Friday, April 25, 2014

The Consolations of Alain de Botton

December 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Writer Alain de Botton has made it his mission to show how thinking — and acquaintance with some of the greatest thinkers — can offer us solace and enlarge our happiness. Having begun a Ph.D. program in philosophy, de Botton left the ivory tower in order to write books for general readers. De Botton's work engages topics as diverse as airports, cookies, stoicism, and shoe shining while aiming throughout to help us lead better lives. Sound interesting? Read these five books by de Botton:

  • In The Consolations of Philosophy de Botton argues that the teachings of the world's most important philosophers concern the day to day business of living in the world. In a tour of philosophical history, de Botton shows how works by great philosophers can help readers overcome everyday difficulties like frustration, heartbreak, and unhappiness.
  • How Proust Can Change Your Life, similarly, presents Marcel Proust's novel Remembrance of Things Past as a peculiar sort of self-help book. De Botton culls a number of aphorisms and parables from Proust and presents these lessons in his characteristically witty style.
  • De Botton's book The Architecture of Happiness explores the usually unnoticed (yet often quite deep) ways the spaces human beings inhabit affect our emotional lives. This book will change the way you see the physical world.
  • A Week at the Airport issued from time de Botton spent as writer-in-residence at England's Heathrow Airport. De Botton sees the airport as a uniquely modern space that concentrates human beings' arrivals, departures, beginnings, and endings in a way made possible only by the miraculous fact of airplane flight. Movingly written and beautifully illustrated, this short book is perhaps the best introduction to de Botton.
  • The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work surveys the strange and wonderful world of work. Offering the book as an investigation into a realm that claims itself as one of the principal sources of life's meaning, de Botton turns an anthropologist's eye toward enterprises like logistics, accounting, cookie making, career counseling, and inventing. Listen to an extended interview de Botton gave about the book here.

De Botton also runs The School of Life, a private school based in England that hosts classes, dinners, and a series of "secular sermons." The sermons often reprise de Botton's great theme that philosophy can help human beings with the business of living. View some of these sermons online here.

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