cover image Greatest Mystery in the World

Greatest Mystery in the World

Og Mandino. Fawcett Books, $18 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-449-91261-4

For his final fable, Mandino (who died in September 1996 at the age of 72) brings back as his fount of inspirational wisdom the mysterious ""rag picker"" Simon Potter (The Greatest Miracle in the World, etc.). Mandino also brings back himself as the rag picker's eager audience of one. Simon, aware of his own approaching death, leaves a tattered notebook for Mandino to find. From the notebook, Mandino learns of ""The Seven Rungs of Life's Ladder."" These consist of condensed, paraphrased and directly quoted passages from hundred-year-old (and thus public domain) motivational writings. From James Allen to Oscar Wilde, Mandino uses the words and ideas of others to relate some universal and timeless wisdom: take advantage of opportunities, understand cause and effect, be focused, think positively, work hard, persevere, serve others. Too often, Mandino writes as if with a quill pen, in circuitous, stuffy prose that does nothing to sharpen the platitudes he proffers as wisdom. Most problematic, though, is Mandino's claim that simply ""reading"" and ""rereading"" Simon's words have changed him, and the corollary implication, that reading them will change the reader. The former is barely credible, the latter less than likely. (Apr.)