Alain de Botton on books and reading

“Heartache may be bad for the soul, but it’s great for bookshops. It’s when we are at our lowest romantic ebb that we are likely to do the bulk of our life’s reading. Adolescents who can’t get a date are in a uniquely privileged position: they will have the perfect chance to get grounding in world literature. There is perhaps an important connection between love and reading, there is perhaps a comparable pleasure offered by both.

A feeling of connection may be at the root of it. There are books that speak to us, no less eloquently—but more reliably—than our lovers. They prevent the morose suspicion that we do not fully belong to the human species, that we lie beyond comprehension. Our embarrassments, our sulks, our feelings of guilt, these phenomena may be conveyed on a page in a way that affords us with a sense self-recognition. The author has located words to depict a situation we thought ourselves alone in feeling, and for a few moments, we are like two lovers on an early dinner date thrilled to discover how much they share (and unable to touch much of the seafood linguine in front of them, so busy are they fathoming the eyes opposite), we may place the book down for a second and stare at its spine with a wry smile, as if to say, “How lucky I ran into you.”
― Alain de Botton

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2 thoughts on “Alain de Botton on books and reading

  1. Rashmi

    I also feel that much great art and great literature rises from the suffering and pain that an artist or author experiences. Much too often, the books that speak to us most eloquently when we are at our lowest, as because they who wrote them went through the same pain and had the necessary sensitivity and eloquence to find the right words to express it. Happiness is wonderful, of course, but it brings frivolity.

    Reply

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