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The Good Life

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  494 ratings  ·  62 reviews
"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."

Hugh Mackay has spent his entire working life asking Australians about their values, motivations, ambitions, hopes and fears. Now, in The Good Life, he addresses the ultimate question: What makes a life worth living?

His conclusion is pr
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Macmillian Australia
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Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a thought-provoking book about, as Hugh Mackay puts it in the introduction, 'a morally praiseworthy life...a life devoted to the common good.' Initially I thought that sounded rather bland and unexciting, pious even, but as the book developed, I found it wasn't the case at all. The author makes several important points about modern society, particularly regarding the 'Utopia complex' - the self-indulgent search for happiness which often makes people more miserable, and how the emphasis o ...more
Anne Lynch
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
It is always good to think about how we behave and how we could live a better life. As with all of these books about finding a meaning to our life however, much of it is common sense and maybe for that reason I find them a little obvious. Having said that he does write very well, except some of the examples were really lame, the chicken story anyone? I am also still tortured by the idea that any woman over 40 still wearing jeans is just trying to desperately hold onto their youth. Does not comfo ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I agree with almost all of Mackays reflections. His main theory is a good life is not found by thinking an happy, utopian,life is a good life. A good life involves treating others as you would like to be treated in all situations. He seems to think this involves some effort and the ability to let go of our own importance. I think this state is reached not through negating the self but by coming to a deep understanding of the Self. The Self being that universal unchanging part of us which is alwa ...more
Cheryl Ryan
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just read first chapter and thoroughly enjoying his analysis of the Utopia Complex.
Martyn Shedd
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of how truths here I would like to see kids reading this because it might set them on a better path. It is eminently readable thought at sometimes labored.
Kathy Reid
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Insightful, well researched and challenging.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I think the last quote in the postscript sums up the message that Mackay tries to get across:

'It's not a question of survival of the fittest; ultimately, it's a question of survival of the species.'

I mostly got the importance of selflessness and not expecting something in return for whatever kindness you give. The idea of everyone wanting to be taken seriously was enlightening, as was the distinction between 'active listening' and merely 'hearing someone out'.

I also really enjoyed reading the a
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first of three in a series that examines our values as a society. The Good Life brings our moral compass under the microscope and looks at how chasing happiness does not equal goodness. Mackay does not preach about a life of service to others as the only model of a good life but he does make you think long and hard about what we as a society have chosen to uphold and how as individuals we can change this for our own benefit and for the society we live in. It was a refreshing read in a world ...more
Reannon Bowen
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook of this. Most of what is said can be seen as common sense but there are nuggets of interesting thoughts scattered throughout. The anecdotes are sometimes relatable, sometimes not. Not a bad book but not really anything new either.
Boy Blue
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Again a misleading title. This book is mostly about the bad life. It defines the good life largely through negative relief. It's largely an analysis of why everyone is currently unhappy and unfulfilled.

There are a few good quotes in here from other more esteemed and established thinkers but Mackay's entire point about the good life boils down to:

Live life for others rather than yourself.

Everything else comes under The Golden Rule which he thinks is awesome. I found myself nodding along with his
Kylie Purdie
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-read
Hugh Mackay defines the good life as one lived for others - "defined by our capacity for selflessness, the quality of our relationships and out willingness to connect with others in a useful way."

