Non-fiction? You bet! And never let anyone tell you it’s dull because they hated textbooks during school.
The Art of Travel is a collection of essays on the whats and the whys of going places, being there, and coming home. It is a delightful, thought-provoking book with a wealth of wisdom.
With its bite-size sections it is also ideal for dipping in and out of. I think this is probably the ideal method to digest this book, as de Botton has a luxurious, erudite writing style that encourages a leisurely reading pace.
‘It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.’
Each chapter contains a mixture of de Botton’s experiences and references to those of a particular historical figure, or ‘guide’. My personal favourites were:
- ‘On Travelling Places’ – concerning the poet, Charles Baudelaire, and the painter, Edward Hopper.
- ‘On the Exotic’ – an overview of the life and times of Gustave Flaubert.
- ‘On Eye-opening Art’ – about Vincent Van Gogh’s relationship with the natural world.
Not many books can be described as ‘helpful’, but The Art of Travel is exactly that. Living abroad, this book has assisted me, and having finished it I feel I have undergone a small degree of intellectual growth.
This is not a book with universal appeal, and if you are disinclined to philosophy I don’t recommend it, but for the rest of us it is a book about going places that will take you to places in your own mind.
Also, The Art of Travel is very quotable, making it an ideal text for academic work, and for those times when you want a book which will not only amuse you, but make you want to be a better, wiser version of yourself.
I am confident that de Botton is an author to whose work I will return. Also, on a side note, I received this book as a present from a friend, as a budding traveller, and have received few gifts so touching.
‘…we might return from our journeys with a collection of small, unfêted but life-enhancing thoughts.’