Alain de Botton: Best Selling Author and Everyday Philosopher

The Cambridge and Harvard educated writer, who moved to England as a boarder at the age of eight, was born in 1969 in Switzerland in a prominent Jewish family. He is the author of ten bestselling books, has produced and presented five TV series -including the acclaimed BBC documentary Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness- and is a founding member of the School of Life and Living Architecture. Despite having inherited a fortune at the death of his father, a successful financier, he has made the choice to support himself solely from the proceeds of his work. He lives in Shepherd’s Bush with his wife Charlotte and their two young sons.

My main character traitA desire to understand the world, a curiosity about other people and the world around me.

The trait I am most proud of in myselfThe capacity to analyse situations and feelings.

My greatest faultI worry too much about everything.

The qualities I want to see in a manKindness and openness, an absence of machismo. I like men who cry and can admit to feeling sad, isolated and lonely.

My favourite quality in a womanKindness and sensitivity.

What I most appreciate in friendsBeing open about their worries.

Faults in others or myself that I am most likely to forgiveLosing one’s temper.

If I could change something in the way I lookI would grow some more hair.

How and why I became a philosopherI was troubled by lots of thoughts, I wanted to spend time and analyse them. For me, writing is a kind of therapy.

My favourite hobbiesReading and writing.

My dream of happinessDoing my job -writing- really well.

My dream as a kidTo recreate a whole city out of Lego.

My most beautiful memoryBeing a child, about 7pm, in pyjamas, waiting to go to sleep.

Which animal I would beA dolphin

My favourite works of fictionEric Rohmer’s Le Rayon Vert (film), Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (book), Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia (music).

My favourite fictional hero and heroineHamlet and Madame Bovary.

The person I most admire in real lifeThe American writer and activist Dave Eggers.

Who or what I love most in the worldMy two children, Samuel and Saul, and their mother.

My most treasured possessionThe painting of an aeroplane by the artist Michael Andrews.

My favourite place in the worldMy own home, my study in it.

Something I really dislikeWasting my life in some fruitless activity.

My biggest achievement so farSetting up

My biggest regretNot training to be an architect at the age of 18.

My definition of loveRealising that other people are just as troubled as you are.

My definition of beautyLike Stendhal said, “the promise of happiness”.

How I would like to dieAt 95, in my sleep, after a relative lack of illness.

How I would like to be rememberedFor having written some good books and set up some interesting institutions.

My current state of mindA headache, I didn’t sleep long enough last night.

My motto“What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears”, Seneca.