Customer Reviews

49
4.2 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2002
Travel is one of those things that you're supposed to be born knowing how to do. After all, it looks fairly easy, doesn't it. It's just a case of buying a ticket, boarding a plane etc.
But of course, it's typical of our materialistic culture that we only ever look at the practical obstacles or means of doing things - and ignore the psychological ones. So we never ask how we can be happy on our travels, we just head off on them - and then wonder what might have gone wrong once we're on the Acropolis in baking heat, thinking, Why aren't I at home?!
All of which makes Alain de Botton's book particularly refreshing, as ever (for readers new to this man's work, also check out Essays in love, How Proust can change your life and The Consolations of Philosophy). De Botton looks at travel from a philosophical angle - not in the strict philosophical way that you might find in a university (the last review shows why academics should get out a little more!). Rather, he just starts to think deeply and well about some of the big issues of travel - like: what's the difference between anticipating a place and actually getting there, why do we find some countries exotic, how can we be curious about the places we see, why is it nice to go into the countryside.
What I love about de Botton's writing is that he's never shy to ask the big naive questions that all the highbrows think they know the answer to already (without actually ever discussing them), while the lowbrows are too frightened to ask.
This book is also beautifully illustrated and put together. This might seem like a superficial point, but actually, in all of de Botton's work, there's a real emphasis on visual. Why not mix words and images, the author seems to be saying; magazines do it all the time, why not serious books then?
I should say that this book is a bit different from the last couple de Botton has written. It's a lot more personal, and a lot more descriptive - which I think is a step forward. There's a lot of passages which aren't trying to tell you anything directly, they're just evoking the beauty or interest of places. So for example, de Botton writes some beautiful passages about the feeling of airports and diners, about the countryside, about the sky in Provence, about the streets in Hammersmith, West London, about Madrid. This means that what you end up with in this book is a combination of beautiful descriptions and thoughtprovoking ideas. Which is rare in travel books. Travel books often seem to be written by rather idea-free kind of people: they tell you about a place, but they don't stop to reflect on it. And that's what's good about The Art of Travel. My local bookshop had a poster accompanying the book that read: This summer, don't just work on your tan. Work on your mind. OK, it's a bit glib, but the book really is worth it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 October 2002
In his continuing (and admirable) quest to bring the philosophic to bear on concrete everyday topics, de Botton's latest slim work takes on the notion of why people travel, and how this is linked to the pursuit of happiness. It's very similar to his last work, The Consolations of Philosophy, in that his aim seems to be to help the reader avoid being disappointed in their travels—as so often is the case. And is the case in his other work, the answer is to be found within ourselves if only we would take a few moments of self-reflection, as he puts it: The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to."
To illustrate this, he intertwines his own travel experiences with those of several famous European writers and artists in order to highlight his points. Although the book is divided into five distinct sections (Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, Return), these each have various subsections and sub-subsections, making the structure is more haphazard than his previous nonfiction. Some of these sections work better than others, a particularly weak one is the examination of Flaubert in Egypt and exoticism. He takes Flaubert's self-professed kinship with the "unwashed masses" of Egypt at face value, failing to acknowledge any of the inherent power dynamics in this, or indeed any Western tourist's visit to the third world. Rather he is content to point out the self-evident fact that the lure of the exotic has always been a powerful motivator for travel.
In any event, it's hardly surprising that he uses artists and writers to piggyback his themes on, for (as is evident from the title), he equates travel with art in that one of the functions of each is to provide one with a new window on the world, a new way of seeing. His suggestion is that once we recognize this, and stop trying to use travel as an escape from our dull lives, we'll be much happier. He locates one of the major sources of our disappointment in travel in our ability to image the beach or mountain but our inability to imagine ourselves in that landscape.
Even with its flaws, the book is a useful tool for rethinking our own motivations for travel and potentially useful guide to helping us enjoy it more.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2002
For many years I travelled around the world on business. It was exciting and somewhat startling to read my experiences again and again in the well chosen words of de Botton. I was particularly impressed by and enjoyed his use of the great writers to illustrate and to make his points. Another touch were the plentiful and apt illustrations that complete this book, a book that opens the eye of both the traveller and those who would like to travel. And it is just the right size to carry with one, at least the American edition by Pantheon Books is!
I shall give a copy to my daughter who also travels, confident that it will give her as much pleasure as it has given to me.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2010
I've been a big fan of Alain De Botton ever since I read "Status Anxiety", which happens to be one of my favourite books ever. I've since been working my way through his other work and gave this a go after stumbling across it in a charity shop.

