As many who read my reviews know, I am a huge fan of Irvin Yalom. I’ve read nearly every published book he’s written, both scholarly and fictional. I was excited to read “The Spinoza Problem”.
Like some of his other books (When Nietzsche Wept, The Schopenhauer Cure) Yalom weaves in this tale therapy and philosophy. In this he alternates chapters about Nazi Germany and Spinoza’s excommunication from the Jewish community. The two are tied together because of the great many German thinkers who respected Spinoza’s writing. This caused a problem for Rosenberg, a Nazi war criminal, who believed Jews had nothing to offer.
I enjoyed learning about Spinoza’s philosophy through the book. Yalom uses Spinoza’s published words from his writing to animate the character. I even gleaned a good deal of Nazi history from the book. Much of what Yalom uses happened, though obviously much else is fictionalized.
Overall, however, I’m not one for history, and there were times I struggled to keep interest in the book. It was one of my least favorites, if not at the bottom of the list. This is evident in it taking me more than 6 months to complete (other’s I read voraciously). However, this poor rating is much more likely evident of my dislike for history than for any fault of the author.