Log in

No account? Create an account

Writer's Block: Ready, steady, read

What is the best book you've read this year, and why?

I've read lots of books this year, many of which were very good. I'll make the selection task easier by removing from consideration any book that I havealready written about here.

The best book I've read but haven't blogged about is Alain De Boton's The Consolations Of Philosophy.Each chapter is a short biography of one of six philosophers (specifically Socrates, Epicurus,Seneca,Montaigne,Schopenhauer,and Nietzsche). Both the events of their lives and their philosophies are given coverage. More importantly, De Boton discusses the the intersection of the two. He discusses how the various subjects lives shaped their philosophies, and more importantly, how their philosophy helped them deal with difficulties in their lives. Instead of naming the chapters after the philosophers discussed, he names them after the problems these philosophers dealt with. The chapter on Socrates, for instance, was entitled "Unpopularity". From the table of contents, you can see that there is an understood "Consolation For" at the beginning of the title.

And that is partly the point of the book--to look to the great philosophers to help the reader deal with problems they are sure to encounter at some time in their lives. It's a seamless combination of philosophy, history, and self-help. Seamless is the operative word here...in the hands of a lesser writer than De Boton, it would have been a mess. But De Boton mixes these ingredients into a delicious and nourishing stew. I highly recommend it.