Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Art Of Travel by Alain De Botton


The Art Of Travel by Alain De Botton
First published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton in 2002.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.37 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.98 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (HB)
Amazon : from $1.97 / £0.01 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Few activities seem to promise is as much happiness as going travelling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so.

With the help of a selection of writers, artists and thinkers - including Flaubert, Edward Hopper, Wordsworth and Van Gogh - Alain de Botton's bestselling The Art of Travel provides invaluable insights into everything from holiday romance to hotel minibars, airports to sightseeing.

The perfect antidote to those guides that tell us what to do when we get there, The Art of Travel tries to explain why we really went in the first place - and helpfully suggest how we might be happier on our journeys.

I hadn't read philosophy for ages so am happy to have been able to borrow a trio of Alain De Botton books for a friend. The first, Status Anxiety, was interesting, but didn't speak directly about my lifestyle. This second book, The Art Of Travel, is absolutely on the money! De Botton explores attitudes to travel through the eyes of a number of historical thinkers and writers including Wordsworth, Van Gogh, Huysmans and, finally someone whose work I have actually read, Xavier De Maistre. All De Botton's thinkers are men and, I believe, all white men at that, so we don't get a fully rounded view of travel over the past few centuries, but I enjoyed dipping into the ideas that they espouse. This is a great book to discuss as well as to read so could make an ideal nonfiction book club choice.

De Botton starts by thinking about how the anticipation of travel can be more rewarding than the reality. Huysmans fictional creation, Des Esseintes, feels more 'in' a country by visiting its ex-pat enclaves than in the original land. De Botton also looks at how our ideas of desirable places to visit are shaped by the impressions of artists and writers who preceded us. Arles is now most famous for its Van Gogh connections (although Dave and I were more taken with the Roman history!), and it wasn't until painters started interpreting the Scottish Highlands or Wordsworth strode across the Lake District that these wild places became fashionable - and, consequently, a lot less wild!

De Botton writes in an easily accessible style so Reading Philosophy wasn't at all arduous! I could identify with many of the ideas discussed and now also have a lengthy further reading list that includes the third of my De Botton trio, The Consolations Of Philosophy.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Alain De Botton / Philosophy books / Books from Switzerland

8 comments:

  1. You've nailed what I've struggled with the few times I've picked up philosophy books- relevance to me. I love the mention of Wordsworth and the Lake District. I just read biography on his sister (and him).
    But yes, this topic of travel from a philosophical standpoint might hold my attention. Thanks for sharing about it, Stephanie!

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    1. I'm thinking I need to read a Wordsworth poetry collection now. Other than a line or two about daffodils, I don't know much of his work, yet he was so important.

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  2. That sounds interesting even if it's not my kind of book.

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    1. I wouldn't have thought to buy it, but am glad to have borrowed it!

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  3. I can not even remember when I last read any philosophy

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    1. Checking back on posts here, I can see I enjoyed reading some Rumi and Gilbran last year! I think I should make more of an effort on philosophical/psychological books because I do love learning how people think!

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  4. I've never read anything that falls under philosophy, so this sounds interesting! I can definitely see how our view of places and what's considered desirable to visit would be shaped by writers and artists. Interesting how it creates a kind of circle though and also has an effect on the places, I've never thought about that!

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    1. The concept hadn't occurred to me either before, but I could see it's absolutely true. There's a fab quote from Daniel Defoe dismissing the Lake District completely, yet a century later it starts to become one of the most fashionable places in Britain!

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