Philosopher and Man Booker Prize Chair A.C. Grayling in conversation with John Purcell

Grab a copy of A.C. Grayling’s Friendship here


by A.C. Grayling

A central bond, a cherished value, a unique relationship, a profound human need, a type of love. What is the nature of friendship, and what is its significance in our lives? How has friendship changed since the ancient Greeks began to analyze it, and how has modern technology altered its very definition?

In this fascinating exploration of friendship through the ages, one of the most thought-provoking philosophers of our time tracks historical ideas of friendship, gathers a diversity of friendship stories from the annals of myth and literature, and provides unexpected insights into our friends, ourselves, and the role of friendships in an ethical life. A.

A.C. Grayling roves the rich traditions of friendship in literature, culture, art and philosophy, bringing into his discussion familiar pairs as well as unfamiliar – Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Huck Finn and Jim. Grayling lays out major philosophical interpretations of friendship, then offers his own take, drawing on personal experiences and an acute awareness of vast cultural shifts that have occurred.

With penetrating insight he addresses internet-based friendship, contemporary mixed gender friendships, how friendships may supersede family relationships, one’s duty within friendship, the idea of friendship to humanity and ultimately the universal value of friendship.

About the Author

A.C. Grayling is the founder and master of the New College of the Humanities, London. A multitalented and prolific author, he has written over thirty books on philosophy and other subjects while regularly contributing to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Literary Review, and other publications. He is also a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programs. He lives in London.

Grab a copy of A.C. Grayling’s Friendship here

THE GOOD LIFE: What makes a life worth living? (Guest Blogger – Hugh Mackay)

Hugh Mackay, psychologist, social researcher and writer, blogs about the basis of his wonderful new book The Good Life.

What comes to mind when someone says ‘the good life’? Comfort and prosperity? A chance to cash in your chips, retire to the coast and put your feet up? A life enriched by the love of your family and friends? A life where dreams come true?

How about a life lived for others, a life devoted to serving the neediest members of society, or a life of self-sacrifice? Those are equally valid ways of interpreting ‘good’ – giving it a moral spin rather than an economic or emotional one.

Given our society’s current obsession with feel-good definitions of happiness, and the damage we’re inflicting on our kids by teaching them that self-esteem is their most precious possession, it’s not surprising that our minds tend to leap to self-serving interpretations of ‘good’. This, after all, is the Age of Me – an ugly blip in our cultural history where competition usually gets more marks than co-operation, and self-interest is rated more highly than self-sacrifice. Look after Number One! – that’s the slogan we like to chant. Winners are grinners! and ‘loser’ the ultimate insult.

But that’s not the whole Story of Us. In a civil society, where most people are quite interested in upping the goodness quotient in their lives, we can learn to tame (not slay, just tame) the savage beast of self-interest. Yes, we humans can be ruthlessly competitive, aggressive and violent, but we have nobler impulses as well: we’re also the kind of people who fight off a shark to save a mate; jump off a river bank to rescue a stranger; return a wallet full of cash, anonymously; help a frail person cross a busy street; defend the victims of prejudice; volunteer to take refugees into our homes.

Deep within us, we know the survival of our communities – the survival of the species itself – depends on paying more attention to that insistent message that comes to us from every religious and moral tradition of East and West: treat other people the way you’d like to be treated. (Some people find the so-called Golden Rule makes more sense in the negative: never treat others in ways you would not like to be treated.)

If we fall for the idea that the good life is only about having a good time, or ‘doing well’, or even being ‘happy’ (in the superficial emotional sense), our moral compass is bound to wobble. As I say at the end of the book: ‘No one can promise you that a life lived for others will bring you a deep sense of satisfaction, but it’s certain that nothing else will.’

Click here to buy The Good Life from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Hugh Mackay is a prolific and well-known social researcher, writer and commentator in Australia. A newspaper columnist for over 25 years, he is now an honorary professor of social science at the University of Wollongong, the author of nine books in the field of social psychology and philosophy and five novels.

Dr. Yvonne Sum, author of Intentional Parenting: How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Dr. Yvonne Sum

author of Intentional Parenting : How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I consider myself a bit of a global product: I was made in Sydney Australia, exported to Malaysia when I was 2 years old, recalled to Australia (hopefully no major defects that an Aussie attitude will not fix), 1.5 decades later, and re-packaged for the global marketplace. Currently I am being held in Qatar (strategically placed in the world so I can get to most places of the globe within 8 hours’ flight, and only need travel long- haul to get to Melbourne (12 hours) or Houston (17 hours).

