How to Be Perfect by Michael Schur

A clear blue sky of a cover has all the text on the right hand side, with the left containg a fluffy white cloud and a dangling, lonely letter t.

by Eliana H.

Have you ever wanted to be a better person? Well, I have great news for you. Here at the library, we have a title called How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question (available in print, audiobook on CD, e-book, and e-audiobook). Spoiler alert: It does not exactly have the correct answer to EVERY moral question you might encounter. Sorry to burst your bubble.

What How to Be Perfect does have is a lot of information to help guide us through a wide range of moral dilemmas. In fact, author Michael Schur decided to write this book after the extensive research he did to create the television show The Good Place. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and check it out from the library or stream it on Netflix. You may then have a greater appreciation for the book, but you can still glean a lot even without the context of the show. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say the show’s characters explore moral philosophy and ethics in their attempts to be better people and help others to be better, too. Certainly, for this to be even remotely feasible, the creator needed to have a decent grasp of these subjects. So, he worked with experts and did a lot of research, then he was kind enough to share that research in the form of How to Be Perfect. I am not a philosopher or ethicist, and I don’t even tend to enjoy reading nonfiction, but this title offers an accessible, enjoyable overview of the extensive history of moral philosophy and its main schools of thought.

Sounds kind of boring, though, right? Well, it’s not. Michael Schur writes for TV, remember? In addition to The Good Place, he co-created Parks & Recreation. He knows how to keep you engaged and make you laugh, and he uses that knowledge well. While explaining key points of major ethical traditions, Schur also helps us consider some of their shortcomings and the obstacles we may face in applying these concepts.

Overall, he encourages individuals to explore what feels like the right fit for us and to take pieces from each. He also reminds us that we will fail. Constantly. Our obligation, though, is to always keep trying. If you are striving to be a better person, definitely take the time to read this title (or better yet, listen to the audiobook, narrated by the author and numerous cast members from the show). Take comfort in knowing that no one is actually perfect and never will be. We just have to do our best. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

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