The Year of Living Philosophically

Online reviews of The Year of Living Philosophically

Whereof one cannot speak… ‘An outstandingly good read: to make he major tenets of two thousand years of philosophy as easily entertaining as this takes supreme skill. To write such seeming-effortless prose takes rare skill too. This is a wonderful book and I only regret I didn’t come across it when I was teaching philosophy myself and desperately casting round for something engaging and approachable to help my own poor students. I am speechless with admiration so had better take Wittgenstein’s advice and shut up!(Amazon UK, verified purchase)

Laugh out loud funny philosophy ‘This is hilarious! It reads like a male Bridget Jones’ Diary, in a good way. Dictionary editor Dave comes across as a very sympathetic, sensitive soul, obsessed with words and wordplay, which will appeal to anyone who loves words. The whole concept of the plot is original and clever – trying out a different philosophy to live by each month. And it was quite endearing how Dave put so much effort into pursuing each of his randomly picked philosophies. I like the faux naive, ironic tone of the first-person narrator, and the way his thought processes often contradict what he is saying to the other characters. I love the setting in the publishing house with its dictionaries from the most obscure countries imaginable! And I especially like Dave’s desperate infatuation with the seemingly unattainable Vanessa.’ (Amazon UK, verified purchase) [In an early, Kindle version of the book, Sophie was called Vanessa]

Brilliantly funny — and edifying at the same time ‘Bridget Jones meets Plato – and Kant and Descartes and… (without the weight angst). Dictionary editor (dic ed, for short) Dave Gardner tries out a different philosophy each month for a year to kickstart his boring existence and to improve his love life (“… might fool her into thinking I’m an interesting, hidden-depths sort of person”). This diary is a very funny account of the year he lived “philosophically.” I found this book enormously entertaining and cleverly written. The situations that Dave gets into are hilarious. But this book isn’t just a work of humour; it’s also a very readable glance at the 12 philosophies that Dave tries out. The explanations about the 12 are clear, easy to understand and not overly long. They’re woven into the diary seamlessly and painlessly.’ (Amazon US, verified purchase)

Sophie’s World for adults ‘I liked this book more than I thought I would. A quick, easy to understand walk-through of some of the main philosophies and philosophers. Of course Manuel from Fawlty Towers is Socratic, and of course you can compare Kirk and Spock to Hume and Locke, or draw comparisons between Star Trek and Jane Austen – or at least you can after having read this.
Oh, and I do like that he knows that Kierkegaard is pronounced more like Kierkegord than Kierkegard :-)’ (Amazon US, verified purchase)

Smart and funny ‘A smartly constructed novel you’ll read for the entertaining plot and cast of characters—family, lovers, friends and coworkers of David Gardner, a dic ed for a minority-language dictionary publisher–while getting a crash course in Western philosophy. Some chapters beg to be put on screen (e.g. The Gnostic and The Machiavellian). Postmodernists will love the ending. The novel is way funnier than the stark cover implies.’ (Amazon Germany, verified purchase)

Classy — an enjoyable and intelligent read ‘There are not many books (hardly any in fact) which make me laugh out loud, but this one did on many occasions. The fact that it is thought-provoking, sensitively crafted, very well-written, and manages to convey complex ideas (‘philosophies’) in such a natural and engaging narrative way is all the more to its credit. For me, Robert Grossmith hits just the right spot: A funny, intelligent, and most enjoyable read. In a word – classy.’ (Amazon UK)

A great premise for a comic novel ‘If you’ve always fancied learning a bit more about philosophy but couldn’t actually get off your bahookey, then look no further. Dave’s attempt at living according to a philosophy a month for one year while trying to pursue the love of his loins makes for some belly-laughing situations. For existentialism, not only do we get the explanation, we get the look.
Mon, Nov 22
Wore my black polo-neck and black jeans to work. Kind of wish I hadn’t now.
‘Hey Dave. New look?’ Belinda said as I joined the others in the coffee area during the morning break.
I gave a Gallic shrug.
‘And is that a beard you’re growing? Or just a 5 o’clock shadow?’
Another shrug. Surely there must be more to Existentialism than this.
I think Dave Gardner, like Jim Dixon (Lucky Jim), is a character who will stay with you long after you’ve clicked off that final page.’ (Amazon UK)

‘Initial reading suggests a diary of someone frustrated by the confines of life as the landmark birthday of 30 approaches and he is STILL waiting for life to “start”. However, it rapidly becomes apparent that the author employs a masterful knowledge and understanding of major philosophical questions to underpin the skilfully crafted plot of this book thus making it far more than just a diary.
In an attempt to kick start his life Dave Gardener takes on an experimental challenge: employ philosophy to guide him through the year, tackling a different philosophy each month. The discussions he has with old friend and philosopher Max deliver the principles of each discipline in a manageable format to the reader. Diary entries record the reaction of family, friends and colleagues to Dave’s new behaviours and provide entertaining scenarios that drive the plot.
Humour draws the reader in and helps to gain sympathy for Dave in his quest to gain control of his life. There are some occasions when Dave takes philosophical decision making too far and one wonders if a deep thinking soul such as Dave would in fact go that far but it does work well to provide humour.
Comparison of Kirk and Spock (of Star Treck fame) with Hume and Kant is but one example of the lively interaction of ancient and modern theories. It is that unique formula that makes this book such an entertaining and thought provoking read.’ (Goodreads)

‘Sophie’s World for adults. Did it ever occur to you that Manuel from Fawlty Towers i Socratic? Or that Spock and Kirk can be compared to Locke and Hume, or Star Trek to Jane Austen? It will now. Plus, the ending has its own philosophical curve ball.’ (Goodreads)

5-star review of The Book of Ands and Other Stories (Kindle e-book)

‘Am becoming a fan of short stories and enjoyed this selection. However, Robert Grossmith’s story “The Book of Ands” led me to read his much longer novel “The Year of Living Philosophically” which is a good read, entertaining and well written as well as informative about different philosophies! Glad I downloaded both and will re-read some of the short stories – well worth it.’ (Amazon UK, verified purchase)

The first few chapters of the novel were originally trialled at, where they received the following reviews:

‘At last I’ve come across a piece of fiction on this site that isn’t escapist but that engages instead with the everyday in a thought-provoking, intelligent and witty narrative – and that’s also impeccably written. In the three chapters I’ve read you’ve managed to portray the narrator’s philosophical explorations in a readable, easily assimilable way. You’ve done this of course by admirably concrete applications of the different systems, rooted in laddish reality. The diary form is well chosen, too, since it creates an intimate narrative voice that draws in readers who might otherwise find the subject of a wide-ranging philosophical investigation – even in the jokey approach you’ve employed – a little daunting.’

‘This is great! Most fun I’ve ever had studying philosophy, and I’ve only got through Determinism and Hedonism so far. I love Dave’s voice – how can someone so apparently superficial do such a good job of presenting these philosophies?’

‘This is really good fun. It moves well and is highly entertaining, and the last paragraph where he uses determinism in a practical sense gave me a dose of the giggles. I cringed, I just couldn’t help it.’

‘This is a lovely and amusing idea. It brings to mind that long line of diary-writing duffers who have gone before: Pooter, Adrian Mole, Simon Crisp and (my personal favourite) Darren Tackle.’

‘This is brilliant. It’s a great idea, witty and well written.’

‘Original, knowledgeable, clever, funny, irresistible.’

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