I’m very excited to write today’s review, as this was an unexpected read that I didn’t think I’d love as much as I did. I decided to listen to this book for two reasons: 1) simply because it is written by the creator of The Good Place, which I haven’t seen but my friend loves and 2) because the cast of the show read some parts of it and I like those actors. In the end, I’m very glad I gave it a chance.
About the book
Thanks to Libro.fm for sending me this ALC in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, humour
Content warning: None
Release date: January 25th
Summary: Most people think of themselves as “good,” but it’s not always easy to determine what’s “good” or “bad”—especially in a world filled with complicated choices and pitfalls and booby traps and bad advice. Fortunately, many smart philosophers have been pondering this conundrum for millennia and they have guidance for us. With bright wit and deep insight, How to Be Perfect explains concepts like deontology, utilitarianism, existentialism, ubuntu, and more so we can sound cool at parties and become better people.
Schur starts off with easy ethical questions like “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” (No.) and works his way up to the most complex moral issues we all face. Such as: Can I still enjoy great art if it was created by terrible people? How much money should I give to charity? Why bother being good at all when there are no consequences for being bad? And much more. By the time the book is done, we’ll know exactly how to act in every conceivable situation, so as to produce a verifiably maximal amount of moral good. We will be perfect, and all our friends will be jealous. OK, not quite. Instead, we’ll gain fresh, funny, inspiring wisdom on the toughest issues we face every day.
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How to Be Perfect was genuinely a really entertaining and educational read, which is a balance that can be hard to strike. I also read this at the perfect time for me, as I’ve had some questions on philosophy flying around in my mind for a while. I enjoyed many aspects of this book but I’d like to focus on how accessible and fun it is. The production of the audiobook is also worth noting.
Firstly, all the philosophers and schools of thought that were studied in the book were presented in a way that made it truly accessible. You don’t need to have any previous knowledge of philosophy to be able to understand and enjoy this book. How to Be Perfect focuses on moral philosophy, something that—like most philosophy—can be extremely dense, and makes it extremely palatable. Not only that, but it also allows you to learn as it keeps revisiting the concepts introduced and applying them to different dilemmas.
Additionally, it does all of the above in a very fun way. This book actually made me chuckle quite a few times while listening to it. You can definitely tell this has been written by someone whose career centers around comedy. Some of the moral dilemmas presented are uncomfortable to think about, but Michael Schur manages to keep a light tone throughout the book.
Finally, the audiobook was great. I loved how the amount of footnotes was dealt with in a way that made sense and didn’t hinder the reading experience, although it did take a bit to get used to. It is mostly narrated by Michael Schur but there are also portions read by Kristen Bell, D’Arcy Carden, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, Marc Evan Jackson, Jameela Jamil and Todd May, which helps break things up and keeps you engages.
All in all, How to Be Perfect is a good and solid introduction to philosophy. The simple writing style and humour make it a light read while still discussing issues of moral ethics. I believe it is a book that book philosophy lovers and newbies alike will enjoy.
About the author
Michael Schur is a television writer and producer who has worked on shows like The Office, Master of None, The Comeback, and Hacks, and created or cocreated Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, and Rutherford Falls. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jennifer, and their two kids, William and Ivy.
Are you interested in philosophy? Have you ever read a book on this subject? Have you watched The Good Place?