Every now and then the book that you need comes along at just the right time. This was the case when I finally sat down to read Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy on my honeymoon.
I absolutely adored the layout of this book. I was surprised by the use of simple pictures throughout and I found the author’s references to his own personal life delightful too. Philosophy is often marketed as a drab and dreary subject but de Botton’s writing style made it leap from the pages.
I was impressed how he made complex ideas easily applicable to everyday life even though some of these ideas date back thousands of years. I also liked how he did this in a manner that was nothing like the self-help industry. In this book ideas are presented plain and simple and then left for the reader to digest on their own. That is the essence of pure philosophy and good teaching.
The author divides his extensive research into six chapters. These include philosophical consolations/antidotes for unpopularity, lacking money, frustration, feelings of inadequacy, heartbreak and difficulties. Each chapter deals with the life and theories of different philosophers. In this way the reader gets to experience Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne and Nietzsche to name but a few.
Some of these philosophers have comically polar opposite views on life and so the book offers a very balanced introduction to the different schools of thought. Again I found it interesting to read some pessimistic theories as an alternative to the overly positive ideas all too common in non-fiction today. Because each chapter read as an independent argument, this book was easy to dip in and out of.
Consolations finishes in my favourite manner. After providing much food for thought, the closing pages of De Botton’s book include a vast reading list. This provides the reader with more than enough options to pursue any topic of choice further. This for me is the sign of any great non-fiction book where the singular book itself provides an idea in the form of a spark that is just enough to set the reader’s imagination on fire. Thank you Alain de Botton for doing this with philosophy.
- Philosophy can be quite an intimidating genre. This year I am really enjoying books that introduce philosophy in a friendly and engaging manner. In this way I can explore the ideas that interest me further when I have found my bearings. I read and reviewed Peter Worley’s ‘The If Machine’ recently and it was equally engaging.
- The Consolations of Philosophy was recommended to me as part of an excellent reading list posted on the Daily Stoic website. You will find the full reading list here.
- ‘Carpe Diem Regained’ by Roman Krznaric is another excellent work of non-fiction that offers a different view on life and living.