• The Portable Atheist

  • Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
  • By: Christopher Hitchens
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Ball
  • Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (838 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages with never-before-published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Christopher Hitchens continues to make the case for a splendidly godless universe in this first-ever gathering of the influential voices past and present that have shaped his side of the current (and raging) God/no-god debate. With Hitchens as your erudite and witty guide, you'll be led through a wealth of philosophy, literature, and scientific inquiry, including generous portions of the words of Lucretius, Benedict de Spinoza, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, H. L. Mencken, Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others well-known and lesser known. And they're all set in context and commented upon as only Christopher Hitchens, "political and literary journalist extraordinaire" (Los Angeles Times), can.

Atheist? Believer? Uncertain? No matter: The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way.

©2007 Christopher Hitchens (P)2007 Phoenix Books, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A fascinating collection of readings from some of the West's greatest thinkers." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about The Portable Atheist

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

This is ABRIDGED

I would love to give it 5 stars, and would for the actual book, but the Audible recording is not unabridged as advertised. Get the book instead!

79 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Unabridged is not so

After finishing listening to the two part unabridged version as advertised, I was able to compare my Kindle PC text version and my printed book version. I was very disappointed to find out that more than half of the essays were left out. I can understand that it would have made it extremely long to listen to or that some of the essays are extracts of bestselling books. But I think Audible.com should make it clear that it is not an unabridged version as I consider this false advertising. Nevertheless, it is fabulous and eye opening information. It is well read with a clear professional voice. That is my only complaint.

66 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Hitchens' Heroes

It is not very hard to accept the reasoning behind Christopher Hitchens' own ideas on religion after you've gone through the parade of fascinating works in this book. Intertwined with very subdued--perhaps an understatement, having his latest works in recent memory--commentaries from Hitchens, you are transported through the ages of reason and unreason, starting with the fascinating thoughts of the Roman philosopher Lucretius (highly influenced by the then "heretically" denounced Epicureans of Greece) around the, said, birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and ending in the 20th century, with Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud among the most notable luminaries.

What is most interesting in the end, however, is perhaps not an obvious conclusion, have you previously been impressed with Cristopher Hitchens' own writings. For, as good a writer as Hitchens truly is, it becomes very palpable how he, along with most authors of the recent past, absolutely pales in comparison to the grandeur of thought, wit, faculties of reason and vivid imagination of these masters of our collective literary heritage.

This book, which is very appropriately named, should be mandatory reading for all humans out there, who are the slightest bit concerned with their own existence, and how they relate to this world and its continuously morphing state of affairs. This world--the only one that exists.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Valuable ABRIDGED Anthology, Worth the effort

I must warn you that some texts are complex and very difficult to follow in audio format. This is not an excuse to give up. There’s an important distinction between reading for relaxation and entertainment, or reading just for information, on the one hand, and reading for understanding, for deepening your mind, and for acquiring insight, on the other. (Please take a look at Adler’s “How to Read a Book”, also available on Audible.)

This book is well read with a clear professional voice. As one of the reviews said: the main difficulty in listening to this as an audiobook is that it is very difficult to tell when the narration from Hitchens ends and the excerpts from other authors begin and vice versa.

There are many, many excerpts that are a please to listen to. Here are the three I enjoyed the must:

(Due to the space limitation and since I cannot include URLs, please Google it. The three essays are in public domain.)

- George Eliot, Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming (ch.3 of The Essays of George Eliot);

- Anatole France, Miracle (p. 175 of The Garden of Epicurus);

- Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish.

Thanks to Nicholas Ball’s reading, they became even more powerful.


17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Hitchens strikes out.

This two part book consists of excerpts from the works of various intellectuals in chronological order. Hitchens provides an overall introduction to the book and an introduction to each contributor’s work. Some of the readings, particularly those of philosophers, are not easy to follow and require a prior knowledge of the philosopher’s work. Hobbs and Hume are never an easy read. Most of the book is an attack on Christianity and not on other religions.

Far better source material exists for Hitchens if he was to translate the militant atheist writings of the Soviet Union, the communist government of which he defended for most of his life. Stick with his bestseller God is not Great, also available on Audible.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

To think for yourself without fear

A challenge to anyone who wants to look for the truth. It is vital to hear, it is not easy to hear, it must be heard.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • TJ
  • 07-13-09

Great resource, difficult audiobook

This is an excellent book and the reading is okay, even if it is not Hitchens. The main difficulty in listening to this as an audiobook is that it is very difficult to tell when the narration from Hitchens ends and the excerpts from other authors begin and vice versa; for that reason, the print version is better as a resource. This is a book you'll want to come back to a refer to specific passages, which is almost impossible in this format. Also, I wonder if a couple of the other reviewers downloaded both parts. I had the entire book -- unabridged. If you're looking for resources in this area, Hitchens' "God is Not Great" is essential and this is a good supplement. Hitchens provides the most comprehensive discussion of atheism available.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good read, terrible listen.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This is a collection of short writings on atheism. However, the Narrator reads the whole book in the same monotone. I had to constantly have to rewind and pay close attention when it switched from one author to the other. Even the commentary by Hitchens between the chapters were just plowed into by the previous chapter. This book could be greatly improved by a well placed pause or two. That being said I was very interested by the content.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Abridged Collection

Mr Ball has narrated an excellent collection of fantastic works when it comes to the discussion of the human mind and the answers it must create for itself when contemplating its most common spiritual questions throughout the ages. The truly unfortunate thing about this audiobook's collection is that not all of the compiled works are being narrated. With only two hours left in the second audio file I realized that I was only halfway through the book. So much of the collection is missing.

Another drawback to the narrator's performance is the fact that it is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between Hitch's introduction to the compiled text and the text itself.

Aside from these two drawbacks, Hitchens' collection of works comes from many different eras of spiritual contemplation. Whether springing from the mind of a psychologist, physicist, zoologist, or fellow author, the works express mankind's need to find the answers to as many questions as it can, sometimes inventing what actually aren't solutions to the problem but rather ideas that raise more questions. Faith and fact are two entirely different things and the authors that Hitchens compiled in this book express that clearly.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting authors, but not great as an audiobook

Definitely interesting and a good place to see the minds of different free thinkers throughout history.

My one major criticism is that as an audiobook it was hard at times to distinguish the text of the narrator from that of the various authors in the book, especially when returning to a section midway through.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lawrence
  • 12-27-07

The unheard side

Excellent, informative and essentianal reading on atheism. So much strong evidence and compulsive listening

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jonathan
  • 03-21-09

great book

I have the book already, but wanted an audio version for planes & trains, also because the book's pretty hefty for travel. I don't know if it's just me but the narrator, Nicholas Ball has a soporific effect on me. Ideally I'd have liked Hitchens to have read it. So, for me, it's better in the printed form.