Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop now Learn more

on 11 October 2009
Don't waste you money on this book. At 8.99 it's the most overpriced book (with the possible exception of Lance Black's Terror, but at least that's 400 pages and interesting) I have ever purchased.
Essentially this is a repackaged, stripped-down version of the author's greatly superior 'The Art of Travel'.
De Botton mentions in one of these titles that his books are not on display at the airport and these two books are obviously his publisher's answer to that commercial frustration.
In both books he talks, almost identically, about someone taking 'himself' with him on holiday meaning that worries and physical and psychological weaknesses can never be left behind.
I suspect that the highly erudite author was bored and uninspired at Heathrow and the only faintly interesting moment is when he has a drink with a high class escort at one of the late opening bars.
Half this diminutive tome is taken up with photos of the inside of Terminal 5; how terminally tedious is that!
A Week at the Airport is weak indeed and the author has hit rock 'de bottom' with this pointless attempt to sell you a book before you board the aircraft.
See my review of his 'The Art of Travel' which is much more up to De Botton's normally excellent standard! JP :)
44 Comments| 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 14 January 2014
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.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 15 October 2009
At 112 pages I call this a short story. I also wonder if it's just a 'favour' asked for by Alain's publishers to boost sales of his previous book 'The pleasures and sorrows of work' whilst it's still in Hardback? A bit cynical maybe but take my advice and stick to his earlier work 'The Art of Travel', anything extra to this doesn't add value.
33 Comments| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 8 August 2012
As books on airports and air travel go, Alain de Botton's 'A Week at the Airport' is likely to rank as one of the least conventional. A mixture of existential philosophy, a series of encounters which seem hard to discern as either actual or apocryphal, reflections on a changing world, and the occasional discussion with a member of British Airways staff; this is a book whose target audience seems to be somewhere between travel enthusiasts and downbeat philosophy students. It is a brief work which contains some dazzling insights, yet is inconsistent, littered as it is with endless abstract ruminations (some of which are admittedly more interesting than others), and penned by an author whose snobbery and class prejudices, such as his suggestion that people in first and business class are essentially better individuals than those who fly economy, are as wrongheaded as they are rather offensive.

That said, 'A Week at the Airport', for all its undeniable flaws, has enough positive facets to make it worth reading. De Botton comes up with some superb conclusions, at times, such as his well-wrought contention that though our often troubled minds and lives are something we cannot part with when we fly, there is no service at an airport for existential problems (though the idea of one existing seems both, as he implies, alien, and yet necessary). In terms of comparisons and image, there is no doubt that this is an interesting text. Depictions of Heathrow's architecture, with its nods towards optimism and positive thinking, are excellent; and his linking of his topic to authors, philosophers, artists etc., is something he does with deftness, even if the comparisons are sometimes a touch pretentious. It's hard to say whether I would recommend 'A Week at the Airport', as it is a book which will, with its lengthy abstractions and love of academic reference, certainly divide readers, but if philosophy and flight are both amongst your interests, and you know your Mark Twains from your Milan Kunderas, then this could be the perfect book for you.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 31 January 2012
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.
22 Comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 15 October 2009
Like a lot of de Botton readers, my introduction to his literature was through The Art of Travel so I suppose the yearning for A Week at the Airport to be like an 'AoT 2' may have been a jerk reaction. He usually spends a few years writing his books and from what I've read, Heathrow Diary was put together in a matter of weeks to satisfy his airport owner paymaster so I'm not entirely surprised, nor disappointed, that he might have slipped in a few references that have previously occupied a page of AoT.

I almost forgive him. He seems to relish the whole world of travel and aviation - as do I - what with plenty of mentions in AoT, Pleasures of Work (the last chapter on the death of flying machines) and now Heathrow Airport. He's clearly writing with the nerdy passion of a frustrated plane-spotting writer who's been given a corporate project to dash off before half-term. And here's the crux: It is a BAA-supported book that happens to be available to the rest of us punters, so I think we're quite fortunate to have this book on the open market rather than something that's handed out to shareholders and their WAGS. Despite its corporate-sponsored entity, I notice that the words `climate' and `noise' creep into the text which must have caused a few suits to sniff.

There's lots of classic dB to enjoy and I love the lines: "As every plane took up its position at its assigned gate, a choreographed dance began. A passenger walkway rolled forward and closed its rubber mouth in a hesitant kiss over the front left-hand door." And the encounter with the BA Chairman was hilariously irreverent. The man is having to lay of hundreds of his staff to save the company and he then gets the piss taken out of him by the clowning philosopher.

Lots of people have a go at him for stating the bleedin' obvious (though I like that) but since this is my first review, I'm loathed to say too many harsh truths against him in case he replies to me with the venom spat at that critical blogger recently! This book will join its cousins on my shelf marked `V Enjoyable' though perhaps not on the `Best of ..' but it is every bit worth the measly Fiver if you like reading great observation partnered with witty photography.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 29 June 2011
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 or two, in case of the inevitable delays.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 3 January 2010
I liked this book. It is the third book on Heathrow in my possession. The other two are the Airlife guide to Heathow, essentially a photo-guide to the great place and Jeremy Spake's delightful and homely "Jeremy's Airport", based on his time during the BBC docu-drama "The Airport". It is also my first De Botton book. The author is a philosopher / writer who seems particularly interested in the philosophy of travel. The author was invited to spend a week as "writer in residence" in the new Terminal 5 building during the summer of 2009. The book may be something of a surprise to those who normally buy books about airports / aircraft. We are taken on a journey from arrivals to departures to airside and finally to arrivals. On the way we meet staff and travellers, and learn something of their story. Amongst the people in the book is Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways. Rather than discussing the problems with BA at the time of writing, the author and Mr Walsh discuss aircraft, and this is fantastic. Mr De Botton deserves credit for this. There are plenty of reflections - some sad, some funny, but one does learn something of the operation of one of the World's most well-known airports.

The photography in the book is good. A photograph on each page enhances the text and gives a good rendering of Terminal 5 life. All in all it is a very decent book, although a tad expensive (the reason why I gave it 4 rather than 5 stars). It should please airport / transport buffs, and is interesting enough for the general reader. I will certainly look to read more of Mr De Botton's work.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 2 November 2011
This was never going to be one of those Airport Blockbusters that one buys in WHS to read by the pool.This is a slim volume, probably timed to read nicely between Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle.
I work at an International Airport- not Heathrow- but have spent a bit of time working overtime in Terminal 4.
Therefore I was expecting a inside view of the new Terminal 5, the passengers and the workers, with interesting stories.
Unfortunately, I found this book shallow and disappointing. A week is not enough time to garner a good overview of an Airport and all the characters and situations that arise.
An Airport is a twenty four hour place with the same number of inhabitants as a small city; everyone has a story to tell- sadly not explored in this book. This a waste of a good opportunity.
If you want a good read on what goes on behind the scenes at a busy International Airport- read 'Airport Babylon' or watch 'Come Fly with Me', although that is a spoof comedy programme- it is a lot truer than this book.
Sorry- I thought this book a waste of time.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 13 December 2009
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.
0Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Questions? Get fast answers from reviewers

Please make sure that you've entered a valid question. You can edit your question or post anyway.
Please enter a question.

Customers also viewed these items

Need customer service? Click here

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)