This book is about the quest for order in a perplexing world.
Ideas to Save Your Life follows Michael McGirr’s much-admired Books that Saved My Life (2018). This time, instead of sharing his love of literature, McGirr shares his love of philosophy, focusing on the works of twenty-plus eminent thinkers across history.
The book goes back to Pythagoras and comes forward to the contemporary Australian Frank Jackson; back to Mungo Woman and forward to Martha Nussbaum, by way of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch. It is animated by two related questions: from where do we draw a sense of life’s purpose? And how can philosophy make life better? It ranges widely across subjects—from solitude to community, language to order, experience to ecstasy, the idea of good to that of a good idea.
McGirr’s approach is warm and inviting. Drawing on his many years of teaching philosophy to teenagers, he shares stories from his life and the lives of others. Ideas to Save Your Life is often funny, but it is always serious about the task of philosophy. It makes the impenetrable accessible, the indescribable palpable, and invites you to change how you see the world.
‘Michael McGirr is a bit of a twenty-first century alchemist with words: nothing is too deep to be made understandable, his aim is consolation and kindness always, and the result is often magic.’
‘His anecdotes will make you laugh out loud. If you haven’t read any books by him before, seek them out.’
‘McGirr’s essays are often like good sermons, with their small bits of wisdom expressed simply.’
‘A wonderful excursion through a host of ideas and thinkers.’
‘A tonic…A book to unscramble your brain and help refresh your perspective.’
‘A lively, often comic, narrative combined with a romp through some of the key ideas of ancient philosophy…What McGirr draws from the well of philosophy serves his purpose as a storyteller and a critic of society, and he leads us from the personal to the philosophical in an entertaining and often insightful way.’
‘A bracing romp…Definitely add it to the Christmas list.’