A philosophical guide to facing life’s inevitable hardships.

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:

“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?
 
“Kieran Setiya’s insights are stunning, his compassion sustaining. Anyone susceptible to life’s hardships must read this book—which means that everyone must read it.” —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex
 
“Finding wisdom in Aristotle, Wittgenstein, and Simone Weil, and also in Dostoevsky, Emily Dickinson, and Groundhog Day, this book offers guidance on how to make the most of the hand we have all been dealt.” —Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club
 
“Kieran Setiya is that rare bird, a philosopher of exceptional ability with the courage to face the deepest questions. His profound and far-reaching reflection on chronic pain and the other darknesses of life is a must-read.” —Zena Hitz, author of Lost in Thought
 
“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

“Kieran Setiya helps us make sense of our experience in this turbulent, disturbing age. Taking on even existential threats with wisdom and compassion, Life is Hard ends with the inspiring promise that fighting for climate justice could give our lives meaning.” —Genevieve Guenther, founding director of End Climate Silence
 
“This is the most important type of book, the kind that sits on a bedside table through the long, dark nights of the soul. Life is Hard served as a very clear, very important reminder: being a philosopher entails a simple obligation, the responsibility to help.” —John Kaag, author of Sick Souls, Healthy Minds and Hiking with Nietzsche
 
“An elegant book—wise and surprisingly moving. Readers like myself will undoubtedly end up questioning and rethinking how they live their lives.” —David Edmonds, author of Wittgenstein's Poker