Category Archives: Philosophy

Author Spotlight: Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels which have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries. Jodi has a penetrating insight into the hearts and minds of real people and writes these insights in page-turning detail. 

Born and raised on Long Island in America, Jodi thought her uneventful childhood would not help her as a writer, in fact it was the opposite. The core of a family and the tangle of relationships is something that is central to all of her stories. Jodi studied creative writing at Princeton and published two stories while studying and then went on to further her study with a Master’s of Education at Harvard. 

Jodi is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, and the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit. Her stories have also been made into movies and television series. 

Here are six of our favourite Picoult stories (you can buy all of Jodi’s books here)

My Sister’s Keeper 

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukaemia that has plagued her since childhood. Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate, a life and a role that she has never questioned until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

Told from multiple points of view, My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? What happens when emotion catches up to scientific advances?

Nineteen Minutes

Set in a small town in the wake of a horrific school shooting, Nineteen Minutes features the return of two beloved Picoult characters – Jordan McAfee, the lawyer from The Pact and Salem Falls, who once again finds himself representing a boy who desperately needs someone on his side; and Patrick Ducharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match, whose best witness is the daughter of the superior court judge assigned to the case. As the story unfolds, layer after layer is peeled back to reveal some hard-hitting questions about the nature of justice, the balance of power and what it means to be different. Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, thought-provoking tale with a jaw-dropping finale.

The Pact

In this contemporary tale of love and friendship, Jodi Picoult brings to life a familiar world, and in a single terrifying moment awakens every parent’s worst fear: we think we know our children – but do we ever really know them at all? For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other – they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born. So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet – a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.

The Pact paints an indelible portrait of families in anguish, culminating in an astonishingly suspenseful courtroom drama as Chris finds himself on trial for murder.

The Storyteller

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight. He is a pillar of his local community. He is also a murderer. When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed. As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love – and revenge.

Keeping Faith

At her controversial and compelling best, Jodi Picoult explores the moment when boundaries break down, and when the only step left to take is a leap of faith. As Mariah White struggles with depression her seven-year-old daughter Faith seeks solace in a new friend – a friend who may or may not be imaginary. Faith talks to her ‘Guard’ constantly and begins to recite passages from the Bible-a book she’s never read. After a succession of visits to psychiatrists, all of whom conclude Faith is not hallucinating, the unimaginable starts to seem possible: perhaps Faith may actually be seeing God. When Faith’s cachet is enhanced by reported miracle healings and alleged stigmata, she is touted as a prophet. Amidst the gathering storm of controversy, most disruptive of all is the arrival of two men: one a renowned television atheist who plans to debunk Faith’s claims and help boost his flagging ratings, and the other her divorced father whose fear for his daughter’s safety leads him to battle for custody. As Mariah finds herself fighting to keep her daughter, she has to push past her own insecurities and stand up for herself and her competence as a parent. Keeping Faith explores a family plagued by the media, the medical profession, and organised religion in a world where everyone has an opinion but no one knows the truth.

The Book of Two Ways

Dawn thinks she knows everything there is to know about dying. As a death doula she helps her clients fix what is left undone so they can peacefully make the final transition. But when her plane plummets from the sky and she thinks she is experiencing the last moments of her life, she is shocked to find that she isn’t thinking of her husband or teenage daughter – but of a road she strayed from 15 years earlier, when she turned her back on her PhD studies. Against all odds, Dawn survives, and the airline gives her a free ticket to wherever she needs to get to. in alternating chapters, we see possible choices: Land – returning to her husband, a quantum physicist who studies the possibilities of parallel universes, she is faced with a test to her marriage and a daughter who is struggling with self-image issues. And Water: returning to her studies and the archaeological site she worked on 15 years earlier, where the man she abandoned is about to make the discovery of a lifetime. But time may not be as straightforward as we think. As Dawn explores her possible futures, she is finding out what a well-lived life means, what we leave behind of ourselves when we leave the earth, and who she might have been…

Enjoy!

