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A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary [Paperback]

Alain de Botton
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

24 Sep 2009

In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton will be invited by the owners of Heathrow airport to become their first ever Writer in Residence. He will be installed in the middle of Terminal 5 on a raised platform with a laptop connected to screens, enabling passengers to see what he is writing and to come and share their stories. He will meet travellers from around the world, and will be given unprecedented access to wander the airport and speak with everyone from window cleaners and baggage handlers to air traffic controllers and cabin crew.

Working with the renowned documentary photographer Richard Baker, de Botton will produce an extraordinary meditation upon the nature of place, time, and our daily lives. He will explore the magical and the mundane, personal and collective experiences and the interactions of travellers and workers all over this familiar but mysterious site. Like all airports, Heathrow (the 15th century village of Heath Row lies beneath the short stay car park) is a 'non-place' that we by definition want to leave, but it also provides a window into many worlds - through the thousands of people it dispatches every day. A Week at the Airport is sure to delight de Botton's large following, and anyone interested in the stories behind the way we live.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Printing edition (24 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683596
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,977 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


`funny, charming and slender enough to pack in your carry-on...' --Daily Mail

`Simultaneously poignant and terribly funny...de Botton's most imaginative work yet' --Spectator

`Funny, surprising ... [de Botton's] observations on airport life are wry and thought-provoking ... excellent' --Telegraph

`Shrewd, perceptive and gently ironic ... At de Botton's T5, banality and sublimity circle in a perpetual holding pattern.' --Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Book Description

An uplifting and unique journey through the days and nights of the UK's largest airport

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alain de Botton's new book... 30 Oct 2009
Customers who buy Alain de Botton's books always know they are in for a thought provoking read, so this book was no exception, Its not just about airports per se but a book about life, people and how we choose to live. I thought the stories from behind the scenes were fascinating. The only fault is the actual book, its a poor quality paper back, the cover split from the rest of the book on first opening the book. Fans would much prefer a small neat hardback.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By adeej
This compact book is an interesting insight into goings on at Terminal 5. Alain de Botton was appointed to be the Writer-in-Residence of BAA (the owners of Heathrow Airport) and was asked to write about what goes on at Heathrow. de Botton only agreed to do this if what he found could not be censored or controlled by BAA themselves. He needed free reign.

De Botton looks at a variety of areas of the airport and focuses both on operational things as well as the people who work at and/or use the airport.

So why only 3 stars? Several reasons - the book was too short - I was left unsatisfied, wanting more. As an airport lover, I also found that there wasn't enough about the airport itself for my interest. Comparing it to the admittedly fictional book "Air Babylon", I thought Air Babylon was much more entertaining.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most wondrous examination of travel 14 Aug 2010
After not being very engaged in the last 2 books of Alain de Botton's I have read, I was quickly reminded of why I love his writing and his observations in this far-too-short-for-me [I could've read more and more...:] book.

As Heathrow's first-ever writer-in-residence, from his desk in Terminal 5, as well as his wanderings around the airport, de Botton takes us on a journey, physical and mentally, into the airport and what it, and travel, says about us. As someone to whom airports have an attraction [partially the fact, as de Botton writes, that it feels as if any exotic destination is within reach:] I was constantly engaged and entertained by his keen observations and analysis on subjects ranging from why we travel to our often-felt disappointment with holidays to the farewelling and greeting of travellers to the staff who keep things running, and much, much else. This is truly a most wondrous examination and one that re-introduced to me the wonder of one aspect of modern society that I often take for granted and do not stop to consider.

If this appeals I'd also highly recommend his book The Art of Travel; I saw the DVD in an ABC store the other day and snatched it up -- I was unaware there had been a series: looking forward to watching it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 10 Dec 2009
By Alison TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is my first experience of Alain de Botton's writing and after devouring this book in less than 2 hours (partly due to it's brevity and partly because I enjoyed it so much) I'll be looking to read more of his work.

I'm probably a little unusual in that I love airports and attempt to arrive much earlier than is really necessary so I can get airside as soon as possible and begin to immerse myself in the world of the terminal. I've never been to terminal 5 but the world that de Botton describes could be any large airport terminal; it feels very familiar.

I loved de Botton's perceptive writing and his incisive and insightful look at the lifeblood of the airport. The book is funny, interesting and very engaging. He meets a variety of people and captures their essence in a few short words; impressive observational writing. The photographs by Richard Baker make the book and it wouldn't be as good or feel as complete without them.

This little book is thoroughly enjoyable for the high quality writing and high quality photography. It's one of my favourite books read this year and I'll be getting The Art of Travel soon!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A week at the airport 29 Sep 2009
Alain de Botton has been on my list of `authors I should read but haven't quite found the moment'. I hate flying, and airports, but as I have a forthcoming trip via Terminal Five this was obviously the right opportunity. I really enjoyed it, especially the way some passengers seem to have used the author's desk (he set up camp in the terminal during a week as `writer in residence') as a kind of confessional, and the personal stories of the anonymous members of staff you see at the checkin or in security. (There's a cleaner who's also an opera singer) Even the head of BA Willy Walsh who you would expect to come across as rather corporate turns out to be a rather appealing nerdy type. Definitely worth a read. The pics are good too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful little book 26 Dec 2009
Firstly, it was very kind of Alain to dedicate this book personally to me. Thanks Alain! :-)

I review this as someone who's spent nearly 25 years working at airports and flown 1200 times. So, I'm biased, but I loved this book because:

1. de Botton made me stop and think about airport and travel scenarious that I'd never considered before e.g. the children's toys in the Immigration Detention Interview Room, or that moment when you open the door for Hotel Room Service naked except for that ubiquitous white 5* dressing gown.

2. It's short yet perfectly concise. No sentence is uninteresting - Jan Morris' words and so true, I re-read the whole book after completing an initial read.

Flying soon?
Buy this book now and enjoy observing the Airports you pass through from a completely new perspective.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational tour of the world-within-a-world that is an airport
Beautiful. Real. Well documented. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover, and made me go back for more by Botton.
Published 1 month ago by Daniel Beunza
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't realise what goes on there!
There's so much more than what you see on Love Actually but it's as wonderful as that. This puts emotion and feeling into the experience you wouldn't articulate like this.
Published 2 months ago by Simon
4.0 out of 5 stars The universality of our airport experiences
Perhaps poignantly after just returning from a long and splendid transatlantic Christmastime holiday, and getting back into routine in the return to work, I finished Alain de... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr Ulster
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy of the everyday
Always a thought-provoking writer, Alain de Botton has taken a place we usually hurry through with an earnest desire to escape and showed us a new way to experience the richness of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by widget
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing

What a disappointment. As someone who is fascinated with the sub-culture of airports, I wanted this book to deliver so so much more than it did. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dreams Unwind
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly erudite
I have become an affliction ado of Alain de Boton after just this one read. He is so erudite, which is thought provoking and entertaining all in one. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Liz
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic as usual
this contains just as many lovely insights as any of de botton's offerings. there are a couple of ideas you may recognize if you've read the art of travel or the pleasures and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by joejoe
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay
The summary as written on line prepared one for this book. No great surprises. Enjoyable to read if this is your taste in literature
Published 20 months ago by pat neale
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed, but original work on the airport experience
As books on airports and air travel go, Alain de Botton's 'A Week at the Airport' is likely to rank as one of the least conventional. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mr. D Burin
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read
I love flying and I love airports so this was a very interesting book. Alain spent a week at Terminal 5 and through his writing sets out the life of the terminal in those few days. Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2012 by Amanda Hall
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