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I always wanted to be around people: I was energised by people. I loved being with people. I loved learning from them. My passions revolved around people – and how to learn to get them to live their highest potential.

So it is hardly surprising that when I was 6 years old, I told my grandmother that I wanted to be the mother of 100 children. To which she wisely replied (with a twinkle in her eye): “You will have to start straight away, my dear … and hope to live long enough to accomplish such a feat.”

At 12 years old, I wanted to be a nurse – as I had been reading story upon story of heroines who served as nurses in the war. I adored Florence Nightingale. Mostly I felt that nurses provided great comfort when people (patients and their families) were at their worst.

When my 18th birthday came around, I had fallen in love with the prospect of being a journalist. I had been involved as the editor of my school newspaper (that I founded) and was busy on the school magazine team. My projects took me to meet many people in the community whom I loved interviewing and learning from. Sadly, I had fallen out of love with the typewriter (this was pre-word processing via a pc or notebook…) by the time I had to sign up for my University degree. I queued up to join the ranks of the beloved (NOT!) profession – the dental surgeon – via a short sojourn in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Pilot Officer in the Medical Corp. Why? Well, I thought I could work hands-on more with people and less with paperwork (as I did not have to deal with the dreaded typewriter) and there was a certain romantic ideal that I could become a heroine saving my patients from (pulpal) death and waging my war against the epidemic of dental anxiety and phobia in the community!

By the time I was 30, I was getting traction in my battle against Dental Anxiety through my roles as a Media Spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association (in my attempt to re-brand The Dentist in our Community as a public friendly educator and motivator of DIY self-help health – after all, most of dental disease was preventable), an Educator / Mentor for University of Sydney Dental Undergraduates and Post-Graduates, and a dental entrepreneur who ran practices that aimed to deliver quality healthcare that was engaging for both patient and team member.

However, it was not until I turned 34, when I faced a remarkable turning point in my life that put me in the best role ever. I became a parent to my little boy Jett and two years later, his sister Xian. I realised that my calling was to learn leadership from first-hand parenting – so I may help the world reach their highest potential by working with the parents.

So began my empirical research into ‘Parents as Leaders’ – and conversely ‘Leaders as Parents’…. which took me down my current path as a Leadership Coach, Certified Speaking Professional and Author.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That parents have all the answers!

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Becoming a parent.

Discovering NLP on my journey to understand our human condition.

Independence as a 16-year-old living with my sister in Sydney.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

It is a perfect complement to ALL of the above. Some of us still love the touch, feel and smell of a newly printed book……I am also an avid blogger, reader of online articles, and enjoy being a guest or host on TV, radio, podcast, webinars, and other multi-media …. bring it on!

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Intentional Parenting How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids  was written as a conversation with the reader who may have had some concerns like me. You see, I was initially a reluctant parent because I thought I was totally fulfilled in my career and needed nothing more. The perfectionist in me erroneously hypothesised that I had to subtract other parts of my life to be able to do parenting properly. Until my decision to be less concerned about being the perfect parent but to be the observant learner of my children did I find I could not only love and support them to be the best human beings they can be, but it simultaneously paved the way for me to re-discover the genius in me. I am excited to share my learning insights on this personal transformational journey -and hoped readers will find this a useful piece to reflect on.

Click here to buy Intentional Parenting from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Be the best human being you can be – don’t short-change the world by selfishly keeping your genius hidden and unexpressed.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My parents, Jerry and Alice Sum. It is through their Role Modelling that “Parents are Leaders”. It was always a learning partnership from the get-go. It took me to have my own children before it dawned upon me the ingenuity of their methods.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Be the best human being I can be – so I don’t short-change the world by selfishly keeping my genius hidden and unexpressed.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be clear of your outcome: What do you want?

Take action: Just Do It!

Be alert: Observe keenly the results of your actions.

Keep measuring: Make sure the results are on track with your outcome.

Be flexible: You may need to change actions to get your outcome.

Manage your energy:

Passion + Persistence + Perspiration = Inspirational Outcome


Dr. Yvonne Sum, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Intentional Parenting from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

What do you make of Alain de Botton’s Ten Commandments for Atheists?

Alain de Botton (468 x 664)


Click here to buy Alain de Botton's Religion for AtheistsReligion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

by Alain De Botton

A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

All of us, whether religious, agnostic or atheist, are searching for meaning. And in this wise and life-affirming book, non-believer Alain de Botton both rejects the supernatural claims of religion and points out just how many good ideas they sometimes have about how we should live.

