Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway.” —The New York Times Book Review

There is no cure for the human condition: life is hard. But Kieran Setiya believes philosophy can help. He offers us a map for navigating rough terrain, from personal trauma to the injustice and absurdity of the world. 

In this profound and personal book, Setiya shows how the tools of philosophy can help us find our way. Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy as well as fiction, history, memoir, film, comedy, social science, and stories from Setiya’s own experience, Life Is Hard is a book for this moment—a work of solace and compassion.

Warm, accessible, and good-humored, this book is about making the best of a bad lot. It offers guidance for coping with pain and making new friends, for grieving the lost and failing with grace, for confronting injustice and searching for meaning in life. Countering pop psychologists and online influencers who admonish us to “find our bliss” and “live our best lives,” Setiya acknowledges that the best is often out of reach. Instead, he asks how we can weather life’s adversities, finding hope and living well when life is hard.
Praise for Life is Hard:

Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Reflects what philosophy at its most helpful and humane can do. . . . insightful and empathetic” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Kieran Setiya argues that certain bracing challenges—loneliness, failure, ill health, grief, and so on—are essentially unavoidable. . . . But it’s good, the book shows, to acknowledge hard experiences and ask how they’ve helped us grow tougher, kinder, and wiser.” —The New Yorker

“Any attempt by a philosopher to help us live well—not in spite of human suffering but in full acknowledgment of it—is a welcome respite from so many too-tidy philosophical theories of human well being. A more honest and humane treatment is long overdue, and even if they are not ultimately consoled, readers will surely find themselves more connected to their own humanity from reading and reflecting on this book.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A consoling guide to this vale of tears . . . . Attentive readers of this humane, intelligent book will come away with a firmer grasp and better descriptions of whatever it is that ails them or those they cherish.” —The Economist

“Through carefully crafted examples, [Kieran Setiya] makes the case that philosophy can help us navigate the adversities of human life … No life worth living is free of suffering and pain. Better to face it with the clarity to which philosophy, at its best, aspires.” —The Guardian

“At last a philosopher tackles the meaning of life and comes up with useful answers.” — Sunday Times (London)

“Insightful. . . . This thought-provoking treatise enlightens.” —Publishers Weekly

“A lighted path for dark times. . . . pragmatic, compassionate advice.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Kieran Setiya has produced the ultimate handbook of hardship. He shows why adversity is inevitable—and why facing up to that reality, rather than insisting on simple-minded notions of happiness, offers the only path to living well.” —Daniel H. Pink, author of The Power of Regret, When, and Drive

“Smart, richly sourced, and lucidly reasoned, Life Is Hard is a work of resplendent wisdom and humanity—one that has changed the way I think about the periodic upsurges of failure, grief, and loss in my own life.” —Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?

“An eloquent, moving, witty and above all useful demonstration of philosophy's power to help us weather the storms of being human—not with rarefied theories about the best way to live, but by making the best of life as it really is.” — Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks

“Life may be hard, but Kieran Setiya shows us better ways to think about it and how, despite everything, that can give us hope.” —Katherine May, author of Wintering