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on 13 September 2005
This is a feel-good book for anyone who thinks a bit about society and their place in it. Alain de Boton is like an incredibly well-read and eloquent participant in a discussion taking place in your head, confirming and developing so many thoughts and ideas that you've always had but are unlikely to have had the chance to ever analyse properly.
Importantly, the book steers clear of direct instruction on how you should respond to society, and for me it was the regularly evoked chains of thought that provided the greatest moments of realisation and satisfaction.
Taken at face value and read quickly, this book would still be a very interesting read, but it becomes a truly excellent one when used as an informed launch-pad for your own judgements, thoughts and ideas.
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on 18 March 2004
Having loved Alain De Botton's previous books I approached Satatus Anxiety with some trepidation. Would it live up to it's author's own standards. The answer is a resounding yes. Status Anxiety is as well researched and as witty book as you could read.
In fact Alain de Botton might be the greatest labour saving device since the personal computer. He's read all the books we know we should have, and with a cheeky anecdotal style he makes sense of our lives while leaving the sense of his sources un-diminished. In The Consolations of Philosophy, he digested and explained the great philosophers, giving us an executive summary for coping with our jealousies and the anxiety of being human. Status Anxiety, finds De Botton analysing the ox-coveting curtain-twitcher in all of us. Ours is an age where we spend it like Beckham even if we can't quite earn it, Status Anxiety goes some way to revealing why. Alain de Botton, every home should have one.
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on 3 February 2005
This book is divided into two sections: the first defining the problem the second possible solutions
The first section is a compelling analysis of the human condition and how our (modern) world plays upon our predisposition and fears. The second section, while equally well reasoned took me to where I could see dry land but left me stranded on a sand bar. It offers no new solutions but only the consolations of philosophy politics religion or non-conformity. In short de Botton concedes that we are captive to our often punishing assessment of ourselves as handed to us by society and faced with that, perhaps the best we can do is to change the way we consider that assessment - to change one value system for another more humane.
Having said that, these solutions are solutions and certainly well worth considering, however I suspect that the type of person who buys this book may have covered much of this ground already.
I don't wish to appear negative about a book that I valued and will certainly recommend and it is perhaps to his credit as a scholar, that he is honest enough not to peddle any simple solutions - but - part of me wished he had sold me something and not just set out the stall.

I found the book clear well reasoned well written and understandable. It is also a good read - this was a book that I read in a couple of days. It is obvious that Alain de Botton has an enviable understanding of his subject and it was a pleasure for a lazy reader to be guided through such a wide tapestry of thinkers - I have in the past tried to read some of these authors but have been defeated by their verbiage. All in all a very good read and a valuable tool to make you assess the way you live your life and react to the world and other people
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on 9 January 2006
I enjoyed the TV programme which preceded this book, it was nice to see alternative ideas to the depressing aggressive consumerism which domniates TV presented. The book would serve as a very good introduction to thinking about these alternative ideas, but it is a superficial skim through. It is written in a lively, tongue-in-cheek style which is what gets Alain de Botton comissioned in the first place, but if you want something meatier, go to some of the many writers and artists he quotes liberally from.
The book only deals with status attached to wealth and materialism and ignores the complexities of social status. In the chapter on bohemia, for example, he doesn't address the way that being 'cultured' and part of an artistic community is often itself used as a badge of status to mark superiority. Artists are often perceived as having, or certainly claim to have, a greater sensitivity and insight to the common herd. As an academic I'm sure he knows how many people acquire knowledge and ideas as trophies to lord it over the less well educated. He doesn't explore the hierarchies inherent in these alternative communities, and the ways in which they include and exclude.
It is deceptively easy to make philosophy accessible, and Alain de Botton does an admirable job. This book is great if you are looking for an introduction, but go elsewhere if these ideas are not new to you. Good selection of pictures too - especially the cartoons.
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on 10 June 2004
Status Anxiety puts forward a proposition about society that is genuinely compelling and quite convincing. The book follows a logical structure starting with a discussion of the causes of status anxiety and finishes with some inspiring solutions. The text is generally clear and straightforward, although disappointingly has a tendency at times to ramble into unnecessarily philosophical language - destroying the clarity of thought meticulously built up over several pages.
Stick with it though, and you will find yourself thinking more deeply about what status is and whether it is really worth having.
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on 5 March 2004
Although there are lots of other books by this author this is the first I've read. I hadn't come across the expression status anxiety before, and yet it describes feelings I have definitely had but haven't necessarily been able to articulate.
It's a serious but funny read, which makes difficult things coherent in a style that frequently had me laughing out loud. It's a big subject and the first part of the book outlines the history and causes of status anxiety - covering history, literature and philosophy. I particularly enjoyed the 'cures' in the second half - which include humour, art, bohemia and reflecting on death.
It's helped me to know that other people may share my anxieties and the book has already provoked a revealing conversation with friends over a glass of wine! Thinking about who might come to your funeral also helps sort out priorities with friends, life, work, etc.
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone thinking of buying it.
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on 10 June 2004
I read Anxiety Satus with great pleasure. I have read all of Alain de Botton's books and they just get better and better. While I don't endorse all of his stated opinions, I delight in his style of presentation and the musicality of prose; and this appreciation is heightened by the fact that he presents opinions with which I ocassionally disagree. And then, all the other stuff; historical, philosophical and literary references etc. to seduce the reader. Alain de Botton is a philosopher he communicates simply, ideas that matter.
As a cynic who never understood status and it's pursuit ( or at least the status I was expected to pursue) this book has given me an understanding of what it is all about and so enabled me to adopt a kinder attitude to my husband who is frequently tormented by such concerns. But even more importantly it has made me feel ok about being different - I had for years been feigning interest in my friends' and colleagues' new trophies. They of course atributed to me a share of the love my husband earned with his own generous collection. While I don't intend coming out of the closet just yet - de Botton has made it a possibility for the future.
Read it and see what it does for you.
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on 18 June 2012
Alain de Botton has put together an interesting read (bought for Kindle Touch), and it certainly brings a strong sense of perspective with respect to status in its various forms and social circles. I personally found it to be an easy, witty read, although at times became a little tedious with almost laboured points. The book takes the reader through the anxieties attached to gaining status, and then attempts to remedy these, which it effectively achieves.