And he suggests that non-believers can learn and steal from them.

Picking and choosing from the thousands of years of advice assembled by the world’s great religions to get practical insights on art, community, love, friendship, work, life and death, Alain de Botton will show us a range of fascinating ideas on topics including relationships, work, culture, love and death – that could be of use to all of us, irrespective of whether we do or don’t believe.

‘A serious and optimistic set of practical ideas that could improve and alter the way we live.’ Jeanette Winterson, The Times

‘There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t contain a striking idea or a stimulating parallel.’ Mail on Sunday

‘Packed with tantalizing goads to thought and playful prompts to action.’ Independent

‘Smart, stimulating, sensitive. A timely and perceptive appreciation of how much wisdom is embodied in religious traditions and how we godless moderns might learn from it.’ Financial Times

‘Beautifully written . . . de Botton is enjoying himself here, and we should take him in good humour.’ Evening Standard

‘Surprisingly illuminating.’ Church Times

Click here to buy Religion for Atheists from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

Damon Young, author of Philosophy In The Garden, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Damon Young

author of Philosophy In The Garden and Distraction

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

When I was in utero, my mother was at university. It was 1975. Her morning sickness coincided with Peter Singer’s philosophy lectures. Several bouts of logic and nausea later, she gave birth ten weeks early at the Jessie McPherson hospital on Lonsdale Street, Melbourne—over the road from the Greek cake shops.

Once my heart healed, I grew up in various rented houses in the eastern suburbs, then my parents bought a home on the Mornington Peninsula, because it was out of range of a nuclear blast in Melbourne. The walls had been decorated with blue floral contact instead of wallpaper. I was schooled—to use the word very loosely—at Mount Eliza Secondary College.

I took a year off to learn photography, film and video, then did my BA (Hons.) in philosophy and literature and PhD in philosophy.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes. I dug his brutal mind and cool superiority.
At eighteen, I just wanted to escape high school. I did, and discovered philosophy at university.
At thirty, I wanted to be a philosopher—and I was one, officially. But I also wanted to broaden the intellectual conversation: talking only to academics seemed to miss the point of all those liberating ideas (more on this here).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was naïvely (perhaps maniacally) in love with argument. I now know Nietzsche was right: “It is not enough to prove something, one has also to seduce or elevate people to it.”

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My parents, a social psychologist and teacher/musician, provided positive and negative examples.

Positive: they introduced me to unusual ideas and art, and backed me in spats with teachers, and fights with kids. They were not horrified of being ‘different’. They also nudged me into Karate classes, which was instructive. (I’ve explained how and why here.)

Negative: their arguments were an intimate lesson in the blindspots, evasions and pettiness of conflict. I tried to keep the confrontation but lose the cruelty (to others and oneself).

Two authors challenged me to be a more vocal and artful public philosopher: Friedrich Nietzsche and Nikos Kazantzakis.

Nietzsche is perhaps the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. He lambasted glib morality, and diagnosed the most modern of illnesses: nihilism. He also wrote brilliantly: lyrically, and with punch. He was, as a thinker and a stylist, very brave.

Kazantzakis was a Nietzschean of sorts, who studied philosophy under Henry Bergson in Paris. But he is best known for his novels, including Zorba the Greek. He also wrote plays and poetry. His autobiography, Report to Greco, is partly fiction, but remains a brilliant portrait of a life lived in agonising pursuit of higher truths.

It is a cliché. But becoming a father was an existential and literary transformation. I wrote about it here.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Nah. There have always been, and always will be, Things That Aren’t Books. Greek tragedy, the jitterbug, gossip, cage fighting, masturbation—tastes vary. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

But the book remains. Whether it’s a scroll, codex or digital file, the book is a rare chance to converse, patiently and carefully, with another psyche. Our civilisation’s wonky table is propped up on books written over two millennia ago.

And books are beautiful. (I mean paper, glue and ink books. But e-readers can also be well designed, with artful layout and cover.) Writers, editors, illustrators, designers, printers: they collaborate to make these sexy things. They really do furnish a room. Several rooms.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Philosophy in the Garden is like a philosophical and horticultural detective story. Marcel Proust is in a dingy room, with the curtains drawn, and a bonsai next to his bed. Why? What is the value of these “miserable hideous…trees,” as he put it? Likewise for Jane Austen, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Orwell, and others. What can these great authors, and the gardens they loved (or loathed), teach us?

