A History of Ideas by The School of Life – Book Review

A History of Ideas by The School of Life – Book Review

A History of Ideas by The School of Life

A History of Ideas

I received a free copy of this book.
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A collection of humanity’s most inspiring ideas throughout time, bringing perspective to the challenges and wonders of being alive.

This is an unusual sort of history book: a history of ideas – and not just any old ideas, ideas from across time and space that are best suited to healing, enchanting and reviving us.

Along the way, we travel around the world, from the very beginnings of our species right up to the modern age. We hear about the Ancient Greeks and Romans, we learn about Buddhism and Islam, we acquire ideas from Hinduism and the European Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Modernity. Deliberately eclectic, the book gives us a panoramic, 3,000-year view over the finest insights of a diversity of civilisations.

Every idea hangs off an image – it could be a place, a document, a building or a work of art – that has something very specific to teach us. There are ideas here that will stick in our minds because they can help to answer the biggest puzzles we may have: about the direction of our lives, the issues of relationships, the meaning of existence.

The book amounts to a feast for the intellect and the imagination – to make us into the best sorts of historians, those who know how to use the past to shed light on their own lives.

Review by Stacey

A History of Ideas by The School of Life is a commendable non-fiction book that contains a collection of inspiring ideas throughout time. The book is split into seven sections. Some sections are different historical periods, others continents, and lastly different religions.

Starting with historiography (the history of history), each double-page represents something different and in various timelines. Beginning with a painting that was commissioned in the mid-18th century for the entrance to a private library featuring the Greek Goddess of Wisdom Athena, along with the figure of Truth titled ‘Truth and Wisdom Assist History in Writing’. We then move forward to 1979 and the Grammy Awards and how the wise teach us to look for patterns. This is a book that doesn’t stay in one era for long, jumping back and forth.

The book is very clever and tailored for individuals with a fervour for history or philosophy. It commands the reader’s attention and yet conveys the message of each section in just a few words and with one image. It does at times make you have to read passages over and over again to fully understand what the idea is that is being conveyed to the reader.

Overall, this is an unusual book that someone very knowledgeable would love. It is a book that makes the reader stop and think. It is not a collection of tales about how the wheel came about etc. It is a collection of things such as the idea that reading a book cannot possibly – or for long – change anyone’s thoughts or behaviour. It is a philosopher’s dream book!

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The School of Life


The School of Life is a groundbreaking enterprise which offers good ideas for everyday living. It address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships and how better to understand, and as necessary change, the world – through classes, therapies, books and films. It is headquartered in London, with campuses in Melbourne, Paris, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Belgrade, Antwerp, Seoul, Tel Aviv.

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