Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Architecture of Happiness

by Alain de Botton

This is, without a doubt, a Top 10 book. It's one of those books that make me want to be the author, or at least be smart enough and creative enough to write this book. It helps that I'm a total geek for architecture, but this book is very accessible for non-geeks too.

Architecture has elements of art and science, the proportion varying over time and place (and space), and that's kind of what this book is about: the many different ways, successfully and not so successfully, that architecture combines aesthetics and practicality, philosophy and physics, engineering and emotion — and, ultimately, the many different ways architecture reflects and shapes ourselves and our world, and our perceptions of ourselves and our world.

But that makes it sound terribly academic, or like a pompous art gallery artist's statement, or some dilettante spazzing about jazz, or some hideous combination of all three. And I swear it's not like that! It's so much more beautiful and subtle and grounded in everyday experience. Reading it is like meditating (but way less boring).

Last thing I want to say is, don't expect to read the whole thing through in large chunks. Each chapter is further broken down into a series of vignettes (for lack of a better word), which adds to the meditative quality and makes it an ideal bedtime or toilet book. I'm not necessarily recommending you read just one wee section at a time, but giving yourself some time to absorb and marinate smaller amounts will definitely enhance the experience of reading this book.

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