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The Philosophy of a Bestseller

The Boston Globe’s David Mehegan spotlights what may well be the most surprising bestseller this year: Dan Klein & Tom Cathcart‘s PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR: UNDERSTANDING PHILOSOPHY THROUGH JOKES. Released in the spring, the 200-page book jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list and stayed for five weeks; it’s still no. 32 on the 35-title online list (the printed list has 15 titles). The book’s career so far demonstrates at least one point: Writers shouldn’t give up too soon on a book they believe in.

Crammed with 143 jokes and an occasional cartoon, PLATO AND A PLATYPUS is a 10-chapter course on the classic categories of philosophy, written in a Marxist style (Groucho’s), paced by the frequent appearance of Dmitri and Tasso, a comic two-man Greek chorus. The chapter titles — “Metaphysics,” “Logic,” “Epistemology,” “Ethics,” “Existentialism,” and “Philosophy of Language” — are serious, but the content that follows is anything but. It helps that the two men, friends for 50 years, have differing perspectives: Klein is a former TV writer while Cathcart eventually became chief operating officer of Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine.

The idea came about after a 2004 vacation, and after less-than-enthusiasm from Klein’s longtime agent they approached Julia Lord, who “loved it” and proceeded to collect almost 3 dozen rejections before Abrams picked it up. Everyone is surprised by the book’s success, but not enough to stop Klein and Cathcart from concocting a sequel. ARISTOTLE AND AN AARDVARK GO TO WASHINGTON: UNDERSTANDING POLITICAL DOUBLESPEAK THROUGH PHILOSOPHY AND JOKES is due out next winter — just in time for the election season, when we can all use a laugh.

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Lauren Berger Writes New Book for Young People Entering "Real World"

Lauren Berger Welcome to the Real WorldCareer Expert, Lauren Berger, releases her second book, Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), on April 22nd. In this book, Berger shares everything she wishes someone told her after graduation. Her book is the essential guide to anyone starting their first, second, or third job. She encourages readers to be fearless, step outside of their comfort zones, and go after what they want.