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

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  1,540 ratings  ·  227 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 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
Henry Le Nav
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
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
Margaret Heller
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dorothyanne Brown
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
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
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 be 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 apprec
Kasia James
What a curous little tome. Part of the terrific 'School of Life' series, 'How to Think more about Sex' is written as ever in Botton's witty, densely articulate way, and takes an honest look at sex, and the human dilemma around the subject.
I did have some difficulty with the concept that paintings of the madonna could really be sexually alluring (sounds somewhat kinky to me, but hey, it takes all sorts), but after all, the idea is to make you think about sex, not necessarily agree with his inter
"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
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
Kathleen Brugger
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
Sadaf Matinkhoo
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
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
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
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
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
Derivative, obvious and lacking a single good idea. Poorly written to boot. De Botton has really fallen off.
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
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
Leo Robertson
After Alain de Botton touches himself (to Boticelli paintings and the cinematic works of Godard), he feels empty. Past 40, he is painfully aware of death. People find him sexually repugnant, and shame bathes his world.

'I know', de Botton bottons, 'If I convince everyone they have to feel like me, I will have all the power. But what to do with it?'

So begins his increasingly powerful legacy, beginning with Religion for Atheists, where he convinces the 40 and not-yet 40 to either fear death or begi
Nick Stibbs
Alain de Botton is a thoughtful writer who has turned his hand to subjects such as philosophy, architecture, status, religion and now, getting into juicier territory, sex. Having seen him talk at an event in Cambridge and being equally impressed by the elegance of his mind and displeased by his apparent lowish sense of self-esteem, I had categorised him as a noble philosopher but lacking a certain muscle. However, I was intrigued by his decision to examine sex and curious to know what someone se ...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
“Sex gets us out of the house and out of ourselves.” 6 likes
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