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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of our Labour
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...
Published on 7 April 2009 by Eric Anderson

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent however not his best.
I've read all of de Botton's published work and many of his books can leave you wanting still. I eagerly awaited the release of this one thinking that it would blow me away the same way Consolations of Philosophy or Status Anciety did, however I quickly found myself becoming disappointed.
Rather than examine the reader or society as a whole, de Botton takes various...
Published on 2 May 2009 by James Tunnell


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to savour, read slowly..., 19 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Paperback)
I admit I have a love/hate relationships with De Botton's literature, in the main, with the exception of his excellent Status anxiety I find his content ambling and off topic in a way only a philosopher could ever get away with. Yet what I love is his use of vocabulary to make his writing a comfort blanket of a read. The words chosen are soft and rounded, seductively spoken throughout the pages to cam and entrance the reader. You will find no abrasive language with Botton, none is needed, only beautiful literature here and written in a way that disguises his depth of philosophical insights as though allowing the reader to peek inside a secret window of his life.

One chapter for example is all about biscuits, even a dunker like myself would find reading a whole chapter about biscuits a terrible bore, but Botton doesn't try to persuade the reader to feign interest in the chapter, or even in biscuits as a whole, rather the writing style is as seductive as allowing expensive chocolate to slowly melt in the mouth so the taste buds savour every moment. When reading the biscuit chapter I was switched off to the content in favour of the seductive haze of the words, the descriptive values, the whole structure from sentence to paragraph allowed me to sail through the chapter and indeed the entire book' feeling completely relaxed and entirely enveloped in his work.

You should read this book not only because of the great philosophical insights to be gained, but also for the distinct pleasure of reading quality literature and raising us from the so much trashy literature that litters the shelves of once reputable dealers who now just want to cash in on the latest pop. culture books.

A fantastic read, highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DJJ, 3 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Paperback)
I am a fan of ADB's books and count "the Architecture of Happiness" and "Status Anxiety" as amongst my favourites. I enjoyed this one, but more for the journey than than the destination. It is written with ADB's usual, highly engaging, style and includes the kind of the insights and witticisms that I've come to expect from him. As such, it never fell short of being an interesting read and I would encourage everyone to read it.

At the same time, though, in some ways it left me feeling as unfulfilled as many of lives that he describes. (Perhaps that's the point?) The sorrows outweigh heavily the pleasures, although that's no doubt more a reflection of the subject matter than the author. My main disappointment was the lack of analysis. The book's conclusions seem to be that:

(i) the mundane, absurdly specialised and trivial things we do are no different from what we always did insofar as they provide us with the material means to survive; and
(ii) if we didn't occupy ourselves with work, we'd have bigger things to worry about, namely the onmipresence of death and the pointlessness of our existence.

I agree with Alain on both counts, but was hoping for much more. The other small disappointments for me were the fact that ADB seems not to have been able to resist the temptation to scorn some of his subjects and also his obvious detachment from the world he was describing. Both of these issues caused me to ask myself for the first time quite who is ADB? My extensive research (i.e. a quick look at Wikipedia) tells me that ADB is fortunate enough to have a substantial family legacy waiting in the wings should he need it and that has slightly coloured my view of this book as a whole.

On the whole though, another enjoyable and thought-provoking read. Keep up the good work Alain...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Observations on society, 16 July 2010
In the Pleasures and Sorrows of work Alain de Botton gives us his insights into a number of jobs. He spent considerable time immersing himself in each and has had access to a multitude of areas within each one - for example following a tuna from being caught in the Maldives to served up on a dinner plate in the UK. From this he has stood back and given a typically Bottonesque view about the occupations, free from the day-to-day involvement that often dissuades such examination, providing insightful observations on the nobility or futility of the cause. Mostly it comes across as futility. There is a good amount of humour - well I found a lot of it quite funny - often at the expense of people involved. Any signs of self-importance are exposed and cut down to size.

Examining several different occupations provides a rich insight into many areas of life illuminating one into operations and practices previously unaware of or unaware of their full extent, subtleties and integration into the whole of society. Each on its own causes the reader to pause for thought and reflect. As a collection the message is less coherent than some of his other books, but none the less well worth a read. A notable point is the inclusion of a copious numbers of photographs; - he teamed up with a photographer to produce and almost photo-journalistic essay. These are a welcome inclusion though I wish the reproduction of the photos was of a higher standard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read, 4 Jun 2010
By 
Alison "Kindle Allie" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book and I particularly liked the photography and text combination. Neither element would be as good without the other. I really enjoyed Alain de Botton's perceptive approach and how he sees the absurd detail as well as the deeper meaning. There are plenty of amusing parts in the book and so it is an enjoyable read. I don't tend to read philosophy but de Botton's approach is accessible and interesting.

Alain takes a case study approach that gives specific insights to those cases and also generic considerations about work. Each section is very different and each makes for compelling reading in it's own way. The book also gives much more than just a look at our working lives, it is also a discussion of modern life and it's reliance upon globally fragmented skills and knowledge. I felt that the book was balanced a little more towards the pleasures of life with a little of a lament about things lost in the modernity of our culture. I finished it with a positive feeling but it certainly gives a lot of food for thought.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More of the Same, 12 July 2009
With all due respect to Alain I have found that if you read one book by him then you have basically read them all. I thoroughly enjoyed Art of Travel, I then read Status Anxiety and felt the style of writing was very much the same through breaking up the issue into component parts, analysing these parts with or without real life examples which allows the reader to then draw upon his/her own experiences to conclude.