Mackay suggests that our focus on ourselves, the misplaced importance on accumulating money and possessions is leading us into a misguided idea of a good life. He has no problem with money and possessions - just the use of them to measure our worth.
Instead he suggests that a truly good life is lead if y
Karen Mcallister
I have enjoyed all of Hugh Mackay’s books, including this one. Rather than provide an in-depth review of the book I’d like to pass comment on the irony of some of the negative reviews here. It is fine to have an opinion but please practice voicing that opinion sensitively and kindly. What may seem logical and common sense to you is not so for others and we could all do with reminding “to live as fully engaged members of the society that sustains us; and accept some responsibility for the wellbei ...more
Jun 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
As I read this I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the author's points. However, as I read on it felt like he was just stating the obvious. After all, if we listen to the media or our own commonsense then we know that material possessions don't necessarily bring happiness and that good relationships are the key to a successful life. Or do we? Hugh Mackay seems to think that we don't and his book is like an overlong sermon that some of us don't want to hear. From the anecdotes in his ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
this book made me think...a lot. Writing in his usual urbane, dispassionate manner, Mackay explores the concept of 'the good life' and looks as contemporary understanding through a long-term lens. I decided that on the whole I do live a good life as defined by Mackay and that I can do better. I decided, also, that I have had a life that has been good as the sum of its parts and that I must not be complacent, which I try hard not to be. I recommend the book as a gentle prod to some self-reflectio ...more
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Thought-provoking on both a personal and professional level. Like all his books, I will return to this at times as he has such an insightful style. He is often able to give words to something that has only been a nebulous concept for me.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is one of the best book I have read so far.
The good life is all about sharing and giving rather then taking and boasting about yourself.
Enjoy this book guys.
Cheers & thanks for wonderful thoughts.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A thought provoking book about how to live a life of meaning rather than striving for happiness. It was a slow read for me but it did provoke lots of dinner time discussion.
Sean Finn
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book on what I'd think of as practical philosophy in that it allows a simpleton like myself to understand how I can live a life o purpose. One that is good and allows me to know what good is.
Andrew Harten
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book examines the notion of happiness or satisfaction in our lives. The conclusion is that happiness ultimately lies not in what we can get our ourselves but in our relationships with others.
Heather Browning
I had picked up this book thinking it would be about wellbeing - a good life in terms of what is good for its bearer; perhaps an examination of those things which have been found to be truly beneficial for people to have. Instead, it was about morality - a good life in terms of what is good for the world, for others. The first couple of chapters had a very strong 'kids these days' sort of vibe, complaining about all the ways in which we are becoming more selfish, more sheltered etc. etc. Althoug ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Essentially the book comes down to - don't be a dick, do be considerate and offer service to others… Nothing earth shattering, pity some people need to be reminded.

Other interesting thoughts
• Over praised, over indulged, children eventually find out they are not the centre of the universe. Many can't handle this and struggle in the real world.
• Some people are like keels of a boat... They stabilise everything, but rarely get to put their head above water, to soar, and enjoy the ride
• Individual
Jennifer Rolfe
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had the same problems with this book as I had when studying Maslow's 'Heirarchy of Needs' - a very white, middle-class male's idealization of how to live 'life'. Very superficial and certainly not very political.

Matt Kelly
May 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this is the worst book I've ever finished. The good parts of this book, the parts worth reading, could easily fit on an A4. It's not that there is a lot to disagree with, there is some, it is more that there are endless pages of the most mundane observations on the 'good life'. If you have thought about your own life for more than about 10 minutes you have probably come to similar conclusions.
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this book 5 stars on the basis that I was constantly recommending it to people and writing down quotes that I wanted to hold on to. On that basis I consider it deserving of 5 stars. In a way it was a tough read, as it pulled me up on my self indulgent and self absorbed tendencies. It also posits that happiness is not the be all we should be aiming for, or even skewed towards, criticising for example the suggestion that we should list things we should be grateful for every day. Instead ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is not what I expected. It's an anti-self-help-book of sorts, encouraging a good life on a moral basis (rather than a happy one). It's filled with relatable stories and offers meaningful advice, such as to forgive generously.
Vishal Choudhary
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Too detailed on each topic and i have lost interest while reading. Covering good life meaning basically to spent life helping others and society
Chantelly Low
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book that really makes you think about the meaning of life.
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked it - got me thinking about my own take on a good life with all my prejudices and baggage.
Robert Watson
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very clearly stated and thought provoking. A simple message given eloquently- a good life is a life lived putting others wellbeing before our own.
Robert Ditterich
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
In a sense I felt at home in this book because Hugh gives an experienced and authoritative voice to thoughts that are intuitive to many people, but which are usually swamped by the promises of a world obsessed with material progress.

I can't help thinking that this is a terribly important book, for several reasons.

First, Hugh has been a long-time expert observer and researcher whose work has been rooted in the understandings and expectations of everyday people of all beliefs (or lack of them).
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Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and novelist who has made a lifelong study of the attitudes and behaviour of Australians. He is the author of twelve books, including five bestsellers. The second edition of his latest non-fiction book, Advance Australia…Where? was published in September 2008, and his fifth novel, Ways of Escape was published in May 2009.

He is a fellow of the Australian Psycholog

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Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
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“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don't mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It's a really odd thing that we're now seeing people saying "write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep" and "cheer up" and "happiness is our birthright" and so on. We're kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It's rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don't teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, "Quick! Move on! Cheer up!" I'd like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word "happiness" and to replace it with the word "wholeness." Ask yourself, "Is this contributing to my wholeness?" and if you're having a bad day, it is.” 4 likes
“You don’t have to be rich to leave a positive legacy; you don’t have to be intelligent, famous, powerful or even particularly well organised, let alone happy. You need only to treat people with kindness, compassion and respect, knowing they will have been enriched by their encounters with you.” 4 likes
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