sometimes witty book reviews
The philosopher Alain de Botton has been in my life since childhood. My brother and I used to watch the documentaries ABC (Australia) would put on after the kids’ shows had finished and for a while de Botton’s BBC-style documentaries were played very often. You may know him from the YouTube channel, The School of Life. At the time I found the 1993 edition of his Essays in Love I was apartment sitting in a city I didn’t know having recently been through a difficult period of people-relations. This book was just the ticket.
It’s clear to me that there is no good reason for many philosophy books to sound as complicated as they do.
– de Botton
Essays in Love is part novel, part essay. Written as a series of slice-of-life case studies, de Botton covers subjects such as when to say ‘I love you’, why lovers argue over petty subjects (i.e. I don’t like your new shoes), the root of irrational jealousy, why you should let your ex-lover hate you and how start repairing yourself when it’s all over.
This is isn’t a soppy self-help book but a rational approach to romantic relationships. De Botton’s narrative is engaging without being distracting and his theorising stimulating without being overwhelming. No experience in philosophical text-reading or interest in romance required. Those who seek help shall find it but more crucially those who seek distraction shall be confronted with the need to think and reflect.
Reading suggestion: Tempting as it may be, don’t go recommending this to your ex when you finish. If you must tell them something, just show them this video instead.