Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton is a philosopher, writer and television presenter. His books include Essays in Love (published when he was only 23), How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997), Status Anxiety (2004) and Religion for Atheists (2012)

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A good idea from ... Stendhal

UNHAPPY love affairs force even the most unreflective people to start thinking. It seems impossible not to write at least a few lines of poetry or a diary after one's heart has been broken. The French novelist Stendhal (1783-1842) observed that he would never have taken up his pen if, at 18, he had known happy love. Fortunately for us, Stendhal was unhappy in love throughout his life, and his most painful passion - for a beautiful, enigmatic Italian woman, Metilde Dembowski - drove him to produce his greatest book, De l'Amour, a mixture of anecdote, analysis and aphorisms, published in 1822.

A good idea from... Adam Smith

IT'S NO coincidence that most jobs are so boring. In my local McDonald's, a man (the recipient of three silver stars on his lapel) is exclusively employed to spread mayonnaise on bread buns. Another man devotes his days to putting the lids on hamburgers and sliding them into ovens, a third makes sure there are enough fries in the vats. There can't be much to talk about at the end of the working day. Blame Adam Smith.

A good idea from ... Job

WHY DO some people have happy lives and others disastrous ones? Why are some people rich and others poor? A traditional way to answer the question, associated as much with the Old Testament as with Conservative governments, is that good things happen to people when they are good (hard- working, righteous etc), and bad things (poverty, unemployment) to people when they are bad. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Bible assures us that the godly person "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water ... and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like chaff which the wind driveth away."

A good idea from... Machiavelli

THE FONDNESS of modern politicians for kissing babies in public before elections reflects a deep-seated wish on the part of the electorate: that there should be no incompatibility between being a powerful ruler and a nice one, between being a great politician and a good-hearted one. Which is perhaps why the name of Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527) has proved so offensive down the ages.

Seeing the light

All photographers depend on light, but Richard Ross takes it as his subject. Alain de Botton is intrigued

Books: Another study in emotional frigidity

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, Jonathan Cape pounds 14.99

Design: I Yearn For.... ... a special desk, says writer Alain de Botton

IT MUST be big - most desks are too small - and L-shaped so that it wraps around me and takes an enormous quantity of paper. There must be room to swallow a computer and still appear like there's lots of space.

Patronage of the worst kind

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