The author starts by reflecting on sadness and states that sad works of art do not always make us sad and that sad books actually tend to console readers who are in a sad mood. He gives the example of Edward Hopper who took an interest in cars and trains since travelling tends to put us in a melancholy and introspective mood conducive to internal conversation.
The author's next topic is authenticity and he examines how this notion fluctuates in our daily social intercourse. He then reflects on the relationship between work and the feeling of happiness with the help of authors like St Augustine, B. Franklin, Diderot or Rousseau, reminding us that workers are mere tools in a process in which their own happiness is incidental at best. Thus we shouldn't rely on work to deliver happiness which should make it more bearable.
The pleasure of visiting a zoo may be marred by the fact that animals seem more human and humans more animal in such a place.
Or the fact that certain boring places like Zurich still feature a certain degree of charm. The final part is devoted to comedy. The author shows that humour is a way of anchoring criticism and is an attempt to name anxiety about status.
An interesting little publication full of wisdom which shows how knowledgeable Mr De Botton is.