Currently reading

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
Ayn Rand, Tore Boeckmann, Leonard Peikoff
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
Ghostwritten
David Mitchell
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon, Daniel J. Boorstin, Gian Battista Piranesi, Hans-Friedrich Mueller
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Douglas R. Hofstadter
Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self
William Westney
The Prince
Niccolò Machiavelli
The Varieties of Religious Experience
William James
Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy
G. Lee Bowie, Robert C. Solomon

The Architecture of Happiness

The Architecture of Happiness - Alain de Botton I really enjoyed this book. It's fast paced, conversational and exploratory. My favorite parts were the philosophizing about the nature of beauty. For example, de Botton discusses how we subconsciously humanize almost everything we see. We give buildings and sculptures personalities then judge them based on these projected human traits.He talks about how the buildings and art we find appealing reflect the fulfillment of our desires, not what we are or have, but the ideals we aspire to. Because of this, the context of the viewer and the location of the piece become key contributors to determining its beauty and success. For example, churches should be capable of inspiring feelings of reverence or devotion in even non-religious people. Ornamental architecture has its place, as do the clean lines of modern architecture. In context, each serves a purpose and shouldn't be written off in favor of some non-existant universal ideal style.De Botton has interesting opinions on how to integrate historical styles with modern buildings and he spends some time critiquing existing architects and buildings based on those standards. He feels that it's important to try to incorporate some of the unique historical aspects of the region's architecture but to also take into account modern needs and to be practical in choices. His approach to bad architecture is basically that it should be treated like any other bad art--get rid of it and start over. At times, there was a definite air of snobbishness about it, for example he takes a pretty broad swipe at all of Tokyo, but I didn't mind it too much. Snobbery can sometimes be productive. Perhaps his destroy and rebuild approach isn't always practical but despite my reservations about his implied methods of implementation, I admire the idealized goal of elevating beauty everywhere possible. The Architecture of Happiness is written like an essay meant to to raise for discussion both new and old-but-forgotten ideas as well as to inspire us to change and improve our environment. In that, I believe it succeeds.