A devotional is a short religious service. Religious and spiritual devotional books break down readings into short chapters to help readers grow closer to G-d. Readers typically read a little bit each day. The Intellectual Devotional draws on this tradition, but has nothing to do with religious practice, although religion is one of the fields of knowledge covered in the book.
In fact, the only thing The Intellectual Devotional has in common with a religious devotional is the concept of reading one short passage on a daily basis. Instead of growing spiritually, you exercise your intellect with knowledge divided into the following seven "fields of knowledge" as the book calls them:
Wednesday: Visual Arts
Every entry takes up no more than one page. This style lends itself to easy reading. It's not difficult to decide where to start and stop reading. The entry contains details that normally would be too much for an encyclopedia, and this makes the reading more captivating.
So, I admit it: I cheated and read at least two entries a day – not as if I would wait a year before writing this review. But I took care to absorb every entry, as that's what "devotionals" are meant for – digging deeply into the reading.
I'm grateful for my liberal arts education, which provided me with knowledge from a wide array of topics much like what this book covers. But I've plenty more to learn, and believe in lifelong learning. The book fulfills this need nicely, as I finally grasped some topics with which I was somewhat familiar, but lacked concrete knowledge. The book also refreshed my memory of long-forgotten knowledge.
The nice thing about the book's set up is that I pick up something new, but it won't get in the way of another book I'm reading. I read one or two entries, put the book away for the night and spend the rest of my time reading my current book.
If the book spawns more like it, it won't surprise me. I'd love to see more. Maybe with a different set of seven fields of knowledge, or perhaps the seven fields of knowledge get their own books for those who wish to delve more into the field.
One minor criticism – a couple of the more complex topics are difficult to understand since the writing didn't clarify them well. Think of an engineer explaining a formula in engineering terms instead of layman's terms.
Nevertheless, The Intellectual Devotional sends minds thirsting for knowledge on a pleasurable journey with every page. Whether or not a person becomes a better conversationalist isn't as important as the feeling that comes with picking up a morsel of knowledge. It also makes a wonderful gift to almost anyone thanks to its diversity of information.