Six Books that Help Us Create a Personal life Philosophy

Do you have any rules, beliefs or principles that you live by? Many of us do – even if we don’t realise, or can’t articulate them yet. These rules or principles are components of a personal philosophy that can contribute to our wellbeing by giving us clarity and direction in our daily lives. If you are interested in discovering your personal life philosophy, or explore how it can benefit your life, here are a few tools to get you started:

How to Live a Good Life: a Guide to Choosing your Personal Philosophy edited by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye C. Cleary and Daniel Kaufman
If you were inspired by last week’s blog post about using philosophy to solve life problems, then How to Live a Good Life will offer further guidance. This essay collection introduces fifteen schools of thought – from ancient Eastern and Western philosophies, to religious traditions, to modern philosophies – and what it is like to live according to those philosophies. Each contributor offers lively, personal accounts of what it means to live an examined life in the twenty-first century. How to Live a Good Life offers a clear, accessible guide, backed by deep academic expertise, for anyone considering their life-choices and looking for options for change.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: and Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
This hilarious and relatable memoir has gone straight onto my To Read list.  Tara Schuster is a successful playwright and entertainment industry executive; but beneath that high-flyer veneer, she was a self-medicating mess trying to deal with depression, anxiety, and shame borne of parental neglect. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies tells the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a “ninja of self-love.”  She shares how she learnt to establish simple, daily rituals that helped to bring her mind, body, and relationships back to good health.  This is the book Tara wished someone had given her – and so she wrote it, hoping it will help other people feel less lonely in their experience.  A terrific guide to self-care for these times.

Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life by Alexis Fernandez
Alexis Fernandez loves to understand how the mind works – so much so, that this Pilates instructor and personal trainer returned to uni to study neuroscience. She has been weaving her knowledge about body and mind into a successful podcast (Do You F*cking Mind?) and now her first book – Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life. Alexis suggests that our brains are often conditioned to be more avoidant and protective than is necessary; and by realising how much control we have over our thoughts and our emotions, we can learn (and unlearn) how to unlock the best version of ourselves. Full of tough love, practical advice and ‘mindset hacks’, Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life can help us set healthy boundaries, move on from regrets, and overcome feelings of self-pity.

The Success Experiment: FlexMami’s Formula to Knowing what you Really Want and How to Get It by Lillian Ahenkan
DJ / Podcaster / Entrepreneur / “Professional Opinion-Haver” and now Bestselling Author: Lilian Ahenkan, aka FlexMami, is an Australian social-media star with a global following. She thinks of her current success as an experiment; having transformed herself from “a uni dropout with poor time-management skills” to highly sought-after media personality, within the space of a few years, while retaining her unapologetically fierce and funny self. The hypothesis at the heart of The Success Experiment is that anyone can create a unique formula for their own personal success. You don’t have to be exceptional – you just need to learn the algorithm. FlexMami will help you discover yourself – what you want, what you value, where you want to be, and why; and turn these into goals based on what actually fulfils you, instead of what feels easy or achievable.

Emotional Intelligence: a Simple and Actionable Guide to Increasing Performance, Engagement and Ownership by Amy Jacobson
This is a great primer about the What, Why and Hows of Emotional Intelligence, written by an expert on emotional intelligence and human behaviour. As organisations around the world put greater focus on the mindset and wellbeing of staff, they are also placing greater value on Emotional Intelligence as an essential attribute of high performance. Amy Jacobson, an experienced EI specialist, shares a range of tools and tips to help us identify and manage our personal emotions and the emotions of those around us, using the five key concepts of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills and motivation. This guide is a practical, easy-to-use resource that offers powerful tools and actionable steps to create successful outcomes not just at work, but in personal and social situations as well.

Belonging: the Ancient Code of Togetherness by Owen Eastwood
Owen Eastwood is a performance coach who has worked with some of the most prestigious teams in the world, including national soccer and cricket teams, Royal Ballet School, the British Olympic Team, as well as the Command group at NATO. In Belonging: the Ancient Code of Togetherness, he explains how he helps teams to succeed by drawing upon the idea of Whakapapa from his own Maori heritage. Whakapapa is a powerful spiritual belief about belonging and identity that helps people connect and find a shared purpose. Belonging is not just about sports psychology; Owen Eastwood’s unique approach, which also weaves in insights from evolutionary science, personal development and philosophy, can unlock high performance in many different group contexts.

