Return to media reviews

Radical Wholeness: The Embodied Present and the Ordinary Grace of Being

Sometimes you start a book, and you're at the exact right place where everything the author wants to offer is immediately resonant. It's as if they're finally putting into words—or at least, phrasing in a new and clean way—thoughts you've had. Radical Wholeness started that way for me. It felt like a sort of spiritual take on ideas that are echo in Buddhism, post-rationalism, parts work, and The Master and His Emissary. A couple chapters in, I had a short list of people that I planned on recommending the book to.

Except, it never really took off. Not that the ideas weren't developed, but, somewhat crassly, Shepherd didn't write the book I wanted to read. I have a soft spot for adopting useful beliefs, so give a lot of leeway to exploring models of the world that may not be literally true—or at least, don't need to be literally true—but are practically useful. The resonance I felt for "full body knowing" started to sour when the book used anecdotes to supports its claims that... misunderstood science? For an author that mistrusts "head" ways of knowing, there was quite a bit of flexibility interpreting actual science. I thought about collecting these and writing a critique, but there started to be too many.

So, the fundamental metaphors here are interesting, but I suspect there's many books that do a better job. I suspect many readers who loved the book were able to sail over the inaccuracies to get the greater truth, or had no background to understand where the author was wrong.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

Stay connected

I send out occasional updates on posts, interesting finds, and projects I'm working on. I'd love to include you. No tracking, one-click unsubscribe.