Why We Love Certain Books


You’re turning the pages and a very strange and very nice thing dawns on you. This book gets you. Obviously the author, who might have died centuries back, never knew you at all. But they write as if they did It’s as if you’d confessed your secrets to them and then they’d gone of and written this work around what you told them. Transformed of course into a story about people with different names, or into a essay that doesn’t cite your case explicitly. But might as well do, because it’s so completely on target. We never quite feel we are understood well enough. Even by the people who we genuinely like and who are emotionally attached to us. A permafrost of loneliness often persists just below the surface. Even when things are broadly speaking going well enough. All this, the book that understands you, appears to know and to be able to correct. The book in question might be one that speaks to millions, like the Harry Potter series. Or it could be an almost unique discovery of your own. Perhaps Schiller’s ‘Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind’ Written at the very end of the eighteenth century With it’s haunting efforts to fuse a noble idealism with political realism It could be a self-help book about sex but alights on just the things that are troubling you Or you might feel that ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin’ Written by Théophile Gautier in the middle of the 19th century And which tells the story of a man and a woman who are both in love with a central character. the operasinger Madeline de Maupin Was written by historical miracle exactly for you A book knows you by pinpointing And taking very seriously, a major but often ignored problem that happens to be looming in your existence. For instance, when Harry Potter is with the Dursleys the feeling of being an alien in a familiar environment For long stretches of time Harry has to live around people who have no idea of his real nature They never acknowledge his actual strengths He’s regarded as a contemptible freak for things that elsewhere would make him popular and important. The book is hugely alive to the feeling of not being appreciated. With many books we’re pleased because we encounter sympathy for things that deserve generous treatment but normally don’t get it. The darker aspects of one’s character are getting a tender hearing. You’ve been heard, you’ve heard others And the book says – I know So often despite all the people around us We’re lonely and ashamed We’re haunted by the worry that no reasonable person could feel anything but derision or contempt for our problems. We feel that to share them with our friends would lead to bewildered rejection. A book that understands you is like an ideal parent or friend, who makes it acceptable to suffer in the way we do. Our weirdest sorrows or enjoyments are recast as valid parts of human experience which can be met with sympathy and kindness. It is, even though the relationship is with paper and ink only, a kind of love. And perhaps one of the deepest kinds of love we’ll ever know.

100 thoughts on “Why We Love Certain Books

  1. Their eyes were watching god, Your blues ain't like mine.. the notebook.. eat,pray, love. Midnight… okay, I'm done. I have a better understanding. thanks!!

  2. I wanted to share the three books I love the most:

    1. The most beautiful love story I know shows you that indeed you could love anybody!

    "The Kiss of a Spider Woman" by Manuel Puig.

    ( The original title is: "El Beso de la Mujer Araña")

    It is the story of two men who are cellmates in an Argentinian prison during the military dictatorship. They could not be more different than each other: Valentin is a Marxist revolutionary , heterosexual young man, who is in prison for political reasons, and Molina, his cellmate, is gay and he is there for corrupting a minor .But over time they do learn to love each other deeply.

    Along the book you will read them REALLY talking to each other, wanting to understand one another. ( It doesn't happen often in real life…)

    And how interesting: if they were out there in the conventional world they would never realise their shared humanity deep down and their "capacity to love", no matter how far, how far the other person seems to be.

    2. If I was allowed to take only one book to an island I would take this one:

    " The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain de Botton ( the founder of this channel.)

    There he offers us the help of six philosophers in all these areas:

    Socrates on Self Confidence
    Epicurus on Happiness
    Seneca on Anger
    Montaigne on Self-Esteem
    Schopenhauer on Love
    Nietzsche on Hardship

    He made a documentary on each of them too. They are all on his other youtube channel. Don't miss them! You'll learn a lot, laugh a lot and you will find real consolation. You will want to read the excellent book too.

    3. And the book I gave as present the most in my life ( along with Alain's book above) is this one:

    " Happiness : A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill" by Matthieu Ricard.

    He is a French molecular biologist and monk! His father was a famous French philosopher. So he is a very well read man, in both western and eastern philosophy and literature. He translated many important works by Tibetan masters. In that book he tells us about their insights on how to live well, but he also mentions Schopenhauer, Epicurus, Seneca, Kant, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Aurelius, Freud , Comte; Rawls, Bentham, William James, Tagore, Kathrine Mansfield…everybody! But he is not pretentious at all. His language is very clear and understandable.

    He is really offering you a path to follow, through very valuable insights, to live better and suffer less . And if you keep those insights in mind and integrate them into your life over time, it really helps a lot!

    I hope this list helps somebody too:-)

  3. My favourite book is World War Z, which is made from multiple stories from different people… does this mean I'm a multiple-personality psychopath?!?!!!!?!!!111!?//?

