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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by [de Botton, Alain]
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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Length: 338 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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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

Review

De Botton's wit and powers of ironic observation are on display throughout what is a stylish and original book. The workplace brings out the best in his writing (Sunday Times)

Timely, wonderfully readable. De Botton has pretty much got to the bottom of the subject (Spectator)

Terribly funny, touches us all (Mail on Sunday)

Brilliant, enormously engaging (Guardian)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 91374 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0771026188
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9BE4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #173,143 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

Top customer reviews

Format: 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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By DJJ on 3 Jan. 2011
Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alain de Botton has decided to take up an extremelly large and daunting project - nothing less than attempting to assign meaning to the daily grind faced by the modern worker. Despite failing to do this (I don't think any philosopher, living or dead, can lay claim to this impossible feat) the book is not without worth.

What I personally enjoyed was being given a detailed and often photographic insight into a myriad of professions, whose workings I never could have pictured. It was very interesting to be told the story of the painter, who had spent years and years painting the same tree; there are certainly some inspiring stories of human endeavour and self-sacrifice to be had. If you read the free extract on amazon, you cannot help being drawn in by de Botton's beautiful and observent writing style - I found myself touched when he comments on the lack of interest between two workers in their exchage at the shipping port; why do we so often miss out on so much potential information through a habitual lack of interest?

After having said what I enjoyed about the book, I am finding it difficult to state in words why I cannot rate it higher than three stars. Perhaps I expected something different, more concrete (I myself am just starting out on the career ladder.) I wanted to gain something from this book that I don't think it can offer; it functions more as a work of creative writing than a guide to the world of work. Maybe it is because of his style; de Botton can embellish even the most boring and mundane subject. This is a book that requires much engagement on a personal level and, for me, his philosophical failure tarnishes the whole experience.

The Art of Travel I found to be much more stimulating
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