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Effective principles but will not appeal to everyone
on November 22, 2003
The Traveler's Gift is a book of success principles told as a parable. It has several points in common with many other books in the self-help genre. On the plus side, if you study and follow the principles, you will probably benefit. On the downside, it is not especially original and it's not a book you would read for its literary qualities. This book also has a certain spiritual and political slant that will appeal to many readers but will alienate others. The hero of the story is David Ponder, a man down on his luck who, after an accident, finds himself hurled through history meeting many famous (and a couple of not so famous) leaders and other heroic figures. This includes two American presidents, Lincoln and Truman, Christopher Columbus, Ann Frank and King Solomon. The spiritual slant is definitely Judeo-Christian, with the archangel Gabriel even making an appearance. I suppose this aspect of the book can be appreciated as a parable even for those who don't share the author's religious perspective. The political slant I found a bit more problematic. Anyone who has qualms about the conventional American interpretation of historical events such as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, the noble motives of Christopher Columbus or the pure idealism of Lincoln and the Union during the Civil War might be distracted from the self-help aspect of the book and question some of the author's assumptions and historical sources. It may be that he is aiming his message at a very specific type of reader and is not concerned with such possible objections. This bias, no doubt, is reflected in the success principles themselves, which are mostly very macho and gung-ho (one notable exception is the section on forgiveness), with many military analogies . Still, the principles, which are called "seven decisions that determine personal success" are sound and well explained. If people follow the advice to be decisive, accept responsibility for their actions, and have faith in the future, they will almost certainly have good results. I was not especially enamored with the style of this book, but I know that it has touched and helped many people and I'm sure it will help many more in the future.