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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Paperback – 25 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141027916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141027913
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alain de Botton is the author of Essays in Love (1993), The Romantic Movement (1994), Kiss and Tell (1995), How Proust can Change your Life (1997), The Consolations of Philosophy (2000) The Art of Travel (2002), Status Anxiety (2004) and most recently, The Architecture of Happiness (2006).

Product Description

Amazon Review

To some degree, what the reader takes way from Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work will be influenced by what that particular reader brings to it. If you are looking for a serious and exhaustive analysis of work and how it affects both our psychological equilibrium and general sense of well-being, you may be disappointed; although de Botton draws on a variety of examples (some straightforward and illuminating, others eccentric and whimsical), his strategy here is more subtle and allusive, not something which can be demonstrated by adducing a carefully marshalled tranche of facts. Secondly, of course, anyone familiar with the author's approach will hardly be expecting a linear demonstration of a thesis, as might be gathered from his delightful How Proust Can Change Your Life. Alain de Botton is offering something at once insightful and idiosyncratic: a practical guide to a better quality of life through an off-kilter approach to the subject of work. In the earlier book, we were offered a (not entirely serious) method of extrapolating from the brilliant (and famously difficult) French writer a host of unconventional insights into dealing with our own personal emotional and intellectual fulfilment. Here, the notion of work is addressed with a similarly light/serious touch, following a variety of processes (such as the trajectory of a fish from the ocean to its final destination on the shelves of a supermarket) to examine the multiplicity of possible approaches to work.

The real insights here, however, relate to the way in which work (as de Botton sees it) is both a validation of the true purpose of our existence – and the most assertive way to 'rage against the dying of the light' – in other words, to keep at bay the daunting realisation of what a brief flicker of existence we have. It's a book that is both affirmative and (in its eccentric fashion) quietly persuasive. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Clever, provocative and fresh as a daisy (Literary Review on The Architecture of Happiness )

Full of splendid ideas, often happily and beautifully expressed . . . an engaging and intelligent book (Independent on The Architecture of Happiness ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 7 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
Something about Alain de Botton's writing captivates me. Though great chunky paragraphs of this photo essay are taken up with things which are banal on the surface like detailed descriptions of how biscuits are manufactured or the workings of electricity lines, the author's pithy observations about the individuals involved and his asides about the nature of being are engrossing. This author investigates an eclectic range of professions such as tuna fishing, career counselling, painting and accountancy. He begins the book by pondering the complex network of work involved which delivers to us goods in our everyday lives and how we are largely blithely unaware of these goods' origins. He then investigates a series of professions as a base point, engaging with the professionals involved in order to try to understand how this labour relates to their place in the world. The result is a sort of travelogue, each section containing a large amount of photographs to accompany the text, created with the help of photographer Richard Baker. Many of these pictures are beautiful and poignant in themselves, adding an even greater depth and understanding to the text which runs alongside them.

Many of the people the author encounters are treated with a good deal of sympathy and one feels his observations to be largely accurate based on his personal impressions of them. I grew to feel admiration, respect and envy for people who are emphatically engaged in their professions and passionate about the importance of their labour. However, at some points de Botton's prose lapse almost too far into a novelistic approach so that individuals he meets are fitted into the author's schematic understanding of certain workers' reality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Self-help junkie VINE VOICE on 19 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alain de Botton's writing are like the cool hand of a mother passing comfortingly across a fevered brow. The pleasures of his prose exist at several levels: there is the obvious erudite insight into many of the common problems afflicting our modern world - travel-weariness, anxiety about status, work; and there is also the simple beauty of the words themselves. Many of his sentences take me back for a second and a third reading - often out loud - to savour their sparse beauty.

His latest work is, in my opinion, one of the best. It is both humorous and compassionate. de Botton never talks down to us: he shares our sorrows and frustrations and locates himself clearly within the issues and difficulties he tackles. And although he promises - and delivers - no easy solutions or 'quick-fix' cure-alls, he instead offers something much more valuable and enduring. An appreciation of the beauty and vulnerability of human life, an awareness of the moments of joy and bliss that we may encounter from time to time, and a compassionate understanding that the reality of life for us all has more than its hoped for share of pain and sorrow.

Thank you, Alain. I look forward to many more strokes of your hand across the brow in years to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Harrington on 23 Oct 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is my first de Botton, and I must say I am now a fan. As has already been written multiple times, he writes with eloquence about the everyday nature of existence. Like Barry Forshaw has written in his review, I came to this book looking for affirmation and validation of my existence. I'm not sure if I found it, I'm not sure if it is possible to find it in a single book. But this book certainly adds to the collective library from which I am now able to withdraw. If you too are looking for validation about your individualistic life, give this book a go. You won't find the answer, but you won't regret looking for it in these pages.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alain De Botton is a talented author. His main characteristics are erudition and philosophical disposition. His writing is simple, elegant, lucid, light in touch and witty.

The book, however, is as much the product of talent as of meticulous and systematic research on the topics he discusses and of extensive travel both in England and far away lands to obtain first hand information. He vividly relates his experiences and impressions to the reader. Suffice it to mention in this regard that he travelled to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean for the project in 'Logistics' to observe inter alia Tuna fishing and to French Guiana in Latin America to witness the launching of an Ariane TV satellite in relation to the project 'Rocket Science'. In all his travels he was accompanied by a photographer and the eclectic black and white photographs complement beautifully the fascination of the text. But it would be wrong to relegate this sophisticated, rich and multifaceted book to the mere category of an illustrated documentary.

The book comprise ten chapters namely 'Cargo Ship Spotting', 'Logistics', 'Biscuit Manufacture', 'Career Counselling', 'Rocket Science', 'Painting', 'Transmission Engineering', 'Accountancy', Entrepreneurship', and 'Aviation'.

The reader obtains an insight into the myriad activities, specializations and division of labour unbeknownst to him which in our contemporary world collectively contribute to an end product or service while the reader or consumer is familiar only with this end product or service. But the book is not restricted to merely providing this insight.
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