11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alain de Botton's new book...
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...
Published on 30 Oct. 2009 by Helena Gee-Hood
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into goings on at Terminal 5
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.
Published on 22 Mar. 2011 by adeej
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem of a book,
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For the price of a bottle of bog standard wine, this charming book will make you
reflect on modern life and see things from a different angle. Not having read any of Alain de Botton's books, I found his low-key, idiosyncratic style much to my liking. Short vignettes of different aspects of daily life in an airport, accompanied by his own thoughts, are presented with a dry humour and often a certain irony - he lets his subjects and observations speak for themselves - and as a result, elicits from the reader the whole gamut of emotions: sadness, shock, amazement, sarcasm, disbelief, etc. And all this from the most unlikely of subjects - an airport! It reminds me of the Court Jester, who in days of old would poke fun at and make jokes at the King's expense (by pretending to be a simpleton and fool he avoided having his head chopped off) which presented a different and may be more balanced view of life to that which the King was accustomed to hearing, surrounded as he was by the insincere flattery and yes-men of his Court. So does Alain de Botton make you question the very existence of your modern life by giving you a different 'take' on something you normally wouldn't give a second thought to.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Airports are more than they seem...,
This was the first book I ever read by Alain De Botton which gives an insight into life at Terminal 5 Heathrow. He dedicates his time to looking at the human condition and how we approach travelling and each other. His perspective reveals a love for travel and experience that I believe could evoke something within all of us. His writing revels in the beauty of metaphors, to tell of the brief encounters he had with people at the terminal and how we all overlook these factors when we board a flight.
For anyone who appreciates a book that delves into philosophy, travel and people.
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 Botton's book, A Week at the Airport.
A Week at the Airport is a short and compact book ("Slender enough to pack in your carry-on", Daily Mail). It can be considered an addendum of sorts of his previous book, The Art of Travel (from which one learns that de Botton is a home bird, really; see my separate review).
I've always liked Alain de Botton's use of illustrations and imagery interspersed with his narratives. In this case, Richard Baker adds wonderful value with his insightful photographs.
A Week at the Airport is just that -- the chief executive of BAA granted the author unrestricted access throughout the world's busiest airport, Heathrow.
"In such lack of constraints, I felt myself to be benefitting from a tradition wherein the wealthy merchant enters into a relationship with an artist fully prepared for him to behave like an outlaw; he does not expect good manners, he knows and is half delighted by the idea that the favoured baboon will smash his crockery."
Thankfully de Botton does behave himself and doesn't offend the airport staff, or perhaps more importantly, the security folk at the Border Agency.
The book is divided into four sections, reflecting the main dimensions of our airport experience -- Approach, Departures, Airside and Arrivals.
I like de Botton's philosophical insights into the otherwise mundane, or at least those aspects of daily life that we usually don't think twice about.
For example, airport hotels. Even with their poetic menus, which de Botton does his best to elevate, an airport hotel is functionary; unlike their countryside siblings, you don't select an airport hotel for its environmental surroundings.
Though there's no harm in trying to appeal to aesthetic beauty. Terminal 5 "wanted to have a go" at replicating the experience of arriving at Jerusalem's elaborate Jaffa Gate, to welcome those who have travelled great distances to the promise and prospect of a new country.
But baggage retrieval and finding your car in the parking lot (or silent taxi transfer) quickly erases such euphoria.
de Botton's strength is inserting the human condition in every aspect of life. Lest you think he doesn't really recommend airport travel, de Botton is an unfailing romantic (and thankfully so). When he describes our human encounters -- in this case with hotel staff, fellow passengers, border control agents, and those we're departing and reuniting with -- de Botton evokes the universality of our existence. At least those of us who have ever experienced airports.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Long Magazine Article,
Firstly, this book is a lovely aesthetic object. It feels really nice in your hands. Its photos are gorgeous. Its language and turn of phrase sublime. It's too small.
I know that size isn't everything but I was just getting into the book when abruptly, it finished.
The concept was fascinating and is examined by the author almost as much as the assignment itself; an airport employs its own resident author to write text about the experience of living in an airport from a unique perspective.
