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by Alain de Botton

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-03065-8
Publisher: Picador

It's not the quantity of thought about sex, but rather the quality of thought about sex.

The title begs for all manner of dubious wisecracking, but the narrative is not easily pigeonholed. De Botton (Religion for Atheists, 2011, etc.), who founded the publisher’s School of Life series, of which this book is a part, acknowledges early on that navigating the straits of sexuality, intimacy and eroticism is a challenge for the best-adjusted of us, and that group is a miniscule subset of humanity. “Despite being one of the most private of activities,” writes the author, “sex is nonetheless surrounded by a range of powerful socially sanctioned ideas that codify how normal people are meant to feel about and deal with the matter.” He offers a collection of essays that, taken as a whole, serve to pull sexuality into a philosophical consideration of our drives and desires, to illuminate how we can make sense of the urges that drive us senseless. The chapters alternate between the physical and emotional/mental give-and-take, and de Botton occasionally takes a devil's advocate approach to questions on touchy subjects such as adultery. If the partner who engages in adultery has succumbed to a horrible weakness, shouldn't we spend time praising our partners for their strength in fidelity, rather than assume it's a natural state of being? How do we reconcile the Puritanical wall between love and sex, where the former is goodness and the latter is carnal—and where exactly does this divide happen? Is there justification when a long-term partner feels differently about what quantity of sexual relations is ideal? What can we discern from the changing nature of pornography? The author considers these and many other sex-related questions in this book, which is divided into the “pleasures” of sex and the “problems” of sex.

A well-rounded examination of the ways we can marry intelligent thought and physical pleasure.