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Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of[…]

The London-based School of Life’s Bibliotherapy program has a growing fan-base among Londoners who appreciate its relatively low-cost, non-medicalized approach to the anxieties that are characteristic of modern life.

AlaindeBotton:  In the modern world, we don’t dare to imagine that culture has a purpose connected to changing and saving your life.  We sort of imagine that culture’s a really nice thing to visit on a Sunday -- you go to the museum or you pick up a book.  The idea that culture is literally a resource by which to live is oddly neglected.  I wrote a book a few years ago called How Proust Could Change Your Life, and the academics were up in arms.  They couldn’t forgive me for this book because it seemed so strange . . . Proust changing your life?   

This approach is at the heart of a new service that we have at the School of Life, called bibliotherapy, where you can go and meet someone and talk to them about your life, and on the basis of the challenges that you are facing in a whole range of areas -- and it could be curiosity about something, but it could be pain about something --, the bibliotherapist will do you a fantastic and, you know, it’s really – I’m really not preaching unfairly -- it’s a brilliant reading prescription.  The people who man it are PhD’s in literature.  They’ve thought about this so much.  They have an encyclopedic knowledge of literature, and they will match people to books that are important to them at that moment in their life.  

And oddly, you know, despite Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all these stores and little bookstores and big bookstores, what we still don’t have is a deep appreciation of how hard it is to match someone to a book, that this might require an hour of pretty therapeutic consultation in order to find the book that will unlock the next stage of somebody’s life.  That’s what bibliotherapy is, and it’s been one of the most gratifying successes.  

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd