Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Alain de Botton's list

Alain de Botton, the best-selling author of The Art of Travel and How Proust Can Change Your Life, came up with a list of books for The Week magazine. His latest work, The Architecture of Happiness, has just been published by Pantheon.

Here is half of his list:
Mythologies by Roland Barthes

I wouldn’t have become the writer I am if I hadn’t, in my early 20s, discovered the work of Roland Barthes. Barthes’ most famous book is all about the most ordinary things: washing powder, falling in love, short and long-hemmed skirts. Yet he knew how to connect Racine and beach holidays, Freud and the anticipation of a lover’s phone call. His work rejected the division between the high and the low.

The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly

The accusation most often leveled at this book is that it is a work of self-indulgence—an accusation that fails to distinguish between talking a lot about yourself (which can be very entertaining) and being self-centered. The book is a seductive mixture of diary, essay, travelogue, and memoir. The thoughts are wise, dark, and beautifully modeled.

Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne likes to point out that philosophers don’t know everything, and that they would be a lot wiser if they laughed at themselves a little more. He also writes in a personal and often very frank way designed to shock the prudish. “Even on the highest throne in the world,” he says, “we are seated still upon our arses.”
Rounding out the list: Seneca, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche.

About The Architecture of Happiness, from the author's website:
One of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we’re surrounded by.

And yet a concern for architecture and design is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. The Architecture of Happiness starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be - and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.
--Marshal Zeringue