  4. this wasnt helpful at all frankly… i appreciate the content where you actually present us researched information. personal opinions of you are not very interesting…

  5. Crave and 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. Those plays were meant to be in my life, they revitalized me and made me weep.

  6. Please do a segment on George Orwell. I think his works are crucial to consider in our current social and political climate.

  7. Altough the content remains interesting and informative. The production value of your slideshows has decreased drastically. A bunch of google search images for certain keywords simply don´t support your content. The cheap background, the weird paintbrush effect… What is happening?

  8. TSoL have the nicest comment section I've seen on youtube — no, wait, on internet — so far.

    Sometimes it feels like I just entered a bar in the middle of a huge fight, but there, in a cozy corner, there are some friendly people having great debates while drinking some good beer.

  9. Love reading everyone's book choices! I think mine might be A Fool's Alphabet by Sebastian Faulks, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig.

  10. My fav book is The Miraculous Adventures of Edward Tulane, (haven't read it in 4 years so don't blame me if I got the title wrong😅) about a doll rabbit learning to love and appreciate through the hardships he faces. Love that book.

  11. "acceptable to suffer in the way we do".
    that feels so liberating. cause we often feel that our sorrow is supposed to be hidden, and sharing emotions with others is almost like sharing your biggest shame. so if we are comfortable enough with our suffering, it would be easier for us to deal with that same suffering.

  12. Err… i don't know if anyone agrees with me but…. This video made me think that it would be great if the School of Life made a series about the great fantasy writers. Asimov, Rowling, Tolkien, Moorcock and so on…… just a though…. i would like to see a more informed perspective on the genre i love the most…..

  13. Perhaps there is something unique to books that speaks to our minds to intensely, but I've always found that music has a way of moving me beyond any other medium of expression.

  14. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Most "great thinkers" had the nerve to tell me that I was innately evil and that to justify my very existence I had to sacrifice it for strangers (Pascal for example). Ayn Rand was one of the first to realise that I had done no evil, that I had a right to my own life and that I didn't have to justify my life to anybody.

  15. soo. every person should write their life story before they die.. and then include and interesting pro-text about how some else felt about what was written in the last few moments of death… it seems that no one can give an accurate description of really 100% dying. its crazy to think that all we know there is no one to tell of the after life that has actually been there cuz yah know being dead

  16. Hey.
    I wrote a coming-of-age sci-fi novel, mainly consisting of things I myself have experienced and the way I myself became the person I am today. While writing, I was thinking that it would help make some teens feel better about their life experiences and become more mature through this; however, I was writing thinking of a younger "me", and this me – when I was younger – would never read a book and would instead play videogames.
    What I'm trying to say is that if there's a teen out there having hardships with the whole world around them, maybe you should try reading it. It's called "Earth Won't Miss You", by Orson De Witt.
    Thanks for reading this and have a nice day.

  17. for me it's the Gospel of Loki. I love that book, every time I see it on my shelf I feel pure joy. Heidi, too, that was my very first favourite book, and it's still in my heart today.

  18. I think a segment on emotional neglect/abuse or athazagoraphobia would be amazing. I know I deal with them for most my childhood.

  19. I currently consider three books to speak to me like this:
    The Book Thief by Zusak
    A Lesson Before Dying by Gaines
    It's Kind of a Funny Story by Vizzini (Please don't crucify me)
    Also I'm currently reading House of Leaves by Danielewski, I feel like it will join the list once I've finished.

  20. The Count of Monte Cristo — that even when everything goes wrong and you're in the depths of despair, still have hope.

    "And so being young and dipped in folly, I fell in love with melancholy" – Edgar Allan Poe

    Have hope and get out of your melancholy.

  21. I was reading 'My Life' by Leon Trotsky. This video explains how I felt. I lost it a few weeks ago, when I was half way through. Now I am depressed.

  22. Not so much a book for me, but a musician. Kurt Cobain does all of these things for me. I've never loved or connected with anyone as much as I have with him through his music.

  23. I am yet to find a book that epitomises me exactly but I've found many that resonate in some way, special mention to The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Lovely video for a bibliophile like me <3

  24. The School of Life has some of the most beautiful videos out here. I've seen quite a few of them now, and really liked most of them. The insightful, emotionally intelligent commentary delivered in a soothing voice-over along with elegant visuals, results in a heart-warming and uplifting experience. You are doing appreciable work. Keep it up.

  25. I love the mystery genre.. stories about murder/kidnapping/troubled family but my life is nothing like those books

  26. Alain de Botton's voice …… oh my god it kills me !!! Best accent/English speaking/French/German etc. etc. just basically the most beautiful speaking voice on the planet. No argument about it.

  27. And so, the fact that I'm into reading horror and sci-fi tells me that while I don't have any friends, at least they'd be really cool if I did.

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