Alain de Botton, whose intellect and sense of humour brought us How Proust Can Change Your Life and The Consolations of Philosophy, enters new territory with The Art of Travel (Hamish Hamilton). Here he takes on our fascination with other places and the power of these places to transform our lives. This is a work of non-fiction—part philosophy, part memoir—but The Art of Travel is less clever and more subtle than his other books. The slightly incongruous thumbnail illustrations that peppered his past works have been replaced by full-page reproductions of the paintings and locations that De Botton refers to, and in this more conventional form they lose much of their appeal. In each chapter the author selects a location and a historical guide (Flaubert, Wordsworth, Van Gogh) to illuminate a subject or quality essential to the allure of travel—the exotic, the sublime, beauty, routine. In minimal prose De Botton explores some wonderful ideas, such as the power of natural beauty to relieve the despair of city living, the lesson of humility in a sublime landscape, the revelatory power of a humble journey across one’s bedroom.