De Botton's initial intentions are clear - to unravel the mysteries that surround the human need and wish to travel and see the world, and for the mostpart he is succesful. However, unlike other De Botton books that I have read, there were times when it became somewhat of a chore to read.

The layout of each chapter tends to be quite samey - and you sometimes get the feeling that you've only scratched the surface of what is clearly a vast subject.

Saying that, it is worth sticking with, due to the philosphical gems and ideas that one tends to encounter when reading books of this nature. The urge to travel and explore is something that we take at face value and never really examine, so it was interesting to look at travel through the eyes of the worlds great writers, poets and artists, as well as De Botton himself.

Overall - very glad that I read it and managed to extract some interesting viewpoints and ideas from it, but on the other hand, I'm also glad I've finished it so that I can move on to my next read, which will hopefully be slightly more engrossing.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2002
I loved the book. It's very different from anything else I've ever read - but that was the case with Consolations and the Proust book too. I read somewhere that the author has never written a boring sentence in his life, and it's true.
I've spent years feeling that I was the only person in the world who doesn't like "travelling" and that I was a failure for not enjoying every holiday I've been on. It's good to know that I'm not alone!
The book has inspired me to take my sketchbook on holiday this summer, put down my camera and open my eyes a bit more. And for that reason, I'd recommend reading it before you go away!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2008
The art of travel might as well be called the art of life. To live is to travel. You don't even have to go far. It's all about observing a place and appreciate what's around you. You could get bored anywhere, you can't help it ... you always bring yourself with you.

Something that runs like a read thread through the book is the importance of what we do with our experiences, how we record them or rather what we chose to record. That's where the artists and writers come in. I'm especially found of the references to Edward Hopper and how he found the beauty in gas stations, hotel rooms and train carriages. There are also examples of Des Esseintes weariness (he preferred to collect objects and look at pictures to travelling), Flaubert's travels in Egypt (his love for the exotic and the boredom he suffered from back home), Van Gogh's time in Provence (no one had "seen" cypresses before him), Wordsworth's appreciation for nature (especially the Lake district) and Ruskin's way of painting in words. Last but not least there's a chapter about De Maistre who went for a journey around his bedroom.

Alain De Botton writes in an easy-going prose and draws a lot of parallels to his own life and his own travels. The book has certainly made me think of the world around me and I feel more poetic. I'll also make sure to get the most of a place next time I travel somewhere, instead of blindly reading passages from a guide book I'll allow myself to take in a place and make my own personal judgment. Instead of snapping away with a camera I'll bring out a notebook and sketch pad.

This book is for anyone. It doesn't matter if you're not a traveller or an artist when you start reading it. When you've finished it, you'll be inspired to become one.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2003
From the beginning I found this book opening my mind and giving me real insights about why we travel. In each chapter the author chooses a guide to help him through a philosophical consideration of a different element of travel. The poet Wordsworth is called upon to explain why going to the countryside can heal the soul, whilst Van Gogh's paintings throw light on why we are sometimes encouraged to travel by the paintings or art we have enjoyed. The author himself is full of reflections on his own journeys - from anticipation,through the exotic bazaars of the Orient, to the 'poetry' of stations and airports, to the anticlimax of return. Lively, profound and wise this book will help everyone appreciate their travels so much more.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2009
This is a delightful and insightful book that has obviously been written with great care. Some of the phrasing and imagery it creates is exquisite, and the ideas it conveys are quite profound.

