Author(s): Michael Puett
Harvard's most popular professor explains how thinkers from Confucius to Zhuangzi can transform our lives The first book of its kind, The Path draws on the work of the great but largely unknown Chinese philosophers to offer a profound guide to living well. By explaining what these teachings reveal about subjects from decision-making to relationships, it challenges some of our deepest held assumptions, forcing us to "unlearn" many ideas that inform modern society. The way we think we're living our lives isn't the way we live them. The authors show that we live well not by "finding" ourselves and slavishly following a grand plan, as so much of Western thought would have us believe, but rather through a path of self-cultivation and engagement with the world. Believing in a "true self" only restricts what we can become - and tiny changes, from how we think about careers to how we talk with our family, can start to have powerful effects that will open up constellations of new possibilities. Professor Michael Puett's course in Chinese philosophy has taken Harvard by storm.
In The Path, he collaborates with journalist and author Christine Gross-Loh to make this timeless wisdom accessible to everyone for the very first time.
Covering subjects from decision-making to relationships, The Path applies ancient Chinese philosophies to demonstrate how to become happier and more productive through making simple changes to our everyday routines. A profound guide to living well Publisher's description I have been talking about it to everyone. It's brilliant, mesmerizing, profound - and deeply contrarian. It points the way to a life of genuine fulfillment and meaning -- Amy Chua, author of 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' I couldn't wait for this. Brilliant. This is where it's at now ... so fascinating Jeremy Vine, BBC Radio 2 Can you turn a Chinese theory class into a smart self-help book? US academic Michael Puett did. Puett's book encourages us to chuck away our stiff, encrusted western notions, and to adopt a more fluid, less didactic approach to life. The Path is not your classic self-help book, and not just because it dismantles the self. It doesn't serve up an easy set of how-to activities ... you are also advised that any changes you make will be slow, incremental, the result of constant daily work ... To talk to Puett is to view our western tradition through an entirely different lens Sunday Times A new book from a cult Harvard professor turns contemporary thinking around happiness on its head...There can't be many cult professors. Especially ones that lecture Chinese philosophy to undergraduates. But Professor Michael Puett of Harvard is one of them. Via word of mouth, his courses became full. And now he's written a book, with co-author and journalist Christine Gross-Loh, based on his course. The Path looks at the teachings of ancient Chinese philosophers and explains how we can apply these largely forgotten teachings to our everyday lives. Granted, it sounds like a tough read. It sounds specialist and niche and intimidating. It sounds all of those things. But it is none of those things. It's a big ask in under 200 pages. But there's something wonderfully simple and refreshing about the ideas. There is a simplicity to this book: all we have is ourselves, let's try and make things better -- Marisa Bate The Pool His course has become the most popular on campus, even with those studying other subjects, and that's because he talks about how to have a good life, and using ancient Chinese philosophy challenges all our modern assumptions about what it takes to flourish in life -- Sarah Montague Today programme A worthy introduction to thinkers rarely taught in British universities -- Matthew Syed The Times It's on my night stand -- Gwyneth Paltrow Offer[s] interesting alternatives to some of our modern ideas of self and society ... worth the cover price Financial Times Ideas in this book ... authentically contradict modern common sense ... Noting the current fad for mindfulness, the authors point out that Buddhism in the west "has often been distorted as a way of looking within and embracing the self". Such navel-gazing, they and the Chinese sages agree, may be a kind of imprisonment -- Steven Poole Guardian A very accessible and inspiring piece of work ... Anyone willing to put the work in might find that this book really can change your life The Sentinel This book is a revelation, a practical way through a fractured, distracting world. I thought I knew these philosophers - and I was wrong. Rigorous, concise, deeply informed, The Path retires our facile shorthand about ideas "from the East" and presents a powerful intellectual case to engage, to care, and to remember -- Evan Osnos This is a book that turns the notion of help - and the self, for that matter - on its head. Puett and Gross-Loh bring seemingly esoteric concepts down to Earth, where we can see them more clearly. The result is a philosophy book grounded in the here and now, and brimming with nuggets of insight. No fortune-cookie this, The Path serves up a buffet of meaty life lessons. I found myself reading and re-reading sections, letting the wisdom steep like a good cup of tea -- Eric Weiner The Path will not only change your life - -it will change the way you see history and the world. From its wondrously fresh take on Confucius to its quietly profound read of just what it is the great sages have to say to us, this book exemplifies all that can come of the radical openness of Chinese philosophy. Read it and be transformed -- Gish Jen, author of Tiger Writing and The Love Wife The Path illuminates a little-known spiritual and intellectual landscape: the rich body of Chinese thought that, starting more than two millennia ago, charted new approaches to living a meaningful life. But Puett goes a lot further, creatively applying this ancient thought to the dilemmas of modern life. The result is a fresh recipe for harnessing our natural energies and emotions to strengthen social connection and build islands of order amid the chaos that sometimes surrounds us -- Robert Wright, author of The Language of God Puett's dynamism translates well from his classroom theater onto the page, and his provocative, radical re-envisioning of everyday living through Chinese philosophy opens wide the 'possibilities for thinking afresh about ourselves and about our future.' With its ... spirited, convincing vision, revolutionary new insights can be gleaned from this book on how to approach life's multifarious situations with both heart and head Kirkus Reviews If you're looking to get out of a rut, or rise above the doom and gloom of our present global situation, Puett's channeled knowledge from the Chinese masters will be a wake-up call. We sometimes forget that our problems are as old as civilization, and maybe the answers have always been hidden in plain sight. Publishers Weekly Staff Pick The Laozi actually offers a much more expansive-and revolutionary-vision of innovation [than The Art of War. It] questions the very idea that we should try to come up with innovative strategies within a defined, predictable arena, whether that is the battlefield or dinner table, the boardroom or the steel industry. Instead, the Laozi assumes a world in constant flux and motion. Those who aspire to innovate are better off seeing the world through a Laozian, not Sunzian, lens Fortune A very accessible work i There's a lot in it...fascinating. [It] is challenging the conventions of Western philosophy -- Philippa Thomas BBC World Thought-provoking and stimulating work. The authors carry an admirable modesty -- Paddy Kehoe RTE Puett's book is designed to make the reader think, and it fulfils that objective. He presents complex philosophies lucidly -- Krishnan Srinivasan, former Indian Foreign Secretary The Statesman The Importance of Breaking Free of ... Yourself LinkedIn post viewed over 0.5 million times Welcome and unusual. Its genesis rests in the enormous teaching success of Puett, a professor of Chinese history at Harvard. His freshman survey course on Chinese philosophy now ranks as the most popular humanities class on the campus, requiring the august venue of Sanders Theatre to accommodate its 700-plus regulars. The result? A remarkable combination of self-help guide and iconoclastic take on ancient Chinese wisdom Chronicle of Higher Education
Michael Puett is Professor of Chinese History at Harvard and has lectured widely at the world's leading universities. His course in Chinese philosophy is among the most popular at Harvard and in 2013 he was awarded a Harvard College Professorship for excellence in undergraduate teaching. This is his first trade book. Christine Gross-Loh has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and the Huffington Post. She has a PhD in East Asian history from Harvard and is the author of Parenting without Borders.