This autobiographical book was first published in 1938 ,when Somerset Maugham was 64 years old.I first read this book in 1979 when I was 25.It did influence me then , as it has done now.But I believe,I have understood it better this time.In the book , Maugham tried to sum up what he understood about life and its meaning.Since most of his experience had been in writing dramas and novels , a large part of the book is about writing .But it is also the story of a soul struggling to understand what this life is all about.
Precisely , Maugham sums up by saying that every life should centre around goodness.One should be good and do good. Goodness is the only value that seems in this world to have any claim to be an end in itself.There is nothing more beautiful than goodness(Page 56).Life should be all about right actions.The right action, according to Maugham , is acting in conformity with your nature and your business."Loving kindness(non-sexual love) is the better part of goodness.It lends grace to the sterner qualities of which goodness consists and makes it a little less difficult to practise those minor virtues of self-control and self-restraint,patience , discipline and tolerance , which are the passive and not very exhilarating elements of goodness."(Page 302).The value of life is not beauty but right action .It must strengthen your character and make it more fitted for right action.
Living for goodness requires self-realisation which is "bringing to the highest perfection every faculty of which you are possessed."(Page 274).
Maugham has given many observations about reading and writing .One interesting statement:"The ageing writer does well to keep in touch with what the young do and from time to time ,I read their novels." Another witty observation:"Bored noblemen,axed officers,retired civil servants , fly to pen as one might fly to the bottle."(Page 176).
I recommend you to read this book.