HOWEVER. For the kindle BEWARE that the conversion of the book to Kindle is appalling. Literally appalling. Here's a list:

- Probably 90% of the pictures in the book are not in the Kindle version
- All of the pictures are referred to in de Botton's text, not in passing but as keystone to several paragraphs; you absolutely need the pictures.
- There are half pages of text frequently (not missing text, just poor formatting)
- Tables of figures and values are completely skewed, so it's difficult to ascertain which values are appropriate to which columns.

So I had basically paid for a book, and received maybe 90% of a book. I had to get a refund from Amazon (with which I bought Shooting an Elephant - George Orwell's essays; an awesome read), as I would never be able to revisit it and it was useless to keep.

Ultimately, I would certainly recommend it to my friends, but I would definitely avoid the Kindle edition. There are simply too many references to missing pictures.
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on 20 March 2007
I'm usually quite a fan of Alain de Botton's writing but I found this book a little disappointing. De Botton has a consistent style and approach: a light-touched, urbane tour of the great minds, usually in search of resolutions to widespread issues or questions, in this case the causes and potential solutions to status anxiety. It is a pick and mix of philosophy, art and economics: not in such large chunks as to be indigestible and sweetened with wit and amusing examples. Alain is a fine writer: he is economical and precise but not mechanistic and he does good anecdote.

Where this book fell a little flat for me was in two respects. Firstly, it seems that Alain enjoys the diagnosis of status anxiety more than the cure. As an acute sufferer, this was a disappointment to me. The parts of the book that came alive were in the first section where the causes of the condition are examined: this is entertaining and will generate empathetic engagement. Less convincing are the outlines of potential remedies (art, philosophy, religion, etc.), maybe because they don't particularly convince me, but perhaps because de Botton is (understandably) more interested in the microscope being focused upon a dissection of human frailty and failings rather than on their remedy. Perhaps also because this is not a serious engagement with what one assumes is sometimes a serious condition. If you have genuine status anxiety, please do not look here for a cure! Fair enough, Alain is not, nor I imagine would claim to be, a qualified psychologist or psychotherapist. However, it does leave the second half of the book a bit humdrum, lacking in insight and maybe sacrificing content for form. Some nice pictures though. I am particularly pleased to have discovered Thomas Jones through this book.

In general, also, I found the book less imaginative and sparkly than his previous works. I would recommend "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and even his first work "Essays on Love" ahead of "Status Anxiety" if you are seeking some entertaining parlour philosophy. They are more playful and thought-provoking.

Got to hand it to Alain though - he is one well-read guy.
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on 17 March 2004
The beauty of The Art of Travel was the way that de Botton intertwined the travel experiences of characters from the last 3000 years of civilisation with his own, present-day experiences. He uses similar figures from history to illustrate and ease our anxieties about status, but fails to link history to modern-day situations in the same engaging way. Apart from the fact that this makes the narrative rather flat, one is unfortunately left with the impression that perhaps de Botton does not experience these anxieties clearly himself. He comes across as the detached intellectual without a true grasp of the realities of modern life.
Never-the-less, interesting subject matter that made me realise that unless you divorce happiness from status, happiness will be a very elusive state of mind.
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