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How to Think More About Sex (The School of Life)

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,833 Ratings  ·  250 Reviews
Covering such topics as adultery, lust, pornography and impotence, Alain de Botton argues that 21st century sex will always be a balancing act of trust versus risk, and of primal desire versus studied civility. By examining sex from a subjective perspective, he uncovers new ideas on how we can achieve that balance.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by MacMillan (first published 2012)
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AV Flox
Nov 27, 2012 AV Flox rated it did not like it
Shelves: sex
I've heard about Alain de Botton's book How To Think More About Sex from so many people, I decided I had to read it. Their reviews were excellent -- "It's like hearing David Attenborough narrate various sexual situations and philosophize about them at the same time!" one of them said. I enjoy sex. I dig philosophy. I am a huge fan of nature documentaries, especially those narrated or presented by the aforementioned British broadcaster -- so how could I possibly resist?

I picked up the little boo
Seamus Thompson
May 28, 2013 Seamus Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The latest in my reading series "Books With Titles That Get Me Funny Looks On The Bus" -- all part of an ongoing project to keep my own special brand of social awkwardness thriving.

Cheeky title aside, this is an interesting look at the various ways in which sexuality informs (and warps) our lives. In particular, it is geared towards readers in committed relationships struggling with the mundane, powerful realities of everyday life that can make trying to remain a sexual being with the person you
Jan 13, 2013 A. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, sexuality
When I showed my friend this book, he said it looked like something Carrie of Sex and the City would read. I sneered. This book? Alain De Botton’s slim volume on the philosophy of sexuality, a book so hip there’s not even a picture on the cover, just a serif font and the author’s name? Pfft. Yeah. Right. Screw yew, dude. This thing was written for the under-sexed, under-Benzo’d undergraduate.

So I sat down and started reading it. De Botton gets off to an obvious but well-stated start. We deal wi
Bastian Greshake
Jun 06, 2013 Bastian Greshake rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
So far I thought «Ass Goblins of Auschwitz» would be pretty safely the worst book I've read in 2013, but now I'm not too sure anymore. This book basically is a mix of the worst of Freud, the worst of evolutionary psychology and – for good measure – adds lots of naturalistic fallacies. Put this all in a blender and you end up with this mess… Got any fetishes? Let's grab some Freud. Oh, and evolution made sure sex in relationships will get boring after time, don't rebel against it, it's natural an ...more
Apr 22, 2013 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Alain de Botton, and I hate self help books. Now de Botton spearheaded a new series of philosophical self help books, the first one by him.

So, he says some weird things in this book, all of which are pointed out by the many reviews below. I liked the book a lot, I think because this is the only book I've ever read that tackles the themes of sex, long term commitment, love, attraction, etc in such a clear and simple way. He does say a lot of weird things (like, the way to make your partne
Jul 05, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
I have tried, and failed, to love Alain de Botton's other books after reading (and loving) The Consolations of Philosophy. This book is a pathetic attempt at explanations for why we behave the way that we do about sex. De Botton has somehow managed to categorize sexual experiences into very stereotypical, Hollywood-esque boxes that are in no way reflective of reality. The book also contains some very boring attempts at humor, that are neither funny nor witty in any way. Ugh.

Alain de Botton is n
Shima Masoumi
Jun 12, 2016 Shima Masoumi rated it liked it
Well I don't think it's a masterpiece nor a must read; but it's good to read it once in a lifetime.
" we might be so much better off if we didn't have a sex drive; for most of our lives, it causes us nothing but trouble and distress. In its name we do revolting things with people we don't really like, only to feel disgusting and sinful afterwards. Those we desire usually dismiss us for being too ugly or not their type; the cute ones have always already got a boyfriend or a girlfriend; most of our
Hannah Lockhart
I like Alain de Botton very much. What he's done for philosophy in an attempt to make it a more accessible discipline is extremely admirable. This book is one in a series of books published through the School of Life organisation which was set up to offer programmes and services related to ideas about how to live life well.

This book takes an objective stance on what sex means in our society today but focuses mainly on the pitfalls and embarrassments rather than the 'joys' of it, so to speak. It
Henry Le Nav
Jan 26, 2013 Henry Le Nav rated it liked it
I had great hopes for this book but was somewhat disappointed. It is a very short book at least on the Kindle. Only 1339 locations. The fact that the print length is 185 pages tells me that the printed version of the book is loaded with white space.

