Tag Archives: Alain de Botton

On Love

“…Thereafter, the computer so juggled things that it placed Chloe over the wind of the aircraft in seat 15A and I next to her in seat 15B. What we had ignored when we began speaking over the safety instruction card was the minuscule probablity that our discussion had been reliant upon. As neither of us were likely to fly Club Class, and as there were 191 economy-class seats and Chloe had been assigned seat 15A and I, quite by chance, had been assigned seat 15B, the theoretical probability that Chloe and I would be seated next to one another (though the chances of our actually talking to one another could not be calculated) worked itself out as 220 in 36,290, a figure reducible to a probability of 1 in 164.955.” (pgs. 8 & 9)

-On lovers’ predilection toward attributing their meeting to destiny. “Because you are perfect for me and I am perfect for you, we were born for one another and the entire journey of each of our lives was undertaken for the sole purpose of coming to this one place at this time to meet you, my love.”


“Chloe and I would never have been as brutal to our friends as we were to one another. But we equated intimacy with a form of ownership and license. We may have been kind, but we were no longer polite.” (pg.62)


“When I told Chloe my idea that people’s personalities in relationships were a bit like amoebas, she laughed and told me she’d loved drawing amoebas at school… “I’ll draw you the difference between what shape my amoeba-self has at the office and what shape it has with you, ” [she said.]…

“What are all the wiggly bits?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s because I feel wiggly around you.”


“Well, you know, you give me space. I feel more complicated than in the office. You’re interested in me and you understand me better, so that’s why I made it wiggly, so that it’s sort of natural.”

“OK, I see, so what’s this straight side?”

“… Well, you don’t understand everything about me, do you? So I thought I’d better make it more realistic…” (pgs. 106 & 107)


“Dr. Saavedra had diagnosed [Chloe with] a case of anhedonia, a disease defined by the British Medical Association as a reaction remarkably close to mountain sickness resulting from the sudden terror brought on by the threat of happiness.” (italics mine, pg. 123)


Never has an analytical book, which dares use political terminology more often than you think possible, captured realistic love in such a, well, realistic way. Part fiction, part series of essays, de Botton’s debut, published when he was 23 (23!) is perhaps one of the greatest works ever written on the subject of romantic love, because here the lover, as mad as he is, manages sobriety long enough to give us a first person account but also somehow makes it as objective as one can dare hope for — and so interesting! He deftly and articulately explores depths the rest of us only know instinctively, emotionally and wordlessly. Thus, we recognize on these pages our own ways of falling in and out of love, our own ways of masking something terrible, of faking this or that, of giving in completely and of flailing about, having lost our identity, of being too happy for words and inexplicably, uncontrollably sad; we recognize ourselves in Chloe, who stops buying the narrator’s favorite cereal all of a sudden, while continuing to call him by his nickname. We recognize ourselves in Chloe when she, again all of a sudden, buys it one last morning, and that’s how we know she doesn’t love him anymore. Have I given too much away? No. You must read this book.

Here are some of the chapter headings:


Speaking Love

False Notes

Love or Liberalism




The Jesus Complex


I so want you to read this book, I’d give you all a copy if I could. Because I can’t,  if you call in today and order it from us, just mention this saccharine post and we’ll discount the price 30%. If you order today, you’ll have the book on Friday and be preparing to read it a second time Saturday morning. Consider it our Valentine to you.


After today, I promise to never talk about love. Ever again.

But read the book.

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Portrait of a Bookstore on NPR

If you didn’t tune in to Lucia Silva and two  other booksellers in conversation with Susan Stamberg on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, here’s another chance!

Here are the books Lucia recommends:



In 2009, Heathrow Airport invited the writer and philosopher Alain de Botton to be writer-in-residence in their newly built Terminal 5. He would live at the airport for a week, occupying a desk situated in the middle of the departure hall, record his impressions, and then compile them into a book. The result is this slim volume that waxes philosophical on all the things airports represent: escape, anonymity, longing, aspiration, impatience. De Botton offers funny, erudite ruminations on such things as the implications of reclaiming our baggage after hours suspended in weightless flight; illusions of perfection upon departing for a family holiday; and the complex emotions involved in “arrivals” and “departures.” At just over 100 pages, this one is perfect for your carry-on.


“Give me an atlas over a guidebook any day. There is no more poetic book in the world,” declares the author, illustrator and designer of this dreamy atlas. Who hasn’t stared at those specks of earth (or ice) in the middle of foreign oceans and wondered what stories they hold? Schalansky uses historic events and scientific accounts as inspiration for the “imagined realities” she creates for each of these 50 real islands. This beautifully illustrated atlas reveals that cartography and the creative imagination have always intersected, spurred on by human wanderlust.


This international collection brings together brand-new stories inspired by the oldest literary tradition. Neil Gaiman riffs on Homer’s Odyssey, Francine Prose remakes Hansel and Gretel, and Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike both take on Bluebeard. Sure, there are princes, talking birds, witches and spells, but there are also 7-Elevens, hipsters and performance artists (to say nothing of the runaways, addicts and drifters named after the Seven Dwarfs). Though mostly anchored in the very real world, all of these stories are sprinkled with a beguiling darkness that recalls the enchanting lilt of our earliest story times.


David Earle assigned 365 artists each a day of the year and gave them 24 hours to create a work of art dedicated to that date. Both an art object and a functional perpetual calendar, the collection inspires viewers to stretch their creativity and reimagine the significance of their next 24 hours. Each page has a blank space where one might jot down a poem, sketch a doodle, or paste some ephemera, reminding us of our own capacities and desires to make, to do, to engage beyond our appointments and responsibilities.


This beautifully designed collection brings together essays from New Orleanians who stayed to rebuild their lives in a broken city, and those who chose to leave. Along with historical references, maps, photographs and quotes from both the famous and unknown, Where We Know creates a mosaic of the ultimate mosaic city. Whether writing about a baby born in the midst of reconstruction, wrestling with the many voices of the city’s tangled heritage, or looking back from a new home in Los Angeles, these writers illuminate the city’s past and the present in a gritty homage fit for natives and foreigners alike. Designed as though Chin Music Press/Broken Levee Books intends to singlehandedly resurrect the art of bookmaking, Where We Know is a book you’ll want at your bedside and on your coffee table.

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