Click here to buy Philosophy In The Garden from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To help readers become more courageous in thought, tender in feeling, and patient in confrontation.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Socrates, for his willingness to die; Nietzsche, for his willingness to live.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write well, earn a decent living and be a good husband and father. This is absurdly ambitious.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read widely, carefully and generously. Write likewise. Repeat.

Damon, thank you for playing

Click here to buy Philosophy In The Garden from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Caroline Baum talks to Judith Lucy – Australia Funniest Spiritual Guide

DRINK, SMOKE, PASS OUT – An Unlikely Spiritual Journey

by Judith Lucy

Caroline Baum: I wasn’t sure whether Judith Lucy’s deadpan drollery would work as well on the page as it does in her stand up shows and TV series. But the good news is it does. She had me giggling helplessly in chapter one, and it doesn’t let up.

She doesn’t spare herself. In fact she lays herself bare in all her drunken mess as she stumbles and staggers her way towards spiritual enlightenment. Intoxicated, needy, confused, vulnerable and endowed with a heightened sense of absurdity which just about rescues her from toppling over the edge, she is raw in her revelations without it ever feeling ickily self-indulgent as it would if she were some gushy over-sharing US soapie star .

You don’t have to be on a search for meaning or interested in religious belief to find this highly entertaining – sceptics and heathens included.

Blurb: At last, a book about life that discusses liquor and lovemaking as much as it does the point of it all.

Judith Lucy has looked everywhere for happiness. Growing up a Catholic, she thought about becoming a nun, and later threw herself into work, finding a partner and getting off her face. Somehow, none of that worked.

So lately, she’s been asking herself the big questions. Why are we here? Is there a God? What happens when we die? And why can’t she tell you what her close friends believe in, but she can tell you which ones have herpes? No-one could have been more surprised than Judith when she started to find solace and meaning in yoga and meditation, and a newfound appreciation for what others get from their religion.

In her first volume of memoir, the bestselling The Lucy Family Alphabet, Judith dealt with her parents. In Drink, Smoke, Pass Out, she tries to find out if there’s more to life than wanting to suck tequila out of Ryan Gosling’s navel. With disarming frankness and classic dry wit, she reviews the major paths of her life and, alarmingly, finds herself on a journey.

Click here to buy Drink, Smoke, Pass Out from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Lentil as Anything : Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table by Shanaka Fernando

“When money loses its value,
the goodwill and kindness we extend
to each other will emerge as the ultimate
and most sustainable currency of exchange.”


Lentil as Anything : Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table

by Shanaka Fernando

Shanaka Fernando is often hailed as a modern-day revolutionary. As the founder of the Lentil As Anything community restaurants in Melbourne that feed thousands every week, he advocates a unique business and life perspective.

Entrancingly honest and refreshingly candid, Shanaka’s memoir hints at the roots of his early social awakening with tales of a 1970s childhood in Sri Lanka. From his upbringing within an eccentric extended family living in a residential compound populated with a throng of memorable characters, we accompany Shanaka on his travels from Australia to Asia to South America and back as he explores new ways of living his life.

Shanaka’s example of what can be achieved based on an inclusive ‘people-first’ philosophy will inspire, challenge and provoke insights and questions that are undeniably worthy of attention.

“Fernando is one of those rare pioneers who are prepared to live by their convictions, flaunt social convention and challenge the status quo. The story of his lifelong quest for meaning – and the ‘experiment in generosity’ that became Lentil as Anything – is inspiring and challenging in equal measure. Few autobiographies are likely to evoke the senses and soul quite as much as Fernando’s tale of global travel, self-exploration and cultural innovation”

- Dr Wayne Visser, Director of Kaleidoscope Futures and author of “The Quest for Sustainable Business” and “The Age of Responsibility”

About the Author

Shanaka Fernando is a revolutionary. For many years he has been well known in Melbourne, Australia, as the pioneer of the Lentil as Anything pay-as-you-feel vegetarian restaurants, and in recent times he is becoming influential as a public speaker and motivator.

He leads a simple, modest life as he continues to inspire and challenge perhaps millions as he advocates an inclusive, ethical approach to business and life, and a belief in the innate goodness and generosity of his fellow man.

The socially responsible Lentil as Anything restaurants feed thousands every week, and set an example for other restaurants and businesses to follow – an example which illustrates what an inclusive, ethical approach to business, and life, can achieve. In the Lentil as Anything restaurants it is people that qualify life, not property. ‘You get fed and treated with dignity even if you don’t have any money, and the colour of your skin and your education and your beliefs only put you on a par with everyone else.’

Shanaka is a modern day folk hero, offering an alternative, a new way of living that is not based on consumerism, profit or greed.


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