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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 September 2008
Philosopher goes to live in statistically average English town for 6 months to find out what 'Englishness'is.

The book has three real problems: First of all, almost all of the stuff that Baggini 'finds out' comes under the general category of The Bleeding Obvious - English people like going down the pub, their not too fussy about food, their generally a little wary of ethnic minorities. etc. You don't need to have studied philosophy to work those things out.

A Second issue is that most of the traits Baggini 'discovers' are not really definitively 'English' - Most of the traits he describes are shared by all Northern European countries and many Americans, etc, so the book to me failed to do what it says on the tin.

Thirdly, and most irritatingly of all for me, as soon as he describes a new universal English trait, he inevitably immiediately explains how he, personally, doesn't himself share it. While you and I are chowing down on baked beans and fish fingers at the local Harvester, like you do, Roberto is eating squid and rocket salad in some bijou bistro. While your drnking 10 pints of lager down the pub whlst watching an Elvis impersonator, Roberto's at home with a Bartok CD and his collection of rare sherries. Apart from making him sound like a ludicrously pretentious southern media ponce, this of course contradicts his own argument - how can you claim something is a universal trait if it doesn't apply to yourself? It's philosophically unsound, mate.
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on 14 August 2016
Fun to read book, expect a sequel to come.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2007
Highly educated philosopher and published author moves north to live cheek by jowl with the common man and write an account of his experiences. Is this 'The Road to Wigan Pier' for the modern age - not really, only those people who have lead the most sheltered of lives will find any revelations in this book.

Baggini's observations of the attitudes and opinions (philosophy?) of the people living in 'Everytown' will be all too depressingly familiar to most readers. And how could it be otherwise, if his chosen subject is those people in or near the middle of the bell shaped curve, then the chances are that that includes you.

His analysis of these observations is entertaining and well written, but offer no real insight. In short, you probably already know everything in this book.

Oh, and the odds of correctly guessing a randomly generated whole number between 1 and 100, inclusive, when you're given 2 guesses is 49/1 not 50/1.
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on 1 October 2011
I thought I would enjoy this book when I started it and it had moments of interesting thinking (the Daily Mail is a working class paper anyone?) but it suffers from several flaws, and ones which expose Baggini as a bit of a lightweight. Firstly he mis-sells his own book, claiming it to be an investigation into the philosophy of the English. This sounded like an interesting book: I would have loved to hear people talk about their attitudes to the meaning of life, death, evil, ethics, happiness and all the other things philosophy has traditionally addressed. Unfortunately that interesting book isn't the one Baggini wrote, even though he claimed to be doing so. Instead he wrote a book about the way of life of the English, that is, how their lives appear to an external observer, and as a consequence it is a rather shallow book in which we discover very little we didn't already know (some English people go to English pubs on holiday!).

Secondly, Baggini takes the view that the English 'philosophy' (read attitudes) have not changed much in several decades. His examples of this are unconvincing however. He points out that girls who sleep around too much are still labelled 'slags' and that people still get married. But he fails to note that no one in their right mind would expect a woman to be a virgin when they marry. Or that marriage is not as permanent as it once was. A related problem is that he does not examine the structural aspect of people's lives. That is, he points out that people use their cars a lot, but he does not comment on the economic structures that have created this tendency, choosing to see it as a 'preference' instead. This is a related issue to that of change because people's lives have changed recently partly in response to changing structural forces. Failing to notice this is serious intellectual shoddiness.

And finally, at the risk of sounding mean, you end up feeling that despite all Baggini's efforts at research, he gets most of his 'data' from four blokes in a pub. I hope his other books have a bit more thought in them than this one.
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on 26 November 2007
I really enjoyed this book and am buying a few copies for folk I know. For a look at what it mens to be English, what it means to be an outsider in England, and who the people of England are, this book does pretty well, and is honest about its limitations. It's also v readable. My wife read it in a couple of sittings. I chewed on it a bit longer and found myself quoting bits of it to various friends and colleagues as i went along. It's the first time i've read something that acknowledges that most people in England don't think the same as the people who run the media, who are mostly based in a small set in the southeast
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on 9 January 2014
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on 27 April 2007
The idea of this book sounded so good I couldn't wait to read it. I was so disappointed. So little in the book about the people in postcode S66 (one of the most typical areas in Britain statistically) which is what I thought it was meant to be about.
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