Imagine being born in Victorian-era England and living through the counter-culture 60s in America. Shocking to imagine, isn’t it? This is exactly what Alan Watts did, with humor, grace, intelligence, and a light heart.

First published in 1972, this edition was re-released in 2001 after being long out of print. I was unfamiliar with Mr. Watts prior to reading In My Own Way but now I feel as if he was a dear friend. From his writing, he had a great sense of humor and was a deep thinker. In particular for those of us who don’t naturally go into the depths, he had a special gift for analogy and getting his points across with rich prose. Here we see a man sharing his life with vulnerability, openness, and reflection.

His life brought him into contact with many gurus and celebrities, and his non-linear framework brings the reader wandering into and out of hilarious episodes with these famous people. I found his thoughts on Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions/ philosophical approaches insightful. The footnotes, usually the driest part of a book, are wonderful. For example, in the prologue he mentions that he was born on January 6, 1915 with his “. . . sun in Capricorn, conjuncted with Mars and Mercury and in trine to a moon in Virgo with Sagittarius rising . . .” The footnote to this reads:

“These details are given for the satisfaction of my many friends who believe in astrology – a primitive science which is correct in theory but inexact and unworkable in practice. Obviously, who and what you are is where and when you are in relation to the whole universe. But the map, or horoscope, is not the territory – or should I say celestiary? Heaven is a big subject.”

May we all grow old so well. Highly recommended.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Alan Watts

New World Library, 2001

pp. 384, $15.95