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Alain de Botton's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Alain de Botton recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Alain de Botton's favorite book recommendations of all time.

For this complete, authoritative English-language edition, D. J. Enright has revised the late Terence Kilmartin's acclaimed reworking of C. K. Scott Moncrieff's translation to take into account the new definitive French editions of 'À la recherche du temps perdu' (the final volume of these new editions was published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade in 1989). less

Alain de BottonAbout a search for how you can stop wasting your life and start to appreciate life and live fully. (Source)

Carlo RovelliProust’s reflection on the nature of time is deep and spread over his writing. (Source)

Viktor Mayer-SchönbergerA famous masterpiece which is an excruciatingly detailed chronicle of Proust’s life in which every single element and thought is captured and retold. (Source)

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From Amsterdam to Cambodia, from Rome to Indonesia, from New Orleans to Libya, and from Detroit to Ko Pha-Ngan, Geoff Dyer finds himself both floundering about in a sea of grievances and finding moments of transcendental calm. This aberrant quest for peak experiences leads, ultimately, to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where, to quote Tarkovsky's Stalker, 'your most cherished desire will come true'. less
Recommended by Alain de Botton, and 1 others.

Alain de BottonIt’s a book about Dyer’s mind, which I think is both interesting and funny… He is constantly flitting with ideas about all sorts of stuff… (Source)

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A graceful and lucid study of the power of beauty and the deep significance it has in our lives

In defining beauty and our response to it, we are often caught between the concrete and the sublime. We wish to categorize beauty, to clearly label its parts, and yet we wish also to celebrate its mysterious-and at times mythical-power. Armstrong's response is a discursive and graceful journey through various and complementary interpretations, leading us from Hogarth's belief that the essence of beauty lies in shapely curves, to Kant's discourses on the meaning of pleasure.
Recommended by Alain de Botton, and 1 others.

Alain de BottonThe modern way of thinking about beauty is to consider it a diversion. People apologise for finding someone attractive because we think it’s superficial… Armstrong goes back to a much earlier view… (Source)

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Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation. He responded to and expanded upon Immanuel Kant's philosophy concerning the way in which we experience the world. His critique of Kant, his creative solutions to the problems of human experience and his explication of the limits of human knowledge are among his most important achievements. His metaphysical theory is the foundation of his influential writings on psychology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics which influenced Friedrich Nietzsche, Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein,... more
Recommended by Alain de Botton, and 1 others.

Alain de BottonAnyone past the age of 20 is sure to realise that our desires are pretty endless and that some of them are the result of a modern capitalist society. It’s very nice to be reminded by Schopenhauer… (Source)

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This collection brings together some of psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott's most important work contributing to our understanding of the minds of children. The essays range in topic from "The Concept of a Healthy Individual" and "The Value of Depression" to "Delinquancy as a sign of Hope". All reveal Winnicott's vision of the ways in which the developing self interacts with the family and the larger society. less
Recommended by Alain de Botton, and 1 others.

Alain de BottonWinnicott was one of the most accomplished interpreters of Freud in England. And what is interesting is that he makes psychoanalysis very English. (Source)

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The Crowded Dance of Modern Life

The linking theme of these essays is modernity, for Woolf was writing in a world radically separated from the old certainties by the catastrophe of World War I. Here she provides some responses to what she called "the crowded dance of modern life". less
Recommended by Alain de Botton, and 1 others.

Alain de BottonWoolf was like many writers of the early 20th century, such as Joyce or Proust, who were interested in the word modern. The traditions of the 19th century had been broken and the modern world… (Source)

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In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places; brilliant and playful reflections; and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers. less

Evan Spiegel[Evan Spiegel said this was his favorite book.] (Source)

Iulia GhitaI like Milan Kundera’s books with his philosophical digressions that sometimes remind me of my own dilemmas, with The Unbearable Lightness of Being as my favourite. I find Kundera’s stories awfully sad, but yet so real, so close to human nature. I admit, I’m not a fan of happy endings, I prefer thought provoking endings. (Source)

Carlos EireThe title, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, comes from the main character’s obsession with the fact that all we have is the now, nothing else except the ever-moving now. (Source)

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Complete Essays

Catalog of a private collection of mostly post-archaic Chinese jade carvings, including many very fine animals and human figures. less

Ryan HolidayThere is plenty to study and see simply by looking inwards — maybe even an alarming amount. (Source)

Alain de BottonI’ve given quite a lot of copies of [this book] to people down the years. (Source)

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