In Coffee Shop University, Mario Kfoury uses a seamless blend of personal history and imaginatively rendered dialogue to weave together concepts from mythology, philosophy, social theory, and religion.
Kfoury, a Lebanese-born Los Angeles transplant, details a life committed to self-improvement. Kfoury is many things: athlete, martial artist, thrill–seeker, entrepreneur; but through it all, he is a tireless autodidact on a personal odyssey to study his way through the history of ethical and spiritual thought from all corners of the globe. As his story progresses, he develops core beliefs, principles, self-revelations, and hard-won insights into the human condition.
Coffee Shop University is aptly titled. The author spends time at book shops and coffee houses, voraciously reading and making intriguing acquaintances with academics and free thinkers. What he learns he passes on to readers. During one interlude, he meets “Gaia,” an alluring PhD student with an incredible knowledge of the connections between mythology and psychology. Later, employed as an investor, he is mentored by “Pythagoras,” a man able to draw deep connections involving economics, political theory, and social justice.
Kfoury succeeds on multiple levels. His personal journey is compelling, and his writing is imbued with charisma. Coffee Shop University also hits the mark as an expansive survey of philosophy from the pre-Socratic to modern analytic tradition, and from a variety of cultural traditions—even going so far as to offer a credible path to self-realization. Perhaps most surprisingly, however, it works as a story—one driven by a quest and sense of adventure, punctuated with romantic interludes, and culminating in an intersection of its themes and connections to provide a satisfying conclusion.
Coffee Shop University is an unusual book. In this case, that’s a strength not a weakness. For any reader with a deep interest in the history and development of philosophy, psychology, mythology, or ethical theory, Coffee Shop University provides a refreshing approach and an enjoyable read.
Also available as an ebook.