Author Alain de Botton (R) makes notes during his week as writer-in-residence at Heathrow Airport, west London, on August 20, 2009.

Internet research has convinced some we can know everything. But away from Google’s spoon dipped into Wikipedia’s stockpot, the idea of the mystery of(...)

Geoff Dyer on board the USS George HW Bush. Photograph: Chris Steele-Perkins

Among the deadly bombs, 10-gallon tubs of army grub and ocean-ruling technology, something moves. As the USS George HW Bush wades through the Gulf’(...)

Illustration: Thinkstock

Q I am 27 and live at home with my parents. Life is really getting me down and I am angry all the time. I feel I could be heading for depression. T(...)

‘In the Salon of Madame Geoffrin in 1755’ , a painting by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier of a group of artists and writers at the salon of Marie-Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin, Hotel Rambouillet, Paris

Sometimes it can feel as though a conspiracy of superficiality looms over us like a candyfloss cloud dictating the kinds of conversations that are soc(...)

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

I’m looking at a wall. Or at least, a painting of a wall. I’ve got about five different articles to write and many more emails to answer, but I’m look(...)

Dazzling: a visitor with Kyung A Ham’s silk embroidery Greedy Is Good, at this autumn’s Frieze Art Fair in London. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty

Sometimes these days, when I’m going around art exhibitions, I find myself feeling grumpy, miserable and hopeless. This is bit like the feeling you ge(...)

Marcel Proust, 1871-1922. Photograph: Culture Club/Getty Images

Marcel Proust was a publisher’s nightmare: the page-long sentences; endless corrections and additions. “I fail to see why a chap needs 30 pages to des(...)

Here is a simple proposition: human thinking is conducted in one of two ways. Either we categorise, building upwards from a mass of phenomena to fewer(...)