de Botton will make a pithy observation, and you will think oh this is going to be good. Then he keeps writing and the pithy thoughts turn into somewhat boring sentences that turn into words that turn into letters that turn into pixels on my Kindle's
Margaret Heller
Feb 24, 2013 Margaret Heller rated it really liked it
This is a short book, an extended essay in the School of Life, which is a kind of philosophical self-help venture that all of Alain de Botton's work has been leading up to seemingly. That said, I really enjoy his particular take on life--I get the sense that many men do not share this attitude. Much of his take on sex may strike one as overly conservative, but the idea that human nature remains essentially unchanged even as our expectations and trappings of life change is convincing to me. The p ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Yalda rated it liked it
Shelves: bizarre
I have always had ambivalent feelings towards Alain de Botton. On one hand, I hate the fact that he simplifies everything and on the other hand, I'm fascinated with his ability to make the most complicated concepts understandable for everyone. anyway, I cannot but admit that he has a broad knowledge about many things! "How to Think more About Sex" is not his best, yet it is an interesting and easy read.
If you are looking for a simple reading of Freud, that doesn't go deep into all his sophistic
Richard Kramer
Jan 26, 2013 Richard Kramer rated it really liked it
The title is misleading; it could (accurately) be renamed as HOW TO THINK ABOUT SEX IN A MORE INTERESTING WAY. It's a little chapbook, this, really, not terribly ambitious, but full of lovely writing and the more than occasional arresting thought. He's very good on pornography, very good on how sex is a bear, particularly insightful on Our Culture's misunderstanding of fidelity, or perhaps I should say its unuseful way of regarding that concept. I read paragraphs of this aloud to friends. It's s ...more
Picked this one up for free at NEIBA.
I love the idea -- A little school in a storefront with a mission to help people live wisely and well. Sweet, well-meaning. Unfortunately, as of p.49, it seems like the author of this volume is a sad person who is projecting his disappointments as "universal." I think there is a lot of negative opinion here that is offered as "fact." It is readable and parts of it are fun -- I'll keep going, and see if my opinion changes by the end.

Here's what I can appreciat
Sasha Martinez
Sep 27, 2012 Sasha Martinez added it
Shelves: 2012
As I was reading How to Think About Sex, I posted:
Mayhap Alain de Botton is on to something here—to replace the usual vows and platitudes with something more cautionary, downbeat, pragmatic: “I promise to be disappointed by you and you alone. I promise to make you the sole repository of my regrets, rather than to distribute them widely through multiple affairs and a life of sexual Don Juanism. I have surveyed the different options for unhappiness, and it is you I have chosen to commit to.”And s
Kathleen Brugger
Sep 30, 2013 Kathleen Brugger rated it did not like it
My conclusion is this poor man has had some very bad sexual experiences. Why else would someone write this: "We might be so much better off if we didn’t have a sex drive; for most of our lives it causes nothing but trouble and distress. In its name, we do revolting things with people we don’t really like, only to feel disgusting and sinful afterwards." How sad. But how horrible that he feels he has the ability to write a "sexual self-help" book for other people!

The book is also blandly conventio
Nov 30, 2013 Libby rated it really liked it
Who isn't interested in sex? This book is a quick and entertaining read, and while it doesn't answer all one's questions about sex--how could it? Sex is too complex for easy answers--it does provide some interesting insights. Most of us are attracted to people who radiate health and well-being. Sometimes people are unaware of their real feelings--e.g., subtle anger--that could result in sexual withdrawal. The regularity and security of marriage isn't great for sex (although some sex therapists d ...more
Jan 07, 2015 Priyanka rated it liked it
I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with the book. Despite a great amount of insight littered throughout, there's an equal amount of weaknesses. Mildly thought provoking, albeit unsubstantiated, opinions about what excites us and how we choose partners but it’s all downhill from there. Alain de Botton presents some stark and sobering realities of sex and offers up several dilemmas that he intends to explore. However, his idea of exploration is more like flip-flopping on specific issues . First ...more
Dorothyanne Brown
Feb 14, 2015 Dorothyanne Brown rated it liked it
A speedy read and definitely not one of my favourites by this witty writer. Alain de Botton is a funny, smart, erudite writer, but this book shows a male focus that leaves the discussion flat and, for me, unfunny. It reads a bit like one of those old "How to be a Husband" books, preachy and a bit bleah. I was disappointed after reading his Proust book - I was expecting the same wit. Not worth the short amount of time it takes to read, really, but gets three stars because it's still so well-writt ...more
Christina G
Aug 28, 2013 Christina G rated it liked it
It's a philosophy book, okay?

Passages that I loved:

*It could sound disgusting -- and that's the point. Nothing is erotic that isn't also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: at the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission.

