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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

Introduction narrated by Alain de Botton

The Sunday Times best seller. 

The essential guide to how to live wisely and well in the 21st century - from Alain de Botton, the best-selling author of The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel and The Course of Love.

This is an audiobook about everything you were never taught at school. It's about how to understand your emotions, find and sustain love, succeed in your career, fail well and overcome shame and guilt. It's also about letting go of the myth of a perfect life in order to achieve genuine emotional maturity. Written in a hugely accessible, warm and humane style, The School of Life is the ultimate guide to the emotionally fulfilled lives we all long for - and deserve. 

This audiobook brings together 10 years of essential and transformative research on emotional intelligence, with practical topics including: 

  • how to understand yourself
  • how to master the dilemmas of relationships
  • how to become more effective at work 
  • how to endure failure
  • how to grow more serene and resilient
©2019 Alain de Botton (P)2019 Penguin Random House UK

Critic reviews

"What he has managed to do is remarkable: to help us think better so that we may live better lives." (Irish Times

"A serious and optimistic set of practical ideas that could improve and alter the way we live." (Jeanette Winterson, The Times)

"Alain de Botton likes to take big, complex subjects and write about them with thoughtful and deceptive innocence." (Observer

What listeners say about The School of Life

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More Alain needed....

I bought this as I love the works of Alain, but in particular I adore his voice, which is on the sample recording. I was therefore wholly disappointed that this was not actually narrated by him, as his voice is utterly charming and reassuring. Should have just bought the book and imagined it. :-(

32 people found this helpful

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The most imporant book ever written

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I realise what a statement that is. Some people may even take offence, but none is intended. Alain de Botton and The School of Life have managed to produce a work that explains "How our minds work". It is titled "Emotional Intelligence". Reading this has laid my mind at peace on so many levels it is simply wondrous. Our knowledge of our emotional inner selves is so poor it beggars belief.
How come the contents of this book have not been openly, publically taught to us before? It's simple; we still don't talk about our deepest fears and issues. Our emotional wellbeing is not a topic for open discussion; the stigma is still too much for most of us, as they point out.
" it remains markedly strange to imagine that it might be possible - or even necessary - to be educated in our own emotional functioning, for example, that we might need to learn(rather than just know) how to avoid sulking or how to interpret our griefs, how to choose a partner or make oneself understood by a colleague."
The book is simply brilliant at breaking down how WE ALL work. This is not a self-help book in my view; it is The self-help book!
It is the first time I have ever come across a book that clearly explains how to think about YOUR personal life, how similar we all are and how to make sense of the myriad thoughts, fears, concerns, obsessions and failings with which we are all preoccupied.
"Our emotions, if left unexamined and unschooled, are liable to lead us into some profoundly counter-productive situations in regard to our love choices, our careers, our friendships and the management of our own moods."
Everyone should read this.
To understand your parents.
To understand why you are the way you are.
To understand everyone else
To help children have a better life
To make the world a better place.


I wish I had been taught this in school.
Why isn't this taught in school?


Being honest I didn't read the book, I listened to it on Audible, which I recommend as having it read to you makes most complex texts a lot easier to digest I find.


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#schooloflife #emotionalintelligence #importantbooks #education

10 people found this helpful

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Why???

My first question when reading this book was, why on earth has no one told me this before?
This is all the more bewildering as I am a trained psychiatrist.
This book deals head-on with the most complex and universal issues of our lives, such as love, disappointment, expectations. It is truly amazing that these things do not figure on our school curriculum.
At the end there is perhaps an over-reliance on finding wisdom in the arts, especially the visual arts. I think that can feel alienating to some, but this book remains, by far and away, the best attempt I have read on guidance to living a wise life. I’m grateful for what it has added to my life, and perhaps even to my patients’ lives.

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It's okay

A book aimed at improving the emotional intelligence and self-knowledge of the already materially comfortable (which is no bad thing, as even when our basic needs are met we still seem to be miserable). The early chapters on self gave me stuff to reflect on. The conservative politics of the Work chapter didn't do it for me. His answer to crap jobs and inequality is not to unionize and demand better. Instead, he wants moreart that lionizes the poor, so that the culture will start to afford the poor more dignity.

2 people found this helpful

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No emotional education

This book on emotional education comes down to this: pessimism and the valuing of accepting your lot in a life of misery.

Some message.

This book does what liberal 20th/21st century thinkers all do: it knows that life is dissatisfaction, makes no attempt to really, deeply understand why, and then offers absolutely no message of hope or optimism or betterment. It simply offers a limp, stagnant, toothless acceptance of a nihilistic worldview. This isn’t emotional or philosophical or religious, this is simply banality wrapped as profundity.

