The School of Life

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Alain De Botton is a Swiss-born British writer. His writings have been described as being essayistic and often include philosophical content. Somehow, his books don’t become heavy-handed or anything because his writings are so well written that words flow like a running stream.

I picked up this book, not having heard of him before nor having read anything, and I was totally bowled over. After reading this book, I immediately picked up two of his other books The Architecture of Happiness and The Art of Travel (will be sharing my reviews on this next).

The School of Life is subtitled An Emotional Education, and Botton is the leading force behind this new movement, where he propagates that the education of a child should be emotion-based. We may spend years in school learning about facts and figures, but we are not taught to have a “fulfilled life.”

The book shares lots of notes on how to achieve and maintain emotional intelligence which has become imperative in today’s modern world. Even though Botton introduces the book, there are lots of contributors- psychologists, philosophers, and writers operating under a common brand.

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The book is split into the following parts: Self (understanding and uncovering yourself), Others (dealing with people in our lives), Relationships (deals with developing healthy relationships), Work (dealing with work issues) and Culture (understanding how the place where you live and it’s culture may shape you).

There are lots of words of wisdom in each part and the stress is upon working on our emotional intelligence in each aspect of our lives. One important thing Botton points out that adults are evolutionary human beings, in other words, they continue to grow into their old age. There is no stopping. Which is why it becomes imperative to instill in children an understanding of their emotions.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we taught our children how to deal with their anger? Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children grew up learning about boundaries and self-respect? Wouldn’t it be great if our children knew the concept of value of money? I mean, these would be life skills that children would employ in their adult lives to help them cope with any unfortunate situation. I mean, when has the formulas you learned in calculus every helped you in life (unless you are a mathematician)?

For those interested in Therapy and childhood development, the first chapter is a brilliant place to start. There is a wonderful short essay on what it means to have an “emotionally healthy childhood.”


I highly recommend this book to everyone and one can certainly a lot from it. The easiest we can do is merely conceal our emotions, but that will only stagnate our growth. The best thing we can do is understand our emotions, and develop a healthy mindset towards growth and self-actualization.

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