[E-book. First published 2012]
Alain de Botton has long been one of my favourite writers for one simple reason – his wisdom and the ability to impart it in such a readable way. I have been reading his books since I was 16 and they have taught me more about life than any self-help guide.
‘The School of Life’ (www.schooloflife.com) is de Botton’s programme designed to teach us (members of the human race) on how to live our best lives. It is an offering of ideas that, on practical application, can help us to live a little more comfortably in an essentially confusing world. These ideas cover the realms of relationships, work, and our daily frustrations.
‘How to Think More about Sex’ was a very interesting read in that, ideologically, sex has withstood the changing attitudes and mores of the ages more than most topics. Over time, this natural act has gone from being suppressed and smeared by religion and convention (most often as an act of shame and mere procreation) to being one of our greatest commodities and an object of revolution. Unsurprisingly, amidst ever-changing public sentiment, it is a subject most 21st century humans continue to grapple with. How are we supposed to feel about sex? In what ways can we meaningfully think about sex? After all of these centuries of debate, what is a “normal” way to think about sex? This thought-provoking book, if nothing else, will make you address the issues raised around sex and how you feel about them.
I enjoyed this book for the same reason as I have always enjoyed de Botton’s work – it got me thinking and, for the most part, I agreed with what he has written. The book very cleverly deals with issues of attraction (biologically-speaking, as well as psychologically), desire, lust, pornography, fetishes, love and commitment in one book – a slim-line version of the leviathan work he could have produced on these issues, I am sure.
I have no doubt that the topic of sex and how it is viewed in societies will be subject to yet more change over the next hundred years. As the source of confusion and pain (as well as pleasure and joy) to all of us, I would encourage anyone to read this book as an exercise in assessing how you think and feel about sex. Who knows, it could be revealing.