Clever Thinkers : Six books exploring how philosophy helps us solve life problems

Philosophy may be more associated with Dead White Men, but many contemporary philosophers examine how the structure of philosophical inquiry, and the cumulative wisdom of millenia of thinkers, can apply to the modern world. The books we’ve chosen this week look at how philosophy can help us clarify and tease out the complexities of everyday life problems – from how to achieve happiness, to the ethics of assisted dying, and even to the etiquette of dating.

Lives of the Stoics: the Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Lives of the Stoics is an eye-opening mix of history, philosophy and self-help. Holiday and Hanselman (creators of the popular Daily Stoic website and podcast) show us that there is more to Stoicism than its current association with unemotional endurance. Through the mini-biographies of the most notable Stoics – from Zeno, the founder of this school of philosophy, to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the authors show the different ways these practitioners lived by their philosophy; and through these examples, help readers learn how stoicism can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue.

The Socrates Express: in Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner

Socrates is not the only philosopher whose teachings help guide Eric Weiner out of his mid-life crisis – through a series of figurative and literal journeys around the world, we meet 14 philosophers, a diverse group including Marcus Aurelius, de Beauvoir, Gandhi and Sei Shonagon, a 10th-century Japanese courtesan commonly regarded as the World’s first novelist. These thinkers help Eric Weiner figure out what he considers a meaningful life. The Socrates Express invites us to join in a process of self-examination, and to consider how philosophy can teach us how to think, how to live, and how to die.

Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes by James Mumford

In Vexed, James Mumford analyses the ethics of six issues – assisted dying, social welfare, sexual liberation, gun control, transhumanism and the rights of former felons. In doing so, he exposes the surprising contradictions within the “package deal” political beliefs of both sides of politics (particularly in the US) – for example, rationales for being pro-gun and pro-life/anti-abortion are inherently contradictory, even though both are associated with the political Right. Vexed is a provocative book that challenges readers to strive for ethical consistency by forming specific opinions on individual issues, rather than buying into political identities as a whole.

The Kindness Revolution: How we can Restore Hope, Rebuild Trust and Inspire Optimism by Hugh Mackay

Veteran social psychologist Hugh Mackay has observed how the last two years have challenged Australians’ livelihoods and resilience – and encourages the idea of “radical kindness” as a way to process and heal from these difficulties. Mackay reminds us that our capacity for kindness – compassion, tolerance, respect, sensitivity – to strangers is at the very heart of our humanity; and by choosing kindness over cynicism and indifference, we will contribute to a powerful, grassroots effort towards creating the country we want and need.

When you Kant Figure it Out, Ask a Philosopher by Marie Robert

This book takes agony-aunt advice to the next level. While Kant, Nietzsche or Heidegger may never have impulse-bought at IKEA, nor got dumped via text message, their powers of clear thinking can still help us in present-day situations. Marie Robert matches twelve modern dilemmas – digital detox, death of loved ones, hangovers, dating – to the teachings of some of our greatest philosophers. When You Kant Figure It Out, Ask a Philosopher is witty and fun, and makes Western philosophy accessible for modern audiences.

In Search of Wisdom: a Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre and Alexandre Jollien

A monk, a philosopher and a psychiatrist walk into a cabin in the woods and start chatting… what follows is not the punchline of a joke, but rather an intimate, enlightening discussion on the essence of being human. The three authors became close friends after discovering and admiring each other’s writings; here they draw upon their learnings in positive psychology, mindfulness, Buddhism and spirituality to explore topics such as compassion, gratitude, listening without judgment, living according to one’s ideals, and responsibly exercising freedom of thought, speech, and action.

Why do we think like we do? Six of the newest books exploring logic

How many times do you stop yourself and question why you think like you do? The most common response is ‘hardly ever’. It’s usually not until someone challenges us directly on why we think, or act, like we do that we actually stop to give it some thought. In our household our children are developing their own critical thinking skills and it is them that question us on the logic behind our thoughts. There are so many books on the market that explore logic, mindsets, and reasoning so we thought we’d share six of the newest titles on the market. 

