The Art of Travel (2002) by Alain de Botton is an education in itself. If you are thinking it is all about how to pack your suitcase, how to breeze through customs, or how to take a cruise and not get seasick, you would be wrong.
Instead, the book is filled with art, literature, personal experience, poetry, architecture, and adventure.
I love a book like this.
Pleasing to read, full of information, and just the right size to carry with you on your travels - whether real or armchair.
Mr. de Botton opens each of the five sections of the book with a personal experience about a place he has visited. Thereby we swoop from Barbados to which he escapes from a dreary British winter to England's Lake District and on to Madrid, Provence, and Amsterdam. Our trip also includes musings on the banality and the sterility of airports and motorway rest stops.
His travel guides, though, are not Baedecker or Fodor but instead the lives and works of, among others, poets William Wordsworth and Charles Baudelaire, artists Edward Hopper and Vincent Van Gogh, author Gustave Flaubert, explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and art critic John Ruskin.
Oh, this book, that takes a look at how we travel and why we travel and how perhaps we could get more out of our travels, is a delight. The author examines the disconnect between the promises of the glossy travel brochure and our actual experiences upon arrival at our destination. And how we let someone or something - tour guide or researched tour book - take us to sites that we really have no interest in whereas we might do better to follow our own curiosity. Or how a certain fictional character, Joris-Karl Huysmans' Des Esseintes, found that sitting in a British pub in Paris offers the same atmosphere and experience as a rowdy pub in London without ever having to pack a trunk.
Yes, I can highly recommend The Art of Travel whether you are preparing for a trip around the world or simply settling in to your armchair.
This is one of his books that I have not read. His "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is great fun and as one who can not get enough of Proust its a must read. I have just picked up but have not yet read "The Consolations of Philosophy". I found his "Religion for Atheists" disappointing and unconvincing. His key premise that high spiritual aspiration and practical morality outside of religion is difficult. To me that's a major slap in the face and insulting!
Tullik, I have read several of Mr. de Botton's books and have enjoyed them, including his Proust book and 'Consolations'. The "Art of Travel" was a reread for me and I found it even more enlightening the second time around.Delete
I have his "Religion for Atheists" on my Kindle. I watched a TED Talk he gave that covered some of the points in the book and didn't get the impression you got from reading it. I will read it and we can continue this discussion!
Ooohhhhh...I've had this on my TBR list for a while, and it might just have to be bumped to the top. It sounds just the type of book I love. Thanks for writing about it.ReplyDelete
Ah, Kathy. Don't wait. This was a reread for me and I found it even better the second time around. And it has pictures!Delete
I haven't read this book, but it sounds like the kind of travel book I enjoy. Books like this always make me wish I were planning a trip around the world. To be a circumnavigator...wouldn't that be cool? Hope you're having a good summer!ReplyDelete
Just to say the word 'circumnavigator' is cool, Lark! You won't look at travel in quite the same way after journeying with Mr. de Botton!Delete
I have a couple of his books on my shelf as they look so fascinating - I really should get around to reading them. The Architecture of Happiness, in particular, really caught my eye.ReplyDelete
Vicki, I have read several of Mr. de Botton's books and have enjoyed them. "The Art of Travel" was a reread for me and I have read his book on Proust and his "Consolations of Philosophy". Both many years ago when I first discovered this author.Delete
I have "The Architecture of Happiness" up next. I have not read this one, but am planning a weekend trip to Columbus, Indiana which is known for its varied architecture and public art. Seems a perfect fit.
This is going directly to my TBR pile, maybe even next up. I love books like this.ReplyDelete
Joan, I think this is one you will find fascinating. I read it when it first came out (and actually bought it!) and the reread was even better. Let me know what you think of it.Delete
I wanted to thank you for recommending this book. I finished it last night before I turned off the light. It was such a delightful mixture of art and history and exploration and writing. I liked the short sections and the authors's insights and curiosity. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Hi, Joan. I am so glad you enjoyed the book. I liked it for all the same reasons as you did. I just finished his 'Architecture of Happiness' which is just as informative and takes a look at how buildings and designs affect us. I think he has such a comfortable writing style. I am now reading his 'Religion for Atheists'.Delete
Thanks for letting me know your thoughts.
Oh, no! More books for my TBR piles! The Happiness one sounds interesting. I've been talking about The Art of Travel since I finished it. I saw some of my family over the weekend and my nephew-in-law was so interested that I've promised to give him my copy.Delete
Way to spread the word, Joan!Delete