I found the end result both intriguing and almost poetic in its observations and creed. As mentioned above the author does spend quite a long time the introspective element of the project and consequently himself; but the book simply comes alive in your hands with his stories of the other people who go into giving the space that is Heathrow its personality. My personal favourite is his description of the man going on holiday as a solution to all his problems, not realising that he will be bringing all his problems with him, as he himself is going on holiday not some disembodied version of himself.
I recommend this book (unsurprisingly) to be read whilst sitting in the airport itself. The text lends itself to its environment effortlessly. However, it will only kill an hour, so it's probably as well to pack another book to, in case of the inevitable delays.
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric, funny and thought-provoking,
Some reviews have criticised the length of this book, the inclusion of photographs, the brevity of its gestation and its price. Well it was a gift so I have no view on the latter (though it has been noted in another review it's pretty similar to a bottle of wine and at the price currently on Amazon, a cheap one at that).
After 16 years working in and around the airport, I left before T5 was built, so I guess I had a ready-made curiosity. But more than that I thought this stood up as a fine example of something between travelogue and photo-essay. The paring down of the scope made it all the more enlightening as de Botton extemporised from the tiniest vignettes, painting a truly evocative emotional landscape with wit and humanity. Thought after thought, it was as if he were putting my own thoughts into words, just somehow getting there before me.
My only wobble was that the encounter with Willie Walsh clearly took place at Waterside, not T5. I wished de Botton had been a little clearer about this, only referring to it tangentially (making me wonder what else had been glossed).
I haven't read the 'Art of Travel', so I'm looking at this as it stands. I thought it was beautifully paced and the photographs worked extremely well with the text. I'm sure it's not everyone's cup of tea, but a very enjoyable little read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a book!,
I do enjoy reading this but it should be emphasised that this is not a book: rather it is a pamphlet with numerous photos on each page. I was surprised how thin the pamphlet is and how brief each aspect he discusses. I would have thought he would have much more to write about. I agree he does write well. However this is no more than a very quick, light and entertaining hour's read. No more.
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful moment,
I read this little book with great pleasure. Absolutely unpretentious in its aim and content, Alain de Botton very candidly relates his week spent at the terminal 5 Heathrow as 'writer in residence'. Inevitably, A de B. being bent on 'philosophying', it becomes a little more than just trite observations. Meditating on the nature of airports and their transit functions, it is also an occasion to reflect on travels, life and aspirations. I particularly enjoyed Alain's encounter with the various people working at the airport from cleaner to director, and his gentle spying on travellers...It reads quickly but is substantial enough to give you some good food for thoughts, it is lively, engaging and way more interesting than its premise might lead you to believe... Anyone who has travelled and used airports will know the subtle fascination these springboards to adventures possess and will relish finding that someone has spent some time trying to decipher the odd attraction...
4.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Questioning,
In A week at the Airport Alain de Botton reflects on the week he spent as writer in residence of Heathrow Airport. He applies his typically lateral insight into the working of an airport tying his experiences into a diverse range of subjects promoted by the events he saw and the people he interacted with. It is quite a slim volume but within it the reader is called upon to question views about topics not normally associated with airports. If you want a book that will make you pause and think about things in a questioning, non threatening way this is ideal.
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric,
De Botton provides a beautifully atmopsheric snapshot of a week in the life of Heathrow airport's new Terminal 5. His evident love of people and travel shine through as he takes a big picture view of life at the airport and shoots it through with myriad incisive observations of people and things. His thoughtful, reflective, approach and elegant use of language combine to create a satisfying and often thought provoking read.
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Slight,
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This review is from: A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (Kindle Edition)
A bit of a potboiler really. As a frequent flyer, I hoped for more original insights but it felt like Alain de Botton was struggling to find subject matter within the highly artificial constraint of being writer in residence at an airport. The Art of Travel says much the same but much better, as indeed did "Come Fly With Me", the excellent BBC comedy mockumentary about an airport.
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A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (Unabridged) by Alain de Botton