I really wanted something more from this book to demonstrate that Alain is not a 'one trick pony' but it failed to deliver quite comprehensively and I really wish Alain, as an intelligent writer, would address this.

If this is your first purchase by Alain then go for it, if not then I feel you may be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Work put in perspective., 8 May 2009
By 
Peter Holdsworth (France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As always with books by Alain de Botton, this book was extremely readable (in fact, it is not such a long book as it might look, because there are a lot of photographs, and he does describe the book as a photographic essay). It is full of interesting insights into work, and how important and unimportant it is in our lives. Very relevant for those of us who don't earn zillions of dollars and who want to find justification, pleasure, and status in work beyond the need to bring in an income.

One extremely small tick which is that the author describes a visit to an airfield for derelict planes as spontaneous, a result of his own ineptitude, so it must have been quite a coincidence that he had the photographer along with him.

Nevertheless, an excellent book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another great book from De Botton, 20 May 2009
By 
I. Holder (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
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I did not enjoy this as much as his other books I have read [all except "The Architecture of Happiness" which I need to get asap], but this is still an immensely enjoyable and thought-provoking book. Alain de Botton has travelled the world in examining various occupations first-hand, and the result is an intriguing and fascinating look at not only the jobs people do [increasingly becoming specialised as we divide labour] and the effect this may have on one's view and value of their work, but also the environments they work in.
It may need another re-read for me to gain, and perhaps appreciate, more; but given I read and re-read Alain de Botton's books regularly, a re-read is a given anyway.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Through the round window with Alain, 8 May 2009
By 
P. J. Stack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Work occupies an awful lot of out waking hours, but it has not been a preoccupation of philosophers in the same way that morals or politics have. So publications by philosophers that are unequivocally concerned with work are to be welcomed by any student of the workplace.

De Botton's book comes hot on the heels of Lars Svendsen's 'Work';Work (Art of Living) their approaches are, however very different. Where Svendsen looks for the meaning in work by using a blend of scholarship and personal experience, de Botton, by contrast, takes us on a tourist's journey through modern industry to get at work's philosophical significance. To help our journey along the book is punctuated by photographs. The use of which, along with the very descriptive language (similes come thick and fast), has the feeling of being taken through the `round window' to observe the hitherto hidden production of some everyday product.

The journey is an enjoyable one and some of the characters and situations encountered are charming. The transmission engineer who spends his spare time walking the routes of high voltage cables and extolling the aesthetic virtues of pylons is the sort of enthusiast one can't help but secretly admire, as is the painter who repeatedly paints the same tree. Their experiences are clearly pleasure. Others promote feelings of pathos. There is the chairman of an accountancy firm who, like so many captains of industry, communicates by using a, self reassuring, business related cousin of the English language and the lawyer still looking for her calling; a notion that torments many of our work lives. These are the sorrows.

When de Botton offers insight over description, like Svendsen, meaning is the matter that concerns him. The efficiency of the division of labour is juxtaposed with the innate desire to produce `delight or reduce suffering in others.' Even the frivolous activity of marketing has its benefits in sustaining employment. Marketing is then meaningful in that it is a heroic battle for survival.

Unlike for Svendsen, discontent is not the main outcome of modern work. An unrealistic striving for success does pervade our minds (entrepreneurs characterize this struggle), but work serves another need. The waste of the spirit is a danger, but the benefit of filling an innate need for activity and escape are work's real meaning.

Work provides a narrative through which we can live without the complications and diverse possibilities of life. Options are reduced to a mere handful of choices; the accountants of chapter eight personify this `peace with oblivion'. It is a choice accepted by any number of workers who willingly become absorbed in the moment of their work. The long-term, unconsidered, outcome of their efforts is likely to be the same as the Ozymandias like ruins of aircraft described in the final chapter: their work over, their purpose served, their significance slowing fading away in the desert.

This book has the feeling of travel writing, but the philosophical insights are there and delivered pleasurably. If work puzzles you read it. If work really puzzles you read it in tandem with Lars Svendsen's book. You'll almost certainly still be puzzled at the way we spend our days, but at least you will have viewed all the activity from a few more angles.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gain an insight into why you love or hate your job!, 19 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Paperback)
This is a great book, well written and thoughtful. Alain raises points that have certainly gone through my mind at various times. What I found good about Alain's book is that he manages to take all of these points, discuss them, bond them and cohere them into a meaningful observation on modern day working life. It is compelling reading if you work for a large organisation.

I should explain maybe that I'm a professional engineer, so maybe see some of his points from a different perspective to other potential readers. I've lent the book to my dad now (retired, used to work as a finance auditor for the Council) and he's reading it avidly too - and he NEVER reads books!

Hope this review is useful to you.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing, signifying not so much, 28 Sep 2009
By 
SH_ (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This guy is such a brilliant writer that he's convinced himself that he is profound and he can sustain that delusion by playing with words, insinuating concepts, startling you with interpretations and generally massaging your mind. Don't get me wrong: I love this book and I enjoy watching someone showing off, but profoundly about work it is not, not even scratching the surface. It's just a few brief anecdotes assembled in a very short book with lousy pictures and a nice book design. They would be great anecdotes for the dinner table but as a serious crack at the "meaning" of anything they are no more worthy than some clever small-talk. Yet he writes beautifully, too beautifully... With a skill like that, which makes anything comparable seem pedestrian, you can just about say what you want and get away with it. He is seduced by his own verbal alacrity, in fact.
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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 25 Mar 2010)
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