Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Five top books on essays

Alain de Botton is the author of essays on themes ranging from love and travel to architecture and philosophy. His best-selling books include How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, The Architecture of Happiness, and Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion.

One of five top books on essays he discussed with Jessica Mudditt for The Browser in 2009:
The Secret Power of Beauty
by John Armstrong

John Armstrong’s The Secret Power of Beauty has a tantalising title – why did you choose this collection?

I admit I know the author very well. I partly chose it because it reflects many ideas that I have discussed with him and I also think he writes very well.

His central argument is that beauty is linked with all kinds of values that we find encoded in objects, and that these values can excite and move us just as people can excite and move us. I had not heard discussions of beauty unfolding in this way.

Has the way we think about beauty changed over time?

The modern way of thinking about beauty is to consider it a diversion. People apologise for finding someone attractive because we think it’s superficial. Or if someone is interested in fashion, they’ll say: “I know it’s all a bit frivolous.” Armstrong goes back to a much earlier view held by Greek philosophers, which was that our connection to beauty is connected to deep things and it’s an interest in goodness more generally. It’s a good starting point for being a decent human being and that is not at all a modern day version of beauty.
Read about the other books de Botton tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue