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A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary Paperback – International Edition, September 24, 2009

36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Travel writer de Botton sees the airport as the nexus of all that plagues and fascinates us about modern life: environmental destruction, high technology, constant movement, glittering distractions, consumerist temptations, and social interaction and isolation. Having accepted an invitation from British Airways to spend a week at its home, Terminal 5 of Heathrow, he is given unprecedented access to all the parts of the airport that travelers don’t generally see. So, along with the shopping areas and arrival and departure and baggage-claim areas, he wanders into the huge stations for airplane repairs, the vast storage areas for rejected samples for cabin paraphernalia, the behind-the-scene offices, and the massive food-preparation areas. From a desk announcing his position as writer in residence, de Botton engages in conversations with business travelers, parting lovers, vacationing families, and the myriad workers—stationary and passing through—for whom the airport is workplace. Author of the best-selling The Art of Travel (2002), de Botton is amusing and lyrical in his observations of our modern comings and goings. Photographs add to the allure of this engaging look at air travel. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"Simultaneously poignant and terribly funny . . . De Botton's most imaginative work yet." —"Spectator" "Funny, charming, and slender enough to pack in your carry-on." —"Daily Mail" "Surprising. . . . His observations on airport life are wry and thought-provoking." —"Telegraph" "Shrewd, perceptive and gently ironic." —"Independent" 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd; First Printing edition (September 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683596
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.3 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,239,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Alison on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is my first experience of Alain de Botton's writing and after devouring this book in less than 2 hours (partly due to it's brevity and partly because I enjoyed it so much) I'll be looking to read more of his work.

I'm probably a little unusual in that I love airports and attempt to arrive much earlier than is really necessary so I can get airside as soon as possible and begin to immerse myself in the world of the terminal. I've never been to terminal 5 but the world that de Botton describes could be any large airport terminal; it feels very familiar.

I loved de Botton's perceptive writing and his incisive and insightful look at the lifeblood of the airport. The book is funny, interesting and very engaging. He meets a variety of people and captures their essence in a few short words; impressive observational writing. The photographs by Richard Baker make the book and it wouldn't be as good or feel as complete without them.

This little book is thoroughly enjoyable for the high quality writing and high quality photography. It's one of my favourite books read this year and I'll be getting The Art of Travel soon!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Brian Watkins VINE VOICE on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have long lamented that Mr. De Botton's publishers can't seem motivated enough to provide color illustrations. I would gladly repurchase a new edition of The Architecture of Happiness, among others, if the illustrations could be redone to the quality of those in A Week at the Airport. Now, having established myself as a reader who likes pretty pictures, I will go on record to say that if Mr. De Botton were responsible for a picture-free user's manual of some piece of software in painfully tiny print, I would still purchase it and read it cover to cover.

This man has something worthwhile to say and a piercing intellect with which to say it. The executive who chose him to profile the airport should be promoted. Fine writing is like a journey and as Mr. De Botton has taught us, travel is an art. Obviously the author leaves traces of his biases and interests in any work and reading this work only serves to increase my envy of those travelers who, having encountered the man at the table, were able to engage him in a two-sided conversation.

However, a one-sided conversation with this author quite suffices. Lest your powers of perception be dim, this is a book about an airport--nothing more, nothing less. We need, sometimes, to be reminded of the successes of our culture and the example of a Ghanian family leaving London with a prized new possession sums it up nicely. The airport may contain a posh and comfortable retreat for the wealthy, but as a whole represents the strivings of an entire civilization to explore and do business to the limits of the globe itself.

An airport is an enterprise worth describing and this book does credit to the concept of turning a trained observer loose on what may otherwise escape our attention.

Highest Recommendation
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Helen Gallagher on September 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you've ever imagined where the airport departures timetable might take you, Alain de Botton shares your travel lust. The author was fortunate to receive an assignment to set up a desk at the new Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport for a week, and write about his observations. It is our good fortune to observe his week, and enjoy the unprecedented access he shares with us in "A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary."

His assignment as Writer in Residence gave him full privileges to wander the airport, night and day, and he doesn't miss a thing from security, loneliness, behind-the-scenes workers, and mechanical marvels. de Botton writes with a conversational tone as though he is thinking aloud, as in his other books, and he invites us in to look into the lives of travelers.

I look forward to seeing the airport through de Botton's eyes the next time I pack a bag and travel. And, with great anticipation, I will also await Alain de Botton's next book, wherever the world takes him.

Helen Gallagher Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lindapanzo on September 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I was a kid (in those simpler, less security conscious days), I used to pester any adult I could find to take me to visit the airport. I loved to hang out at the observation deck at O'Hare and watch the planes take off and land and also wander around and watch the people at the airport. I rarely fly now (more car and Amtrak trips) but I would have LOVED the chance to experience what the author of this book did: spend a week at the airport.

In this wonderful little book, the author spent a week wandering around the new terminal at London's Heathrow Airport, talking to passengers and employees alike and observing everything going on. He talks to everyone, from the head of British Airways to someone who cleans the restrooms.

This is a terrific behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of an airport. You might think it sounds dull but it's not that at all.
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Format: Paperback
Years ago, somewhere during my globetrotting twenties, I read The Art of Travel by the philosopher Alain de Botton. “We are inundated with advice on where to travel to,” he writes, “but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or ‘human flourishing.’” Instantly it became a favorite. How could it not, chock-full as it was of nuggets like this?

"If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world."

These days, truth be told, “the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world” don’t sound quite as suffocating as they did then, and whether the book has resonated in quite the same way with those to whom I’ve since loaned my copy, I can’t say. Regardless, I recall my early readings of the book with fond memories.

It was a delight, then, to discover that the author had revisited some of the same themes in a subsequent, book called A Week at the Airport, a slim volume featuring stunning full-color photos by Richard Baker and arranged in four sections: Approach, Departures, Airside, and Arrivals.
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