How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question (Hardcover)
In a world full of complicated decisions, where every choice we make affects something or someone, how do we ever figure out if the decisions we make are inherently good or bad? And how the heck do we figure out if we’re actually as good (or bad) of a person as we think we are?
Along with being the co-writer behind Parks and Rec and The Office, Michael Shur is the writer behind NBC’s The Good Place – a comedy show about a woman who ends up in heaven by mistake. This book was born from the years of research that went into writing The Good Place, which explored moral and ethical dilemmas through four seasons of brilliant characters and hilarious dialogue (can you tell it’s one of my favorites?).
So obviously, when I saw this book was coming out, I absolutely had to read it. But even better – I listened to it on Libro! And along with being read by the author, the actors from the show read many of the footnotes and acted out hypothetical situations (and there were a lot of them). This just made the experience of the book so much better. But regardless of whether you have seen the show or not, I feel like this book has to be a must-read for everyone.
The reader and writer in me is just reeling at the task Shur took on: reading convoluted and complex works of moral philosophy like Aristotle and Kant, and boiling the concepts down to something everyone can understand while simultaneously calling out their faults and acknowledging biases (including his own). He recognizes that “good decisions” are often expensive or time consuming, and it’s often a privilege to even have the option to make a “good” decision. I won’t give any spoilers, but rest assured, this book taught me that “being a good person,” while intimidating, might not be so hard after all.
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.
“[H]eartfelt and funny…a relatable and consistently amusing introduction to practical philosophy. Like The Good Place, this is a humorous and thought-provoking journey into some of life’s hardest questions.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“As someone who worries that a deep dive into morality will ruin my fun and problematic life, I was certain this book wouldn't be for me. Boy, was I wrong! It's so brilliant and funny and warmly written you don’t realize you’re becoming a better person just by reading it.” —Mindy Kaling
“Hilarious, thought-provoking, and ridiculously silly, How to be Perfect is a great read for anyone who loved The Good Place — or anyone who wants to be a good person. And as a bonus, once you've read the book, you become perfect.”—Jake Tapper
“When I was asked to write a blurb about Mike Schur’s book on ethics, I thought: no sweat, I’ll just skim a few chapters, make something up, and then lie about having read it. After reading a chapter or two, I realized I had missed the point of the book. So I read the whole thing, and I can honestly say it's brilliant. How to be Perfect takes the delightful, funny lessons of The Good Place, and applies them to everyday life.” —Ted Danson
“An enjoyably boisterous guide to the moral life. If you want to become morally better and don’t mind being entertained in the process, you’ve picked up the right book.”—Jeff McMahan, Philosophy Professor, Oxford
“How to be Perfect is a kind, thoughtful, incredibly funny reflection on what it is to be a good human being. As a human being myself, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am certain that other human beings will enjoy it as well.” —Steve Carell
“Have you ever wanted a friend to explain ethics so that you could understand the subject completely with minimal effort on your part? Well, meet your friend Mike Schur. This book will help guide you through the thorniest moral conundrums with clarity and hilarity, and it will greatly up your chances of ending up in…the Good Place.” —Kristen Bell
“[A] zippy guide to achieving moral perfection… His chatty, informal, and often irreverent style does well to balance the serious inquiries. This smart romp is sure to pique those who tend to wonder about the right way to be.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Read How to Be Perfect and laugh while you learn how to be a better person. And imagine what a great passive-aggressive gift this book would make! Hand it to someone and say ‘I saw this and thought of you.’ Then they say ‘Oh, did you read this?’ and you smile and say ‘I don’t need to.’” —Amy Poehler