A hugely disappointing and pessimistic take on what it is to be human. There is also nothing profound, original or deep here either. It is just what you’d expect from an atomised, extremely rich and rootless member of the liberal intelligentsia.

For a REAL emotional education I’d recommend the work of B Alan Wallace, Matthieu Ricard, Osho and others who combine respect for western science with Buddhism and Buddhist mindfulness meditation.

12 people found this helpful

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Great book about how to live your life

The school of life is a book by Alain de Botton, a philosopher and founder of the school of life. The school of life is a collective of psychologists, philosophers and writers' views, and this book is an anthology that collects some of its best writing. It's a guide to help us understand ourselves and others, looking at the self, others, relationships, work and culture. As we no longer seek guidance from religious ideology, as we have done in the past, where do we seek guidance to develop a better education, emotional intelligence, self help and self development. It explores a journey to emotional maturity, first looking at the self which covers self development through philosophical meditation, emotional identity, honesty, self love and emotional scepticism. When dealing with others, it teaches us the values of charity, politeness and charm. This should lead us to form better relationships through finding a partner, developing improved communication, emotional transition, closeness, comforting, being generous, humor, sexual liberation and being true to romantic realism (if you believe in fairy tales and unrealistic beliefs that romance should be in like it is in the movies, then you will be disappointed - no romantic lead has ever been seen ironing his underpants). Within this framework, it then looks at capitalism through authentic work, confidence and failure. It also covers culture; including cultural consolation, appreciation, detachment and cheerful despair. We are imperfect creatures, we are messy and flawed, we make mistakes but we can change and grow, learn and become better people. The single greatest enemy of contemporary satisfaction may be the belief in human perfectibility. Rather than being bitter or full of rage, we should have a form of melancholy. As I have often stated, the sooner we realise that life isn’t fair, the easier life will be. We are not perfect and neither is anyone else, accept that and we can find life and people easier to manage. We often lie, to ourselves as well as others. We are like massionates or puppets, pulled by strings we are not even aware of, under control of things we can sometimes not even be aware of. We self deceive as we live our lives in a storm, on a boat that is not always in control of the seas and waves that it might float upon in calm at other times. Understanding this can improve us and help us move on, and be more forgiving of others. The book is full of ideas to help us build a better you and a better world. The more we understand these invisible forces, the more we are likely to be kinder to others.

Some of the ideas explored that I loved include the story of the boy who befriended a lion by extracting a thorn from an angry lion, who then becomes the boy's friend. When people are in pain, they can lash out and seem full of rage. Find the cause of the pain, and people can change for the better. Unlike other animals, humans need lots of time to develop under the care of their parents to grow and develop (fouls are standing within 30 minutes of being born, a female grouper will unsentimetly dump upto a 100 million eggs a year in the sandy banks off the north Atlantic seabed, then swim away without bothering to see a single one of her offsprings again and the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet is sexually mature and independent by the age of five).

Most of us are fragile, messy, making mistakes as we blunder on through life, that is part of the human condition we shouldn't really judge it but embrace it and accept it. Even superheroes will have to use a toilet and do all the things that mortals do, but no man is a hero who is well known. Noone is truly special or complex once we know someone else, we all live similar messy lives and have contradictory thoughts and behaviours. One of the things in James Joyce's Ulysses, which depicts the life of an ordinary man and tries to show that we are all heroes also. This book was deemed obscene because it features over the course of the day a man going to the toilet and wiping his backside. Funny, something every one of us does probably most every day, would be deemed disgusting and sick. You can turn on movies and watch allsorts of obscene violence in my personal opinion and yet that is ok and sex, the thing that brought everyone of us to life is deemed disguising. Really!

No matter how famous you are, whether you might be a prime minister or president or even a king or a queen, we still do all the same things that normal and special people do, use the toilet, worry, get concerned about how you may appear to others, your appearance. We would do well to embrace vulnerability, accept the messiness, and know that none of us are perfect. The only people who are truly perfect, are the people we just don’t know.

Work. Most of us will spend most of our lives doing one or maybe two different jobs for 50 years. We might often have dreamt of becoming something else but that's part of the melancholia of life. Accepting and embracing what we do do, might be all we have. We can still dream of all those other things. But they might not be anything that we are able to do even if we had the potential to do anything we wanted.

