This is a book about an almost universal anxiety that rarely gets mentioned directly: an anxiety about what others think of us; about whether we're judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. This is a book about status anxiety. (With the help of philosophers, artists and writers, he examines the origins of status anxiety (ranging from the consequences of the French Revolution to our secret dismay at the success of our friends), before revealing ingenious ways in which people have learnt to overcome their worries in their search for happiness. We learn about sandal-less philosophers and topless bohemians, about the benefits of putting skulls on our sideboards and of looking at ruins.)
If you want a unique angle on understanding post-modern consumer culture, or just want help with your 'status anxiety', or to understand the 'status anxiety' of others, give this a go, it will not disappoint. Ever felt that your blog didn't measure up, that your church was too small, your gathering uncool, get some help here?
The first book by Alain that I read was The Art of Travel (Which tackles the curious business of travelling. In a series of thought-provoking, lyrical and often humourous essays, he writes about airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances, photographs, exotic carpets and the contents of hotel mini-bars. De Botton mixes his own thoughts about travel with those of some great figures of the past: Edward Hopper, Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh and Ruskin among them. The result is a beguiling, highly original work which, unlike existing guidebooks on travel, actually asks what the point of travel might be - and modestly suggests how we could learn to be happier on our journeys.)