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What is The Book of Life

It’s called The Book of Life because it’s about the most substantial things in your life: your relationships, your income, your career, your anxieties.

There’s always been a longing to gather the important things in one place. Some of the appeal of a Bible or the collected works of a big name author is the sense that amidst all the chaos and disparate sources of knowledge, someone has taken the trouble to distill, to compress, to say what is essential. In a world overflowing with information, what we most need is curation. The Book of Life aims to be the curation of the best and most helpful ideas in the area of emotional life.

Ultimately, life is only 700,000 hours long so we have to make sure the ideas we need don’t get lost – or take too long to find.

The Book of Life redraws the sense of what a book is. Up to now, books have been the most ambitious way in which ideas are presented. But they have suffered from serious limitations: they’ve had only one author; they’ve usually been written over a relatively short period of time. And once they’ve been finished, they can’t be changed (even if the author gets a great new idea). They have also been largely restricted to words, images being too expensive and film impossible.

The Book of Life is being written by many people over a long time; it keeps changing and evolving. It is filled with images and films as well as texts. By floating online, it can grow a bit every day or so, as new things come along and it can be equally accessible all around the world, at any time, for free.

The danger of disorder is something we’ve thought a lot about. In an age when it’s no longer hard to get hold of a lot of information, the challenge becomes how to order it – so you can find it and use it when you need it.  Traditionally, many non-fiction books in the humanities trace where ideas have come from (they’ll tell you the history of Classical Athens or the biographies of key figures in Enlightenment France etc.). In The Book of Life, we place your needs first. So it is structured according to the situations of your own life, which is where ideas get used and are necessary.

Just like a regular book, The Book of Life is divided into chapters: it’s our way of carving up reality and throwing the emphasis on what matters most. We invite you to navigate around all the parts. And use the extensive indexing of pieces to approach issues from different starting points.

We’re aiming at a certain voice: calm, reassuring, sane – because few of us (including the authors) manage to be these things for very much of the time. We believe that one of the tasks of art is to be a repository of attitudes that are elusive, but much needed.

Normally we think of a book as something to be read continuously from beginning to end. When you finish, you tick it off your list. But here you can return: bits will have changed, been nuanced; it will have evolved and matured. We’d love you to read The Book of Life regularly, to keep checking in and to browse in unfamiliar sections.

This book is an offshoot of The School of Life. It’s where you can find the ideas that The School of Life believes in, it’s the School’s brain and library – and it captures the attitudes you’ll find by going to its classes and events in physical hubs around the world.

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