India are so expressive and vivid that I could almost taste the curry, see the Ganges, and smell the crowded streets of New Delhi. Cushman does a superb job of capturing the essence of India and of those who travel there to find spirituality or whatever it is they are looking for. She is masterful at capturing and conveying both the good and the bad aspects of this complicated country and it's people - both foreign and native.

Cushman also does an exceptional job of developing her characters.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. M. Bernett on May 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Amanda's journey, I saw a lot of my own short year's journey into yoga. There was in all of Anne Cushman's characters a kind of manic searching as they tried to experience everything about yoga right now. The story worked for me like a total immersion in the yoga culture: wanting to understand the philosophy, wanting to perfect your asanas, dreaming about visiting India, looking for THE guru. All the characters felt real to me, and I enjoyed following their growth from start to finish. I will miss them and hope that Ms. Cushman brings them back in another novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary C. Escherich on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book and am sharing it with all my friends, whether Yoga lovers or couch potatoes like me. It has wit and whimsy, combined with insights on life and love, and is a real page turner to boot. My twenty something daughter just read it cover to cover on a long distance flight and is now giving it to her friend as a birthday present. Better written than the non-fiction Eat, Pray, Love (which was loaded with grammatical errors!), it manages to be both escapist and thought provoking. Kudos to this first-time novelist.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KinnicChick on April 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book.

Another book covered in less than 24 hours! It was definitely a page-turner.

I ended up underlining and sticky noting on several pages. There were a couple of powerful passages.

But in summary, I thought Ms. Cushman through her main character, Amanda, was trying to show the pain in identifying with the past and in trying to rush ahead to the future. You miss out on the important present moment. It is in the present moment where real life happens. (p 124 - "I wanted to run screaming out of the house and into my future... So why now - riding a train through India, inhabiting the future that was my fantasy then - was I suddenly filled with nostalgia?")

Amanda tears all over India to research her book and in search of the best teachers so that she can find enlightenment. But she'll only find enlightenment within the present moment in stillness. Her best teacher comes along in the birth of her baby, who will keep her firmly rooted in the present moment.

Ms. Cushman did a fantastic and sometimes realistic, sometimes fantastical job with this novel. It was fun and funny, and yes, insightful too. As I mentioned earlier, it reminded me of the Bridget Jones books through its humor, and because of the lead going off to research her work and getting in a bit over her head.

I will recommend this book to friends.
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