Summary and book reviews of The Good, The Bad and The Difference by Randy Cohen

The Good, The Bad and The Difference

How to Tell Right from Wrong in Everyday Life

by Randy Cohen

The Good, The Bad and The Difference
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2002, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2003, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The man behind the New York Times Magazine's immensely popular column "The Ethicist"--syndicated in newspapers across the USA and Canada as "Everyday Ethics"-- presents a provocative, thematic collection of advice on how to be good in the real world.

The man behind the New York Times Magazine's immensely popular column "The Ethicist"--syndicated in newspapers across the United States and Canada as "Everyday Ethics"--casts an eye on today's manners and mores with a provocative, thematic collection of advice on how to be good in the real world.

Every week in his column on ethics, Randy Cohen takes on conundrums presented in letters from perplexed people who want to do the right thing (or hope to get away with doing the wrong thing), and responds with a skillful blend of moral authority and humor. Cohen's wisdom and witticisms have now been collected in The Good, the Bad & the Difference, a collection of his columns as wise and funny as a combination of "Dear Abby," Plato, and Mel Brooks. The columns are supplemented with second thoughts on (and sometimes complete reversals of) his original replies, follow-up notes on how his advice affected the actions of various letter writers, reactions from readers both pro and con, and observations from such "guest ethicists" as David Eggers and the author's mom. Each chapter also features an "Ethics Pop Quiz".

The Good, the Bad & the Difference is divided into seven sections:

  • Civic Life (what we do in public)
  • Family Life (what we do at home)
  • Social Life (what we do in other people's homes)
  • Commercial Life (what we do in situations where money is a factor)
  • Medical Life (the rights and obligations of patients and caregivers)
  • Work Life (ethics for the professional sphere)
  • School Life (moral questions from and about kids)

Each section provides a window into how we live today, shedding light on the ways in which a more ethical approach to the decisions we make, and to our daily behavior, can make a big difference in how we feel about ourselves tomorrow.

Commercial Life

Whoever commits a fraud is guilty not only of the particular injury to him who he deceives, but of the diminution of that confidence which constitutes not only the ease but the existence of society.
- Johnson, Rambler #79 (December 18, 1750)

That this is one of the book's longest chapters is unsurprising: It takes up the ethics of commercial transactions, our culture's most common sort of human interaction. One way or another, these questions involve money. In particular, they deal with shopping and with the essential conflict between buyer and seller. The former wants to pay the lowest price, the latter wants to receive the highest; the temptations of deceit are powerful. That is why the used-car dealer has long been depicted as a reviled and tormented soul. If the car had been invented one hundred years earlier, Verdi would no doubt have written an opera about a used-car dealer. (And he would have taken very different sorts of vacations, perhaps driving along ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

An enjoyable and thought provoking book - one to dip into rather than to read cover to cover.  

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Not unlike Miss Manners, Cohen tries to focus on problems that everyday people actually face....It's the perfect gift for anyone who doesn't read a lot, but feels strongly about how things ought to be done.

Reader Reviews

Randy Cohen

Yeah! ethics~ it's all good!!

David

pain in experiences and not very helpful in the real world

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Good, The Bad and The Difference, try these:

  • The Antidote jacket

    The Antidote

    by Oliver Burkeman

    Published 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.

  • Justice jacket

    Justice

    by Michael J. Sandel

    Published 2010

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Michael J. Sandel's "Justice" course is one of the most popular and influential at Harvard. Up to a thousand students pack the campus theater to hear Sandel relate the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of the day. Justice offers readers the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Idealism increases in direct proportion to ones distance from the problem.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.