The Big Ideas series is a trio of engaging and beautifully presented books from The School of Life, examining wise ideas and lessons to learn from history, literature and philosophy.

The School of Life publishes a range of books, games and learning tools for children introducing curious young minds to brilliant ideas from psychology, philosophy, literature, science, art, architecture and beyond, that can help them grow into happy, healthy and emotionally mature adults.

"Our team of psychologists, writers and designers work together to produce engaging, beautifully illustrated, age-appropriate teaching that can be put to work in everyday life. We never dumb down or over-simplify; rather, trusting in the intelligence and curiosity of our young readers, we aim to make our wisdom as engaging and relatable as possible. We seek to provide what the traditional curriculum often lacks: an emotional education."

We asked our Reader Review Panel to take a look..

Big Ideas from History: a history of the world for you

A young reader learns:  History is my favourite subject so I was really happy when I was asked to write a review about Big Ideas from History. The book is divided into sections called Prehistory, Ancient History, The Middle Ages, The Beginnings of the Modern World, Industrialisation and The Modern World. I really liked the end section that was called The Future because it made me think that we are all part of history now, which was quite cool.

The book explored history in a different way asking questions like How did the Universe Begin and What Old Maps Tell You and Why We Invented Forks and Chopsticks. One part was called The Invention of Childhood which was amazing as it used to be that children had to work from when they were quite young, looking after animals or collecting sticks for the fire.

At the back there is a chapter that asks How Can We All Live Better Together? I think this is very important because if we could all be kinder to each other we would all be happier and accept each other as they are. ~ Imogen aged 9

You can read a review of Big Ideas from History from one of our LR4K expert reviewers, Andrea Reece.


Big Ideas from Literature: How Books Can Change Your World

A teacher says:  This is a book about books! A snapshot of literature throughout the ages, asking big questions such as how does literature work, how do stories help us understand life, what is reading really for?

It is a fascinating read from studying the development of written literature, on scrolls and papyrus, through the history of the printing press and on to the actual future of books themselves and how technology might change or alter how we approach a book. In addition to quite well-known facts such as how the printing press changed how books were produced and distributed, it also highlights interesting facts about when nonfiction and fiction books were introduced and how children’s literature wasn’t introduced as a concept till 1744. It also touches on ‘watching stories’ and how books and films work alongside each other.

The book is a complete treasury of not only the different genres of literature, but also a wonderful selection of exerts from famous books such as Little Women, Alice in Wonderland, and the Hobbit. The book is continually questioning how we read, how reading affects are emotions and feelings and what book offer us.

I can see it sitting on a display table in a school library, when, for the curious, it will spark the imagination and lead people to the joys, comfort, and genuine pleasure of reading.

Read the full review for Big Ideas from Literature

Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy

A parent thinks: It's twenty four years since Alain de Botton wrote Consolations of Philosophy. Very much in the vein of de Botton's original bestseller, Big Ideas for Curious Minds introduces readers to various philosophers in the context of everyday challenges. Each chapter explores a "Big Idea" : "Why you feel lonely", for example, or "When someone is angry maybe it's not you who's responsible" - and links this to an idea from a certain philosopher, giving a little biography alongside a very cute illustration. It's great how, beyond the big names of classical and twentieth century philosophers, some lesser known teachers are introduced that even grown-ups may not have heard of: Matsuo Basho of Japan, for instance, and Zera Yacob of Ethiopia, lending diversity and inclusivity to the text.

It's a nicely written book that would be best read, I suggest, with a curious ten to twelve year old (it generated some interesting bedtime chats with my 12 year old daughter). But keen readers may also enjoy it alone if they have specific interests in that area or an appetite for ideas. More schools now offer philosophy within their curricula, either at primary or pre-GCSE, sometimes as part of religious studies, and this could be a good, accessible, primer.

Read the full review for Big Ideas for Curious Minds

The Big Ideas series are perfect gifts for a children’s library, and suitable for readers age 9+. To accompany the books The School of Life have developed classroom resources and activity downloads, available on the book pages.

The School of Life is a global organisation helping people to lead more fulfilled lives.

The School of Life Press brings together the thinking and ideas of the School of Life creative team under the direction of series editor, Alain de Botton. Their range of books and products explore essential topics in psychological and emotional life, including relationships, parenting, friendship, careers and fulfillment.

They do this via articles, books, app, films, therapeutic services and corporate offering.

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