Alain de Botton

Book Cover: The Consolations of Philosophy: Popular Penguins           Book Cover:  Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion

The first time I read Alain de Botton was on holidays a few years ago in Margaret River. That time I read Consolations of Philosophy. It was a great holiday – lots of relaxing, beautiful countryside, wineries and amazing beaches (often it was just us and the sharks). Anyway… this book was something that I’d heard about but thought it sounded terribly boring, painful (but probably educational), so I had never read it. I was surprised at how enjoyable it was to read. I normally like pretty light stuff on holidays, and it was perfect for that. Easy to read, but at the same time thought provoking. Perfect!

When Religion for Atheists came out – first of all let me just say that I personally don’t like imposing my beliefs on others – so I already knew how good de Botton was at turning dull sounding topics into interesting reads. So I didn’t wait ten years to read it. I found however his analysis of what “the church” offers its parishioners really thought provoking. This book suggests how “the church” satisfies some of the intangible things we crave as human beings – like inspiring spaces, a sense of community.

For some time I have been conscious of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and stuff would come up in my life to make me question that. In particular, I guess, when wondering if work is “worth it”. I understand that Maslow’s hierarchy hasn’t really been substantiated by research, but I think it is an interesting framework with which to weigh up things like belonging and social needs and safety and security. How much of this is due to family stuff? How much of it is just about being human? I found Religion for Atheists so interesting because it highlighted some common human needs and discussed ways to satisfy those needs.

Maybe if I looked more into that, I wouldn’t shop so much.

I’m struggling now through The Architecture of Happiness but so far I haven’t read anything that’s really got me thinking. It’s OK. I guess architecture just isn’t my thing (you’d need to see my house to understand the truth of that).