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Living a Life that Matters Paperback – August 20, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385720947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385720946
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A person's longing for significance--which can lead to excessive ambition, moral compromise, and preoccupation with status--often stands in conflict with a longing to be good. In Living a Life That Matters, Harold S. Kushner (the Massachusetts rabbi whose bestselling books include When Bad Things Happen to Good People) suggests that the most successful lives are the ones that most effectively manage and resolve that conflict. For example, Kushner retells the biblical story of Jacob, in a chapter whose lesson is named by its title, "How to Win By Losing." Hamlet, Dirty Harry, and Exodus are a few of the dozens of examples he cites while elaborating on the essential lesson of this book: that success and significance converge in every act of love, generosity, and self-sacrifice that we make for our families, friends, and communities. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Rabbi Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, etc.) outlines a common human struggle between the need to feel successful and the need to think of oneself as a good person. Indeed, he relates, the biblical Jacob wrestled with the impulse to succeed through cleverness and fraud, and "to become someone exemplary." While the subtitle might be challenged can't success be more a matter of dedication than ruthlessness? Kushner's wide-ranging, occasionally meandering book fortunately focuses more on the basic question of a meaningful life. Citing examples from both contemporary life and the Bible, he observes that revenge and retribution cannot heal victims, whereas the new trend toward restorative justice (which works "toward the... restoration of the victim" and holds "the offender accountable") might do so. Kushner sees Isaac Bashevis Singer's character Gimpel the Fool as achieving the utmost integrity because he is "the same person all the time." Love and friendship, Kushner writes, not only signify bonds between people, but help bring God into a selfish world. To avoid feeling insignificant, he urges readers to help someone needy and to think not of themselves but of the next generation. He concludes with words that are more comforting than challenging: simply "[b]y being good people" doing honest work, helping a neighbor, delighting a child "we have an impact on the world." (Sept. 15)Forecast: With a 250,000-copy first printing; a Today Show appearance; selection by BOMC, Literary Guild, Traditions and QPB; first serial rights bought by Family Circle and Parade; and simultaneous audio and large-print editions, this will be another Kushner juggernaut.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Harold S. Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, where he lives. His books include the huge bestseller When Bad Things Happen To Good People and When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough.

Customer Reviews

Rabbi Kushner tells it like it is.
Jerry Mraz
Kushner's wonderful stories and examples, as well as clear entertaining writing make this a gem.
The man
I read this after finishing When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
K. Durivage

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Kushner has woven a fascinating series of essays together to establish a new way to think about the meaningfulness of your life choices. Spiritually, he finds many people torn between the desire to achieve significance and the call of the consciences. Like the young Jacob, some will obtain their desires by cutting corners that offend their consciences.
Drawing on his many years as a rabbi, he shares what he has learned at many death beds. Few people are concerned about dying. Those who have done good things in their lives are almost always at peace. Those who regret the timing of their deaths wish for a little more time, so that they might yet leave some marks of goodness behind them. From that perspective, he gently points out that we can achieve both the significance and the clear conscience that we crave by focusing our attention on have positive influences on others in supporting roles as family member, friend, and occasional helping hand to strangers. The move, It's a Wonderful Life, is used as an example. The Jimmy Stewart character doesn't realize how all the little things he did affected so many lives, which in turn affected so many other lives. We, too, tend to be blind to the potential influence we have.
The book has a kindness and gentleness that make its message welcome and warming. "I believe in you. I believe that you have the ability to do great things, things that will change the world for the better." I share that belief and am delighted that Rabbi Kushner has written this book.
In chapter one, the subject is the two voices of God. This essay considers the models of competition with others and our heart-felt desire to share compassion, and how the two often operate at odds with one another in young people.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock on September 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Few authors writing today offer the kind of comfort that Harold Kushner does. In all of his books, including his latest "Living a Life that Matters," he deals with the big issues in life, and does it in a simple writing style that manages to be both profound and soothing.
Like his readers, Kushner lives in a dual world: a world of commerce and competition, and a world where he desires to be a good person, and feels guilt when he isn't. How does a person integrate these two worlds? As in his other books, Kushner draws on biblical stories that illustrate the universal and timeless nature of this conflict. In Genesis, Jacob is a character at first wily and ambitious (he steals his brother's birthright, among other things) but also a character who has the famous wrestle with an angel. Kushner sees this image as being a perfect symbol of man's struggle with his dual nature. Throughout the book he returns to his struggle of duality, which he believes is inherant to human nature. We all desire to be good, while needing our competitive side to survive in this world. Kushner encourages that balance between the two is key to living a life that matters.
With that resolved, Kushner delves into why life has meaning in spite of our nature. He believes, as do many religious people, that every life has value to God, and even the smallest decisions we make can affect others' lives for the good. There is a nice sentiment to his spirituality, and he is gifted at handling broad topics with grace --he references sources as diverse as the Old Testement, the movie "Witness," and the Jeckyll and Hyde story to illustrate his points, and does it without seeming heavy handed or moralizing. Somehow religion makes sense when Kushner explains it -- even something as baffling as eating kosher makes perfect sense when he is done explaining it.
I've enjoyed all of Rabbi Kushner's books. This one is on par with the rest -- graceful, moving and impactful.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on October 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Living a life that matters can be easily translated into living a life of love and compassion for one's fellow man. As a result of the terrible tragedy in New York City on September 11th, there are many people searching for answers to life's meaning, and asking why...why this senseless tragegy? The unexplained mysteries of life, however tragic, are often attributed to the fact that the universe is unfolding as fate intended and that all things happen for a reason. Somtimes, it is very difficult to find "good reason" in such a time of horror. Tragedy has a way of bringing people together in time of need, and hopefully from that we find strength, understanding and love for humanity. Through all of this we struggle to find spiritual and emotional peace within ourselves and while "Living a Life That Matters" does not have all the answers, it is a book which instills goodness, understanding and compassion within us. The book helps us to see that revenge and quest for power are destructive, that material gain is really very insignificant in life's overall plan, and that love, kindness, compassion and personal strength enrich our lives a thousand times over. Each and every person we reach out to touch leaves a mark on the world and in our hearts.
Harold S. Kushner has written a book that causes the reader to look deep within themselves and decide for themselves just what kind of person they truly want to be. Chapter eight was my favourite part of the book as it points out the influence we have on others. Each and every chapter reveals an important message to us so that we may do our part in making the world a better place and, by doing so, finding solice and peace within ourselves.
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