Do you think it’s hard to be a good person? This book can help

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Michael Schur is the kind of funny and smart, effortless, friend you wish you could have hung out with in college. The kind you could talk to for hours, feeding on their energy and zeal. You’d probably agree if you watched the show he made, The Good Place (2016-20; on Netflix), in which Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop tries to be ethical and moral in the afterlife when a clerical error her in a non-Christian heaven, aka “the sweet spot”. But just in case you don’t have his new book, or don’t agree with it, How to be Perfect: The Right Answer to Every Moral Questionwill remove any doubt.

Schur’s book is probably one of the newest, funniest and kindest works on practical morality and ethics. It’s easy to stick with the light-hearted, sometimes sassy, ​​TV storyteller style of storytelling. It’s conversational and catchy, never straying from its almost frantic need to be entertaining. Despite this “fun” energy, it never compromises on the thoroughness of its research and has detailed and diverse footnotes and cross-references. It even explains the need for certain potentially problematic references.

It is well researched but light. More importantly, there are moments that make you laugh — not just because Schur is funny, but because it’s a relief to know that even the most “uncool” things (remember the “moral science” classes in school?) are real. can be fun and stimulating.

The book builds on its lessons—starting with the seemingly simplistic “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?”, taking us through the basics of Western moral philosophy, then creeping toward more complex themes. So the chapter ‘This sandwich is morally problematic. But it’s also delicious. Can I still eat it?” is linked to the conundrum of patronizing an American fast food chain whose CEO is publicly against same-sex marriage.


How To Be Perfect – The Right Answer To Every Moral Question: By Michael Schur, Quercus, 304 pages, 899

This is especially relevant in this day and age, as we find that beloved artists and creators hold views that we disagree with, or if we maintain personal and professional relationships with individuals who hold opinions very different from our own.

At first glance, some may find the chapter titles and general tone of the book a bit OTT. Is there any other book that can casually mention a reference to and a photograph of the French philosopher and author Albert Camus and call him, no less in the footnotes, “a stone-cold hottie”? But the tone holds up and makes up for the dry lecture-like boredom often associated with such an education.

‘Parents and moral philosophers, I’ve come to learn, are annoying in exactly the same way. Both groups spend their lives thinking about what makes someone good and trying to convince other people to believe in their theories,” says Schur, very self-consciously, in the final chapter written as a letter to his children.

But it soon culminates in a heartwarming summary of the book that, as in the beginning, acknowledges the very real exhaustion that comes with trying to be an ethical person in a world that seems to see the good guys fail.

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