HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Acres of Diamonds
Author: Russell Herman Conwell
Publisher: Jove, 1986
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Conwell, Russell Herman. Acres of Diamonds (originally published in 1890 by the John Y. Huber Company, Philadelphia, PA). From my earliest memories, we always had a small copy of this book in our house. Russell Herman Conwell (1843–1925), born in South Worthington, MA, was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, and writer. A lawyer for about fifteen years before becoming a preacher, he is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, as the minister of The Baptist Temple, also in Philadelphia, and as the author of the inspirational lecture Acres of Diamonds. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is named for him. Acres of Diamonds originated as a speech which Conwell delivered over 6,000 times around the world.
In the speech (and book), Conwell tells about a farmer, Ali Hafed in ancient Persia who was very wealthy and owned a large farm. One day, a Buddhist priest visited Hafed and told him about diamonds. Hafed decided that he wanted a diamond mine, so he sold his farm and went off in search of diamonds until he ran out of money. Meanwhile back at the farm, the new owner found an unusual rock about the size of an egg and placed it on his mantle. The same old priest came back to the farm and immediately realized that it was indeed a diamond. Hafed wandered around Palestine and Europe in rags, feeling wretched and now truly poor. He stood on the shore at Barcelona, Spain. When a great tidal wave came rolling in, he threw himself in, and was never seen again. Ali Hafed had been standing on his own “Acres of Diamonds” until he sold his farm. Conwell goes on to relate countless stories of people who went in search of what they already had, such as a farmer in Pennsylvania sold his farm for $833 and went to work for his cousin in Canada, collecting oil. Shortly after, the man who purchased the farm found oil worth millions of dollars.
The central idea of the work, based on a story that Conwell heard from an Arab guide, is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune—the resources to achieve all good things are present in one’s own community. “Dig in your own back yard”—and you will find “Acres of Diamonds.” It is often considered the original “self-help classic” and is said to have encouraged countless individuals to come into the knowledge of the meaning of true wealth and how to attain it without getting sidetracked by selfishness and greed. Others, especially revisionist historians, have criticized it as teaching that anyone could get rich if he tried hard enough and demonstrating elitist views concerning the poor. That is probably a gross mischaracterization of the author’s intent. Like any other work of fallible man, it may have some good and some not so good in it, but it certainly has helped many people over the years.