By way of introduction, Alain de Botton points towards the vast array of books with advice on where to travel to, whilst we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so. In asking these questions he invites us to explore much more than the nature of travel, but what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudemonia, or human flourishing.

The book, complete with many appropriate illustrations, explores the nature of travel through the eyes of critics, writers, thinkers and travellers of all sorts, all neatly correlated to the authors personal experience. The result is a delightfully well written invitation to explore our own thinking. This process is laced with opportunities for new insights. For example the discovery that when we travel we may leave everything behind, but can't avoid being accompanied by ourselves, perhaps the very thing we most seek a break from.

I think my favourite chapter is one in which Alain explores the Provence region of France through the eyes of Vincent Van Gogh. He described how on first encountering the region he found no real charm or magic in the scenery. However having explored how Van Gogh saw and captured the region through his paintings he reveals how he was taught to see in new ways. This experience itself reveals a number of powerful insights about how we see and are able to see the world, but beyond this it revealed to me for the first time the true nature of an artist's role in creating new ways in which to see.

I highly recommend this book. The use of language is beautiful and the insights are delicately observed and delivered with humour and obvious affection.

"A few years after Van Gogh's stay in Provence, Oscar Wilde remarked that there had been no fog in London before Whistler painted it. There had surely been fewer cypresses in Provence before Van Gogh painted them."
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2002
I liked this book immensely because it was the perfect travelling companion on a recent trip to Italy I undertook. The first thing that came to mind was the description the author has written about the elation of just getting on a plane to Baudelaire's "Anywhere" and not being stuck in the same place all the time, I too was going from Terminal Two at Heathrow, I wonder if the author had been watching at that moment (I doubt it), but I had got that phrase into my mind "Anywhere but here will do!".
In the same way, when I got to where I was supposed to be staying, the author mentioned about tasting the exotic and it lingering in our minds as a reminder like some foreign perfume. How apt that the author should conjure up such phrases to precisely describe the experience of being in a foreign land.
This is such a perceptive book, that if you are going travelling I would recommend it as a thoughtful and intuitive read, if indeed you want to know "Why" in particular you are going to the places you are going to. Well done Alain de Botton, you have again simplified philosophy and understanding travel for the masses in phrases they can understand and produced a very enjoyable book to boot. I wish all travel writing could be so lucid as this. Thanks
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 February 2011
If you have purchased this book with the intention of becoming a better traveller, you are likely to turn away disappointed. Where the author does score admirably, though, is in examining some of our motivations for travelling, and preparing us for the eventual disappointments ahead.

This is not to say that the book takes a negative view of travel - just a slightly more balanced one than what most people start out with. The author then attempts to guide us through the travel experience via five chapters - Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, Return - all intertwined with travel experiences of famous artists and explorers of the past. This certainly provides a good background story and if you are not turned off by de Botton's often verbose and somewhat too complicated way of expressing himself there is enjoyment to be had.

His conclusion (derived from some of the characters he uses to illustrate the story) that the mindset is more important than the destination is certainly something I can identify with. It also allows you - in case you use this mindset when planning your travels - to at least moderate the possibility of eventual disappointment that most places are bound to throw up at some point.

Not having read the author's other works yet I cannot judge where this one fits in quality wise but it is certainly a useful tool for reflection and might provide you with a more realistic mindset for travelling, even if it will not furnish you with specific tools. Just make sure you do not take some chapters too seriously, or you will never expand your travels beyond the bedroom, or travel shows on the TV.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
The Art of Travel
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 27 Mar. 2014)
£8.79

How Proust Can Change Your Life
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 20 Jan. 2006)
£6.74

The Architecture of Happiness
The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 27 Mar. 2014)
£8.79
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.