The School of Life book series:
Anyone who has been reading this blog regularly will know that it is no secret I will read anything written by, or recommended by, Britain’s unofficial Philosopher Laureate Alain de Botton. I have been lucky enough to catch him live twice in the past few months, most recently at the book launch of a brilliant modern miniature series of self-help books, which promises to do for the much-maligned self-help category of literature what his secular Sunday Sermons have done for Sunday morning gatherings, in short: make them cool.
De Botton’s quirky School of Life, set in the leafy, intellectual Bloomsbury district of London, caters to the well-off but disaffected section of society who have £30/40 to throw around on seminars and courses on everything from what books you should be reading to your child, to How to Have Better Conversations. To save you time and trouble, he has gathered together six leading ‘experts’ in various fields to provide a simple, yet brilliantly off-beat collection of guides to six vital life topics: work, sanity, money, activism, technology and, of course (from de Botton himself), sex.
I can’t believe I had hesitated at all over whether to attend the book launch, but it was only a few days before the 3-hour event in the gorgeous Union Chapel, in Highbury, that I finally procured tickets for myself and two friends. It turned out to be a 3-hour extravaganza of comedy art-music, provided by jazz/cartoon combo The London Snorkelling Team, followed by each of the six authors introducing their topics with a summary of their books, (albeit not as in-depth, and with some extra material…at least I’m hoping so because, with signed copies available on the night, of course I bought the complete set…)
Mini-highlights I jotted down from each speaker on the evening’s program are reproduced below, as well as I remember them:
1/ The unpronouncable Roman Krznaric on Work:
These days, it may be better to be a wide achiever than a high achiever.
2/ The financially astute John Armstrong on Money:
“Brilliant if you’re a novelist, terrible if you’re a human being…”
[Sadly I have forgotten what this was referring to, but it was a great soundbite!]
3/ The email-hating Tom Chatfield on Technology:
“What is the last thing we touch at night and the first thing we touch in the morning? No, not that…our mobile phones!…”
4/ The uniquely-dressed Philippa Perry on Sanity:
The importance of saying not “I am…x” but simply “I feel…x”
5/ The surprisingly dirty Alain de Botton on Sex:
[After discussing this website, no-one in the audience or sharing the stage with him could really concentrate on much else…]
6/ The inspirational (and Popely-named) John Paul Flintoff on Activism:
A simple quote from Nietzsche which has become one of my mottos for life.
“The end of a melody is not its goal…”