We live in a world oriented toward greatness, one in which we feel compelled to be among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most famous. This book explains why no one truly benefits from this competitive social order, and reveals how another way of life is possible—a good-enough life for all.
Avram Alpert shows how our obsession with greatness results in stress and anxiety, damage to our relationships, widespread political and economic inequality, and destruction of the natural world. He describes how to move beyond greatness to create a society in which everyone flourishes. By competing less with each other, each of us can find renewed meaning and purpose, have our material and emotional needs met, and begin to lead more leisurely lives. Alpert makes no false utopian promises, however. Life can never be more than good enough because there will always be accidents and tragedies beyond our control, which is why we must stop dividing the world into winners and losers and ensure that there is a fair share of decency and sufficiency to go around.
Visionary and provocative, The Good-Enough Life demonstrates how we can work together to cultivate a good-enough life for all instead of tearing ourselves apart in a race to the top of the social pyramid.
Awards and Recognition
- A Financial Times FT Critics' Book of the Year
- A Next Big Idea Club Top Happiness Book of the Year
Avram Alpert is a writer and teacher. He has worked at Princeton and Rutgers Universities, and is currently a research fellow at the New Institute in Hamburg. His books include A Partial Enlightenment: What Modern Literature and Buddhism Can Teach Us about Living Well without Perfection. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Aeon.
"[Alpert’s] vision of a good-enough world is energizing."—Lily Meyer, The Atlantic
"The Good-Enough Life leaves no meritocracy standing. . . . [A] jolt of reorientation."—Emily Ogden, Los Angeles Review of Books
"[W]e should bestow social recognition . . . .on common moral qualities, not on uncommon talent. It should be good enough just to be good enough . . . . [This is] Alpert’s case, and he makes it well."—Andrew Stark, Times Literary Supplement
"Read this book, breathe a sigh of relief, and then go take a nap."—Rana Foroohar, Financial Times
"This is an amazing and deeply inspiring book. Alpert employs a prose style that is wrought like fine gold jewelry. There is scarcely a page from which this reader does not wish to quote and share Alpert's wisdom with others."—Choice
“In this delightfully inspiring book, Avram Alpert draws on virtue ethics, Buddhism, and African American philosophy to encourage us to let go of the cult of greatness. An attitude of ‘good-enoughness’ has the power to replace anxiety and burnout with more meaningful, ethical, and pleasant lives. This is the guide we all need to become good enough.”—Skye C. Cleary, author of How to Be Authentic
“The Good-Enough Life is a great book. In a style that feels like a conversation among friends, Alpert makes a convincing case that it is our deep, often unspoken commitment to ‘greatness’ that stands in the way of improving the quality of our political, social, and economic lives. Learning to seek ‘good enough’ may be the key to social transformation.”—Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
“In this eclectic and enjoyable tour of ethics, politics, and aesthetics, Avram Alpert bridges philosophy and self-help to envision something that seems to be slipping from our grasp: a livable world. He shows how an inhabitable planet and an equal society depend on cultivating egalitarian virtues and pursuing the modest satisfactions of what is good enough.”—Gabriel Winant, author of The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America
“Alpert is a kind of Carl Sagan of social egalitarianism, packing a wealth of information into an engaging page-turner. This book offers a new aspirational ideal: a good-enough way of living that can enable vastly more people to lead decent lives.”—Cheshire Calhoun, author of Doing Valuable Time: The Present, the Future, and Meaningful Living