Verdict: Filled with great concepts for living, loving, and investing, COFFEE SHOP UNIVERSITY briefly surveys some of the greatest teachings throughout history and presents them in a loosely styled memoir that makes complex ideas more accessible.
Part nonfiction, part memoir (with a little fiction added for interest), this unusual book of 207 pages takes a cursory look at an expansive amount of philosophical thought through the ages. The author, a private investor and technical analyst originally from Beirut Lebanon, moved to Los Angeles, California, as a young man intent on breaking free from religious, political, and cultural restraints that dictated how he should think and behave.
While spending years in America training in martial arts, physical education, and aviation, he also read whatever interdisciplinary books he could find to broaden his worldview and bridge the gap between science and spirituality. The fictional aspects of his book include chance meetings with a talkative expert on psychology named “Gaia” and an even more verbose investment expert named “Pythagoras.” These characters presumably provide a friendlier way to address challenging subjects to the reader.
In 15 chapters, the book cites scholars on the subjects of mythology, spirituality, philosophy, psychology, religion, politics, economics, and ecology. To include such a broad survey of ideas, naturally the work of teachers and their specific teachings are highly abbreviated. The author goes after the pithiest nuggets of wisdom. For example “The tools of living have evolved, but the causes of conflict and persecution remain the same” and “The only way to transcend narrow mindedness, self-consciousness and subjectivity is through unraveling content from symbolism, and life from reality,” are among many key ideas.
Although the memoir aspect attempts to make the book more engaging by personalizing the philosophies, these tidbits (such as the author’s boxing and aviation training) could be better woven into the text. Instead, skeletal scenes of working out at the gym, fighting in a boxing match, and flying an airplane feel like add-ons, rather than integral aspects of the narration. The last few chapters take another left turn and focus almost exclusively on the philosophy of investing. Although an impressive collection of important ideas overall, the book lacks a smooth integration of nonfiction, fiction, and memoir.
Filled with great concepts for living, loving, and investing, this book also includes end notes and a bibliography. The final chapter culminates in “The Golden Principles,” a synthesis of all the philosophies contained in the book.
COFFEE SHOP UNIVERSITY blends nonfiction and memoir to tell one man’s story of how delving into philosophies from around the world and throughout time helped lead him down the path of self-knowledge necessary for wisdom, virtue, and love.
~Carol Michaels for IndieReader