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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur

Filled with sometimes playful, often weighty questions, scenarios, and ideas, How to Be Perfect makes considering ethics and morality fun, and Michael Schur's tone is self-deprecating and thoughtful.

The best thing about Aristotle’s “constant learning, constant trying, constant searching” is what results from it: a mature yet still pliable person, brimming with experiences both old and new, who doesn’t rely solely on familiar routines or dated information about how the world works.

In How to Be Perfect, Michael Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, relies upon takeaways from morality and ethics writings and lessons to craft this guide to how to behave in the world.

What does being a "good" person mean? What do we owe to each other? What is our duty to our fellow humans in different situations?

Schur begins the book, which is largely made up of distilled concepts and highlights of 2,500 years of writing about ethics, with a simple question to consider: "Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?" He builds to more complex scenarios, touching on the popular trolley problem and its variations, morality and intersections with money, friendship, and knowledge, and, in the words of Samuel Beckett, how we might continue to "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

“Virtue comes about...not by a process of nature, but by habituation.… We become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.”

He explores various schools of thought about ethics and morality to consider more complex issues, including how much one should give to charity; whether rigidity to rules such as "no lying" will win a person friends; and when and why to help others or to do the "right" thing--even if you don't receive any credit for doing so.

Schur comes across as intelligent and kind, thoughtful, and self-deprecating. I'm watching The Good Place for the third time, this time with my youngest, and I love hearing his references to the inspiration for the show and hearing his references to specific scenes, currently fresh in my mind.

With sections read by stars of The Good Place, Schur's How to Be Perfect is funny, interesting--and a heartwarming reminder that there are thoughtful, kind, well-meaning people out there spending time reflecting on how best to be a human in today's world. That in and of itself is a comfort.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Michael Schur is the creator of the television shows The Good Place and Parks and Recreation.

The acknowledgments section of this book is so funny, generous, specific, thanks-filled, and lovely, these pages alone are enough to make me feel confident that Michael Schur is a gem of a human being.


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