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Ryan A Bush
Become Who You Are
Ryan A Bush, author
After spending over a decade researching the psychology and philosophy of well-being, and even writing his first book on the topic, it took a struggle with his own mental health for Ryan A Bush to integrate the data he had studied to form a groundbreaking new psychological theory. Become Who You Are argues that the peak form of human happiness is determined, not by pleasure or pain, loss or gain, but by the admirability we observe in our own behaviors.
What actually makes us happy? According to Bush (author of Designing the Mind), the answers form a relatively short list. Be honest with yourself and others, work hard and help your neighbor. Start now as even relatively small steps can pay large dividends, and the road to fulfillment is paved with good deeds and other virtues. Offering nothing less than a “grand, unified theory of human well-being,” Become Who You Are presents a synthesis of the thinking of Nietzsche (the source of the title), the Stoics, spiritual wisdom, psychotherapy, virtue ethics, and more, as Bush lays out a route to achieving “eudaimonia,” an ancient Greek term for “the good life.”

Bush’s guidance and the book’s soul-searching process is crafted not only to make readers ourselves better individuals, coming into “who they are,” but also to become happier and more fulfilled along the way. Bush cuts a wide swath blending “philosophical arguments, scientific data, and therapeutic advice” with thumbnail explications of philosophical history and movements, all while digging into questions like why we feel there’s a reason to do the right thing even in the absence of consequences, and whether one person’s gain is necessarily another’s loss. Bush notes that, in a society that seemingly values material success above all else, it’s tempting to think of one’s self before others. But after the new car has lost its luster, and the trip around the world is over, what’s next?

Bush urges readers toward greater self-esteem by arguing that regularly doing the “right thing,” i.e., following a simple moral compass, is what can determine who we truly are. Although he occasionally falls short in his philosophical arguments, Bush deserves an “A” for effort. To his credit Bush neither talks “down” to the reader nor gets too grandiose in philosophical jargon. His direct, simple style, buttressed by examples from his own personal journey, which serve as life lessons, make the book highly readable and engaging.

Takeaway: The road to “the good life,” through philosophy, virtue, and ethics.

Comparable Titles: Massimo Pigliucci, Skye C. Cleary, and Daniel A. Kaufman’s How to Live a Good Life, Gregory Lopez’s A Handbook for Stoics.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A