*We were bothered by sex because it is a fundamentally disruptive, overwhelming and demented force, strongly at odds with the majority of our ambitions... it refuses to sit
May 28, 2013 Paolo rated it it was ok
"Solo le religioni prendono ancora sul serio il sesso", dice il filosofo, tant'è vero che a un certo punto, preso dall'impeto lirico, arriva persino ad affermare che nelle immagini sacre spesso "la madre di Cristo è una gran gnocca". Il problema di de Botton è dimostrare che il sesso, per essere vissuto in maniera soddisfacente, richiede di essere posto sotto un duplice controllo: di una forma di razionalità individuale, sia pure adeguata allo spirito dei tempi - tant'è che l'adulterio vi viene ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Having read some of the other reviews, I’ve decided instead of simply reviewing the material, I’d put in my bit to perhaps to defend this book. The title, and reactions to it (“Oh, I definitely need to read that” or “I’m embarrassed this will appear on the top of my 2013 book list”) demonstrate the need for this book. I’m quite relieved my copy is the little one with a modest cover which another person can’t see me reading. De Botton addresses the way in which we think about sexual activity – ho ...more
Sadaf Matinkhoo
Oct 23, 2015 Sadaf Matinkhoo rated it liked it
I read this book a while ago and forgot to add it here. I don't remember the details now, but I know it changed my view on infidelity. So, I guess this makes it a rather interesting read, but not so good as to have lasting effects. I still recommend it to others, and might even go back to it to refresh my memory on some of the good points it made!
Abdi Nazemian
Dec 30, 2012 Abdi Nazemian rated it did not like it
I loved Alain de Botton's book "The Art of Travel" and hoped his musings about sex would be equally compelling. Unfortunately, this pointless book is full of vast generalizations and offensive solutions, such as censoring pornography so that people could devote more time to curing diseases and raising their children. Most offensive of all, the author doesn't mention homosexuality once in a modern book about sex which makes countless references to attraction coming from a biological urge to mate. ...more
Ricardo Silva
May 02, 2013 Ricardo Silva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compré este libro sólo por el título, después de hojearlo brevemente en la caja de una librería si percatarme que fue escrito por Alain de Bottom, de quien ya antes había leído La Arquitectura de la felicidad, El libro es de fácil lectura, pero no por eso, deja de se profundo y reflexivo. Al final me quedo con la idea de que Alan sólo busca ayudarnos a enfrentar a los demonios con los que luchamos los seres humanos y que nos pueden alejar de Ma felicidades y el sexo o la falta de éste, puede ser ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Eliatan rated it it was ok
This was not as beautifully written as de Botton's other books and it feels like it was written in a hurry. His take on sexuality is clearly that of a middle class, middle aged heterosexual male, with a particular focus on the middle aged part that was in equal parts depressing as it was familiar (or perhaps that should be depressing because it was familiar).

This book earnt an extra star in its final chapters. One had a very different take on adultery, reminding us that it is fidelity we should
Apr 27, 2013 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to Think More About Sex allows a more realistic and mature look at human relationships -- beyond the moralistic manner people regard marriage, love, and sex in our modern age. Botton argues that it is rare for marriage/love/sex to co-habit easily together, although it can. Our society's obsession with how a marriage should operate leads people to get down on themselves if they do not always love or desire the person with whom they are married. A short book that nonetheless provides large ide ...more
Alexander Lobov
Mar 05, 2015 Alexander Lobov rated it it was ok
Derivative, obvious and lacking a single good idea. Poorly written to boot. De Botton has really fallen off.
Jonathan Karmel
Jun 05, 2016 Jonathan Karmel rated it really liked it

"None of us approaches sex as we are meant to, with the cheerful, sporting, non-obsessive, constant, well-adjusted outlook that we torture ourselves by believing that other people are endowed with. We are universally deviant - but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality."

"If we are lucky, we begin comfortably enough on this earth, in a state of close physical and emotional union with a devoted caregiver. We lie naked on her skin, we can hear her heartbeat, we
Sep 16, 2015 RMD rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While it started off quite nicely, being able to persuade people looking at me weirdly for the book title with a few quotes from the beginning, making it look like we're in for a treat, a perfect mix of harsh truths about something intimate and how to look at it philosophically and in a more intelligent manner.

However, it doesn't ever become that great.
It is, most of the time, touching some quite daring topics, namely fetishisms, adultery, freudisms and so on, but it only touches each one superf
Feb 11, 2015 Nick rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In How to Think More About Sex, Alain de Botton takes the reader on short, yet rambling journeys through his thoughts and opinions on sex. Along the way, he inserts thinly disguised personal anecdotes, name-drops philosophers and authors, and compares sex to high-brow paintings whenever possible. Major issues, such as: what determines attractiveness, love and marriage, and lack of sexual desire are explored, and de Botton takes quite a few controversial stances -- eg marriage for love is not a g ...more
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
More about Alain de Botton...

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The School of Life (1 - 10 of 12 books)
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“Beneath the kiss itself, it is its meaning that interests us—which is why the desire to kiss someone can be decisively reduced (as it may need be, for instance, when two lovers are already married to other people) by a declaration of that desire—a confession which may in itself be so erotic as to render the actual kiss superfluous.” 7 likes
“Without sex, we would be dangerously invulnerable. We might believe we were not ridiculous. We wouldn't know rejection and humiliation so intimately.” 7 likes
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