The Critical Thinking Toolkit by Galen Foresman

Okay, so this one is a textbook, but boy is it a good one. The Critical Thinking Toolkit is a comprehensive compendium that equips readers with the essential knowledge and methods for clear, analytical, logical thinking and critique in a range of scholarly contexts and everyday situations. It takes an expansive approach to critical thinking by exploring concepts from other disciplines, including evidence and justification from philosophy, cognitive biases and errors from psychology, race and gender from sociology and political science, and tropes and symbols from rhetoric Written in an accessible way, this book leads readers through terrain too often cluttered with jargon Ideal for beginning to advanced students, as well as general readers, looking for a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to critical thinking.

The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng

Emotions are powerful. In newspaper headlines and on social media, they have become the primary way of understanding the world. But strong feelings make it more difficult to see the reality behind the rhetoric. In The Art of Logic, Eugenia Cheng shows how mathematical logic can help us see things more clearly and know when politicians and companies are trying to mislead us. First Cheng explains how to use black-and-white logic to illuminate the world around us, giving us new insight into thorny political questions like public healthcare, Black Lives Matter and Brexit. Then she explains how logic and emotions, used side-by-side, can help us not only to be more rational individuals, but also to live more thoughtfully. Filled with useful real-life examples of logic and illogic at work The Art of Logic is an essential guide to decoding modern life.

Livewired by David Eagleman

How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? What does a baby born without a nose tell us about our sensory machinery? Might we someday control a robot with our thoughts? And what does any of this have to do with why we dream? The answers to these questions are not right in front of our eyes; they’re right behind our eyes. This book is not simply about what the brain is, but what it does. Covering decades of research to the present day, Livewired also presents new findings from Eagleman’s own research, including new discoveries in synaesthesia, dreaming and wearable neurotech devices that revolutionise how we think about the senses.

The Miniature Guide To Critical Thinking Through Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul and Linda Elder

Sometimes you just need a mini-little-book to give you the gist of something rather than a giant textbook. So here’s a gem of a miniature guide that does just that. This miniature guide, which has sold more than half a million copies, and is widely used in teaching and learning for both personal and professional lives. It distills the essence of critical thinking into a 24-page, pocket-sized guide and introduces the interrelated complex of critical thinking concepts and principles implicit in the works of Richard Paul and Linda Elder. 

The Beginner’s Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity by Matthew Van Natta

Optimize joy, overcome obstacles-discover the calm of stoicism. Being a stoic means embracing positivity and self-control through the ability to accept the uncertainty of outcomes. With this stoicism guide, the beginner stoic will learn how to take charge of their emotions on the path to sustained happiness and satisfaction.

This easy-to-navigate stoicism guide gives you the emotional tools needed to let go of the things you can’t control and find joy in what you have. Through thought-provoking strategies and exercises, this book helps you find contentment so you can build closer relationships and become an active member of society. This book explores the evolution and history of stoicism and how its principles can help you find peace.

Using Questions To Think by Nathan Dickman

Our ability to think, argue and reason is determined by our ability to question. Questions are a vital component of critical thinking, yet we underestimate the role they play. Using Questions to Think puts questioning back in the spotlight. Naming the parts of questions at the same time as we name parts of thought, this one-of-a-kind introduction allows us to see how questions relate to the definitions of propositions, premises, conclusions, and the validity of arguments. Why is this important? Making the role of questions visible in thinking reasoning and dialogue, allows us to ask better questions, improve our capability to understand an argument, exercise vigilance in the act of questioning, make explicit what you already know implicitly, engage with ideas that contradict our own and see ideas in broader context. 

Breathing new life into our current approach to critical thinking, this practical, much-needed textbook moves us away from the traditional focus on formal argument and fallacy identification, combines the Kantian critique of reason with Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics and reminds us why thinking can only be understood as an answer to a question.

Enjoy!