Yesterday I was making my bi-monthly pilgrimmage to my two favourite London bookshops (Skoob and Judd, both large, rambling and second-hand, both takers of the Wedge card) when I came across an unusual little shop: The School of Life.
Stock is limited in the School of Life, since all the books are on display and facing out, rather than on shelves. No alphabetical order here either. Here you’ll find “a shelf for those who want to change the world, a shelf for those who worry about death, a shelf for those who have recently fallen in love, a shelf for those in search of their own company, and even a shelf for those with a short attention span.”
There’s more going on here than a shop. There are posters for courses on work, play, love. There are conversations, meals, holidays, and sermons. This is a centre for ‘ideas to live by’.
The holidays sound great, all about discovering new things at the local level, by touring them with artists and writers. There’s a tour of Heathrow airport, a ‘philosophy by bicycle’ day, urban gardening days, or how about a weekend learning to identify clouds? As they say – “cheaper, more sustainable and infinitely more rewarding than rushing around foreign lands in air-conditioned coaches.”
The School of Life is the brainchild of Alain de Botton, and runs as a non-profit. It is painfully cool and hopelessly middle class, but it is dedicated to something decidedly uncool: wisdom. It’s about living well, living an examined life. That’s something I have a lot of time for.
- The School of Life