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The News: A User's Manual (Vintage International) Kindle Edition

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Length: 272 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

To check on the news via paper or myriad electronic devices is “to raise a shell to our ears and to be overpowered by the roar of humanity,” asserts philosopher de Botton. Exploring the media conceit that it brings its readers, listeners, viewers only the facts, de Botton argues that what we need is the truth, something more nuanced than the facts. To make his point, he offers a collage of headlines and news items from various sources and ponders how they fit into the grander scheme of the human condition. His quirky collection touches on economics, geopolitics, violence, celebrities, and disasters. Short and pithy essays drill down beneath the news item to the general absurdity of life and observations of how the media is constantly feeding us information without real context. Interspersed throughout are references to art, literature, and culture and their more enduring messages in contrast to the impression left by the news of a desperate lack of humanity. This is a thought-provoking look at the impact of news on culture and individuals. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“Short and pithy essays drill down beneath the news item to the general absurdity of life and observations of how the media is constantly feeding us information without real context. Interspersed throughout are references to art, literature, and culture and their more enduring messages in contrast to the impression left by the news of a desperate lack of humanity. This is a thought-provoking look at the impact of news on culture and individuals.” —Vanessa Bush, Booklist

“Known for his wide-ranging curiosity and penchant for philosophical musing, the author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, Religion for Atheists, and The Art of Travel has turned his attention to the news. This branch of the media that incorporates everything from war to celebrities getting pizza is almost omnipresent in our lives, and de Botton here examines how that affects us and how much longer the news can get bigger.” —The Millions, Most Anticipated: The Great 2014 Book Preview

“de Botton examines excerpts of contemporary news, mixing them with philosophical observations about the impact the news has on us, why we rely on it so heavily, and how it impacts the way in which we see the world.” —Huffington Post

Product Details

  • File Size: 2123 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 11, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 11, 2014
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EMX9Q4W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,971 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Alain is the author of seven non-fiction books that look at the great questions of ordinary life - love, friendship, work, travel, home - in a way that is intellectually rigorous, therapeutic, amusing and always highly readable. His goal is to bring ideas back to where they belong: at the center of our lives.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Smith on February 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The News: A User's Manual provides us with a fresh look at a familiar topic. Most of us consume quantities of news without ever asking why and what for. Such unreflected practice is likely to harbor surprises. de Botton takes the various topics of mainstream news and dissects them for us, showing us why we are right to find them fascinating, pointing out how their current manifestations may hide unseen dangers, and suggesting ways in which media organizations could forge a more constructive path.

His analysis is sharp and his idealism is realistic (that's not a contradiction in terms!). "The news" possesses an enormous influence over how we see our communities, how we see ourselves, and what we believe is possible. Right now, the news is doing a terrible job on all counts. That needn't be the case. de Botton shows us what is broken and gives us inspiration to imagine a media ecosystem that allows each of us to lead better lives. Let's hope a few brave souls take these ideas to heart.

(Disclaimer: I've read most of Alain de Botton's work. I'm inclined to think he's a helpful guide to navigating contemporary dilemmas.)
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By W. Tuohy on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To date other Amazon reviewers have given either five-stars or one-star ratings. In my opinion tHis book is neither great nor awful. It offers stimulating and timely comments about the news media, but fails (e.g.) to differentiate among sectors of the population with diverse intellectual capabilities, needs, and tastes. There is less than hoped for depth to the author's thinking. Often his policy prescriptions are shaped by a relatively (too) simple interpretation of human nature and its needs. In sum, two stars for depth of analysis, but more credit for selection/importance of the topics and writing style (fun to read). Major chapter headings are: politics, world news, economics, celebrity, disaster, and consumption.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Montana Skyline on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I own and have enjoyed most of De Botton's books, and generally find his slant on diverse subjects if not always original, nevertheless fresh and thought-provoking. I usually also find his discursive style and phrasing simply fun to read. So, I am sorry to rate this effort as "okay"...and to suspect that I am being generous. It is evident from some comments that other readers found the book much richer and more entertaining than I did, but I could only recommend this to De Botton devotees, and then with caveats.

It is a stretch to say that this book has anything new to say about what "news" is or how it is presented. In fairness, De Botton's idea of news goes well beyond what we typically mean when we refer to journalism, whether written or broadcast. But even allowing for less-than-useful digressions, it is difficult to imagine many readers will better prepared to understand, benefit from or even critique the news: In short, hardly a "users manual." It is striking that some sections barely manage to include a few sentences about news reporting, almost as an afterthought --- rather as though a helpful editor said: "Say, shouldn't this section make some reference to news?"

When he focuses, De Botton's principle argument is that the news should be developed and conveyed rather more like art generally and literature in particular. This prompts him offer such advice as the need for "creative writers" of news to "understand that falsifications may occasionally need to be committed in the service of a goal higher still than accuracy: the hope of getting important ideas and images across to their impatient and distracted audiences....perhaps by adapting a fact, eliminating a point, compressing a quote or changing a date.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Byron on February 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"We are never really taught how to make sense of the torrent of news we face every day, but this has a huge impact on our sense of what matters and of how we should lead our lives…" This smart, edifying and beautifully written "what now?" little book brings fresh perspective to our love-hate relationships with the daily torrent of news and what our 24/7 access to it is "doing to our minds," communities, politics, economics, etc. De Botton offers real life examples and actionable "help with what the news is doing to us: with the envy and the terror, with the excitement and the frustration; with all that we've been told and yet occasionally suspect we may be better off never having learned." "The great goal of the Enlightenment has been achieved: the average citizen now has near-instantaneous access to information about events in every nation on earth. But we've also been forced to something rather more surprising: no one is particularly interested... The condition actually afflicting audiences differs slightly from the one diagnosed by the news establishment: they are in truth suffering not so much from ignorance as from indifference."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. Hartness VINE VOICE on May 1, 2014
Format: Audible Audio Edition
A considerable portion of modern society is affected by, or certainly seen through the lens of what many would call “the news”. Outlets and platforms for this portion of our culture are found almost everywhere, distributed through print, radio, television and the ubiquitous internet, covering issues ranging from politics and natural disasters, to box-office totals and the latest reality television star. Depending on who is doing the reporting, consumers of the news may see these issues in varying lights. Outlets frequently have the power to determine what news will be deemed "important", how that news will be presented, and to what extent the issues will be examined. Many individuals’ perceptions of the world around them are influenced by the messages they receive in the television programs they enjoy and the websites they frequent. Ideally all news organizations would have society’s best interests at heart when examining the world around us, but that is not always the case. More often than not, there are underlying agendas at play, whether it be the desire to put forth a particular political viewpoint, or the need to score ratings points in order to turn a tidy profit.

Alain de Botton examines these and many related topics in his latest work, The News: A User’s Manual. This compact volume, presented in a type of outline style covers virtually every angle in examining how the news affects our culture. De Botton offers his view of the ideal methods that organizations and individuals should employ as issues are presented to the world. His themes include politics, world news, economics, celebrity, disaster and consumption. While many of these concepts might seem to be weighty, heady material, de Botton presents all of them in a manner that I found quite compelling.
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