Alain de Botton is the author of three works of fiction and five of nonfiction, including How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Consolations of Philosophy, and The Art of Travel. He lives in London.
De Botton's best-selling The Art of Travel and The Consolations of Philosophy have both been converted into multipart PBS specials, and this newest book is expected to air on PBS as a three-part series in the fall. In it, de Botton explores how humans have related to architecture through the ages. He poses the philosophical question of whether or not the structure of buildings can affect human happiness. Working with the theory that we are very susceptible to our surroundings, de Botton suggests that "bad" architecture can subtly darken our moods, while other forms of architecture can bring us a sense of peace or happiness, as in the case of Europe's majestic cathedrals. De Botton guides us from the 19th century through modernism, providing insights into the meaning of style and abstract shape. Numerous excellent black-and-white photographs of all the major buildings discussed are included. While the presentation is somewhat dry, architecture and history aficionados will appreciate this comprehensive and pictorially enhanced survey. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.]-Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
With this entertaining and stimulating book, de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) examines the ways architecture speaks to us, evoking associations that, if we are alive to them, can put us in touch with our true selves and influence how we conduct our lives. Because of this, he contends, it's the architect's task to design buildings that contribute to happiness by embodying ennobling values. While he makes no claim to be able to define true beauty in architecture, he suggests some of the virtues a building should have (illustrated by pictures on almost every spread): order combined with complexity; balance between contrasting elements; elegance that appears effortless; a coherent relationship among the parts; and self-knowledge, which entails an understanding of human psychology, something that architects all too often overlook. To underscore his argument, de Botton includes many apt examples of buildings that either incorporate or ignore these qualities, discussing them in ways that make obvious their virtues or failings. The strength of his book is that it encourages us to open our eyes and really look at the buildings in which we live and work. A three-part series of the same title will air on PBS this fall. (Oct. 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"De Botton has a marvelous knack for coming at weighty subjects
from entertainingly eccentric angles."
-The Seattle Times
"An elegant book. . . . Unusual . . . full of big ideas. . . . Seldom has there been a more sensitive marriage of words and images."
-The New York Sun
"With originality, verve, and wit, de Botton explains how we find reflections of our own values in the edifices we make. . . . Altogether satisfying."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"De Botton is high falutin' but user friendly. . . . He keeps architecture on a human level."
-Los Angeles Times