Book Reviews

Book Review: Mediocre Monk

By Grant Lindsley

Publication Date: April 11, 2023

287 Pages

Mediocre Monk follows the author through six months when he drops out of society to follow the teachings of the Thai Forest Monks (a strict sect of Theravada Buddhism) in search of enlightenment.  Part memoir, part spirituality philosophy, and a little bit of travelog, from the first page this book is unflinchingly honest and at the same time, humorous.

It’s evident from the get-go that the author has quite an ego (although possibly not too much larger than most twenty-five year old males) and that rather than running toward enlightenment, he was running away from grief.  The first story he tells is of meeting a female traveler when he lands in Thailand and being torn between wanting to be humble about the journey he’s setting out on but also wanting to be acknowledged and applauded for it.  This dichotomy plays out often through his first few months at the monastery: wanting to be seen as somehow special and more spiritual than the average seeker, yet still feeling like he’s falling short of the ideal he’s set for himself.

One of the more revealing parts that I loved was how he became annoyed with just about every other traveler when he first arrived at the monastery, in particular with one man who glommed onto him.  The author related his disgust with the young man’s brashness, yet it was pretty obvious the author probably acted and thought the exact same way.  This honesty and freshness made his eventual spiritual awakening that much more poignant.

“Mediocre Monk” interpreted by Wombo Dream

It’s not all hours of meditation, or attempts at meditation, though.  There’s plenty of insight into the monk’s daily lives, monk rock stars, hidden caves, buddhist instruction and thought, drug smugglers, and trips to the outside world.  I was pretty impressed that the author remembered everything in so much detail, considering most of what I think went into his diary was pithy spiritual sayings.

Even though I really, really enjoyed reading this, in the end I wanted a little bit more.  The journey took place around 2015 and I would have liked an epilogue or final chapter on where his life took him; how he applied what he’d learned into his daily life.  There are hints of it, but I’d have loved to have seen how those six months and the lessons that he learned influenced the next several years without having to Google him.  (I did Google him; most links are connected to him still being active in Ultimate Frisbee).  Without that, it made the book feel like it was more of a good story than something that had a lasting impact on him.

Regardless, it was still a great read and I chuckled a lot.  And hey, laughter is always good.

Final rating: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to NetGalley and Girl Friday Productions for providing the ARC ebook.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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