Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book Review: What Not to Say

Friendship. Love. Sex. Ending relationships. Marriage. Divorce. Having children. Coming out. Domestic violence. Depression. Suicide. Terminal illness. Personal crises. Art. Taking drugs. Holidaying. Losing a job. Making money. Work-life balance. Moving home. Exams. Complaining. Texting. The environment. Making decisions. Politics. Religion. Death.

Every one of us will, at some time in our lives, need to deal with one or more of the above litany of life situations and issues. Inevitably, one or more of our friends or colleagues will experience some of the above as well. And if you have ever been with someone who has experienced any of the above, you will have experienced the anxiety of wondering what you should say. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make the situation worse? What if I am influential in my friend making the wrong decision or leading them to feel even worse?

Well ... Mark Vernon has provided some excellent help in his small volume (less than 200 pages) called What Not to Say: Finding the Right Words at Difficult Moments. Vernon is an Honorary Research Fellow in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, London. Bringing insights from philosophers from ancient times to the present, Vernon helps to understand the important issues in relation to difficult moments and what might be appropriate to say or not say.

Vernon is witty, engaging, and shares aspects of his own life journey. Although the book is short, it is packed with lots of wisdom and shows how philosophy can be very relevant to everyday life. Of course, as always, there will be things to disagree with. But they are the best books!

For a gentle, insightful book on life's issues, What Not to Say is a delightful place to spend a few hours.

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