Culture: Art can be found everywhere and really should allow us to feed the soul. In most of the lifetime of people throughout history we have owned but just a few possessions, sometimes, a borrowed chair to sit on, and a few farming instruments for months. What art and other cultures do is feed the soul, and allow us to explore our own heart and soul and mind and meaning in life. From the 18th century onwards, something changed, we began to be able to buy a few luxuries. Sermons from priests said this was a degradation of our soul and we should focus on this, but with the new buying for pleasure and going to the shops to buy things, we began to become materialistic. In actual fact we pretty much have all we need, but we feel we do not have enough, because we are clearly unhappy. But the fact that we have all we need, we are still not happy. Why is this? We are all at sea, we still strive and see all things that we want, we are always thinking we want something new, something to fill the empty bright hole in our hearts with something shiny and new. People really only require their basic needs which are quite simple, they seek someone to love, a roof over their head, meaning to their work and life, and friends and some money to buy food to feed the family. We also seek attention and if someone can validate that, then we seek that group. Man has spent most of his life requiring very little, but now we seem to need more and more. I should add to this list that we have been designed and manipulated to buy things. One of the things that has shaped our desires is advertisement. Constantly we are bombarded with adverts to want something that we truly desire and that we probably don't even need. But what do we value. There is an interesting story in this book about the pineapple. Once upon a time this was the rarest of all food items, Christopher Wren put part of this into the architecture of some of his buildings, and the fruit was a desired item that only royalty could afford. However, we began to make pineapples for much cheaper prices and we now know longer see this as the most royal of fruit. Nothing has changed in the pineapple, what has changed is our attitude towards it. Like many things in life, it’s not the value of the item itself but the value that we have placed upon it, the value we give it. We don't like cheap things. However, there is one thing we could do to change this and that is how we might look at things if we were a four-year-old child, they have no money, they do not know the value of things, they will only find joy in what they find joy in. You might buy them an expensive present but they're more fascinated by a button on their coat or the wrapping that the box or present a gift comes in. And that is how we should give value to things. The interesting thing about art, culture and great books is that they often deal with sorrow and pain. These things help us know we are not alone, but they’re also part of the human condition. Seeking happiness might not all be all it’s cracked up to be, as Dolly Parton once said, you can’t appreciate the sunshine without a bit of rain. Imagine living only in a world of happiness, it sounds like hell.

After explaining what a bunch of imperfect people we are, messy and complex, it gives a few solutions to how we can develop better wisdom to lead better lives. These include accepting not perfection but just being good enough is ok. Also try to show gratitude - even just delighting in a cup of coffee or nature will change how you look at life and become more appreciative. Try to develop wisdom by being more realistic, humour, being polite, accepting yourself (along with your faults), be forgiving (to yourself and others), develop resilience, success and failure (you can learn more sometimes through failure than success), and if possible - remain calm. A lovely book full of good sense and wisdom.

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Well explained and well referenced!

This book will help the listener accept, at least in part, some of the chaos we live within. We’re all a bit of a nitwit, and Alain de Botton explains how that’s a good thing.
10/10 would listen again.

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Great idea. Great intro. Rest Frustrating

Good concept and great intro by Alain De Botton. Main body of the book is extremely repetitive and is narrated in such a dogmatic style that after a while it feels ranty. It’s also littered with many irritating mispronunciations.

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hello me

Reassuring ly good. It is as though he's been watching me throughout my life. Brilliant

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educational

A lot of lessons that appear all too easy at first. Being able to act on the knowledge is the emotional intelligence we all need.

Alain, please read the next one yourself!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-06-21

Best thing I’ve read since becoming an adult

I am astonishingly richer in my ways of thinking about #humanlife and better for it from the hours I spent completing #TheSchoolOfLife audio book. My life is so richer for it! Restored to a familiar level of appreciation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-12-21

must read/listen for everyone

emotional education 101 with funny remarks and a great narration. I would recommend it strongly to everyone.

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  • Jamil
  • 06-08-21

awesome! life-changing

quite harsh but bittersweet pill to take. lots of moments of shocking realizations and reflections. thanks a lot!

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  • lucas9309
  • 27-03-21

every one should read this book

this is one of this books everyone should read and the world would be a better place. I will recommend it to everyone I know

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-08-20

Required listening

I loved this book. The content is very enlightening and the delivery entertaining. Highly recommended

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-05-20

A wonderfully smart and understated read

This is essentially like sitting down to somebody really lovely warm charming and interesting at a dinner party and simply wanting to listen. There is no need to say or add anything, – it is all good sense, and quite warm and wonderful. There is lots of the development of thoughts and themes in Mr de Botton’s various other titles, but good to hear them revisited and explained again.

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  • M.Inés Bustamante
  • 16-01-20

Descubrimiento

Excelente obra. Me ha dado una vision renovada para comprender la vida de una manera mas humana. Quisiera seguir de cerca al autor.
Espero pronto este disponible en español

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  • milene
  • 10-10-19

amazing

best book I've ever read about life, Button is a genius at showing reality in simple, clear ways