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Showing 1-10 of 40 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 74 reviews
on March 26, 2016
A great success from modern day philosopher Alain de Botton. I read this book while between jobs, and it was incredibly insightful and thought provoking. It makes its readers ask the question "What am I working for, what is the point of work, what do I enjoy and what don't I enjoy?"

While at times the author's viewpoints seem to be a bit... condescending towards the types of modern work that many of us must endure, and perhaps even *enjoy* (accounting, data entry, and other "non-creative" fields), he does a good job of dissecting the modern day job and its place in our lives.

A great read for anyone trying to search for some meaning in their careers and figure out "why am I doing this every day?"
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on November 25, 2009
The author begins the book with broad observations about the breadth and depth of the logistics of working life, painting a picture of a massive, woven fabric of work that enveloped the planet and with which I was in constant contact whether I realized it or not. I was excited and hopeful that he'd offer more detailed insights on individual patches in that quilt; insights that might help me look at my own working life in a different way. But as the book progressed, I got the impression that de Botton became disillusioned with the topic of his book or the specimens he chose to observe, or both. The tone gradually but steadily darkened from beginning to end, such that I imagine many readers would be left with a sense of sorrow that far outweighed any pleasure they might identify with.

I had never read de Botton prior to this book, and was immediately struck by his writing style. He seems *very* enamored with his own vocabulary, and favors writing in a way that feels lyrical or poetic, even when a thought could--and probably should--be expressed more concisely. As I imagine he might write, "I mused over his elegiac phrasings, helpless to wonder whether innate truths that accompanied his observations were obscured beneath the syntax of their transcription."

Despite this, some passages seemed genuinely insightful and worth highlighting with my Kindle, like, "The brightest minds spend their working lives simplifying or accelerating functions of unreasonable banality," or, "There seemed to be few man-made innovations whose creation had not exacted a disproportionate degree of sacrifice and ingenuity," or, "At two in the morning, I switched on the light and took a formal decision to read until daybreak, so as spitefully to acquaint the wakeful side of me with the full consequences of its insurrection," which made me laugh. But overall, the set of insights I chose to take away from this book were small, and I was left wanting a deeper philosophical study instead of the thematic wanderlust I got.
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on January 8, 2013
One of the best-written books I've ever read. Alain approaches ordinary professions--accounting, engineering, fishing--including the most menial work possible (factory work), with a child's curiosity and a philosopher's depth.

As someone who has complained (almost every single day) at the menial office-work I currently do, his observations about meaning of modern life are entertaining and helpful. Mostly, I've just enjoyed what he's written; but I also feel like I've gained a more clear idea of how the modern consumer world works and what my place is within it.

That others in this machine of modern economics are also reading this book--thinking about why they do what they do and what it all means--gives me more optimism about humanity in general; there are more thoughtful people out there like me, reading this book on their lunch breaks and thinking about the meaning of work, that unfortunate thing that steals a third of our lives and half of our conversations.
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on May 8, 2016
This was one of the most pleasurable books I have read in the past several years. The author uses prose in profoundly interesting ways to illumine some of the underlying motivations and circumstances of the modern worker by giving 10 case studies of various occupations. His choice of format presents a high risk of banal overgeneralization, but he avoids this and each of the profiles is humorous and unsettling, casting light on some of the most fundamental questions we face (or choose not to face).
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on August 5, 2009
Most of us work for money. That fact was glossed over in this book which instead focused more on the actual work through vignettes of various jobs. Each one captures something unique about the kind of jobs that exist, the people that do them, and how the work contributes (or doesn't) to the world. The book could be a little depressing and the tone mocking at times but nevertheless, I recommend it. It will make you think about the work you do and how it fits into the bigger picture. I wish the author had omitted the summary at the end - something like: work is good because even if it is meaningless, busy work, it keeps us out of trouble and keeps us from thinking about death. That conclusion did not do justice to the words and stories that preceded it. Better to draw your own conclusions.

This guy can write! I kept calling people over and telling them to read this or that sentence - amazing sentences packed with great word choice, meaning, and humor. For example, with respect to tuna killing: "The mallet strikes again. There is a dull sound, that of densely packed brain and experience, shattering inside a tight bony cage, triggering the thought that we too are never more than one hard slam away from a definitive end to our carefully arranged ideas and copious involvement with ourselves." Good, right? Read it. Savor the unique stories of people killing tunas, painting, inventing, accounting, etc. Enjoy the beautiful photos. Some of the stories and images will stay with me, as I ponder the world of work.
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on May 3, 2012
Putting it simply: this book is wonderful.

de Botton analyzes many aspects of life that are normal regarded as baseless and gifts us with insight that will resonate through your mind for days.

The stories are skillfully written and will certainly keep you reading.

This is a book that will enrich your life and allow you to see beauty in the ordinary. It will also connect you with the rest of humanity.
The book makes a good case that we are all driven by basic needs and that modern society is making it hard for us to live with ourselves.

I would recommend it to anyone.
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on July 28, 2010
The author achieves a great description of work by describing several professions in a wide array of fields, from Accounting to Artistic painting.
Similar to how a costumary painter renders a particular situation, the author goes by describing in detail the activities engaged and the feelings in play by particular individuals in their respective field.
From time to time, De Boton pauses to drill into the inner motivations and feelings of the individuals whose work is being described, with mastery depth and reflection.
What is the main driver that makes us wake up everyday of our lives and perform a series of rutinary minor tasks chained along the day? The author hints to work being a ticket that rides us along our adult lives.
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on April 24, 2011
This was my first Alain deBotton book. It fit well enough to make me hungry for more, so I got the Proust book as well.

Next up I am going for the architecture one. As a senior emeritus I would have desired to have this book under my belt

at a much earlier age but so it goes. Now I am confident of my daily undertakings and my song is upbeat; thanks Alain.

I would like to plug here that I came across a short by Alain in Lewis Lapham's Quarterly "Lines Of Work", which I very highly

also commend to you, dear reader. [...]
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on June 22, 2014
I am a fan of Alain de Botton and particularly enjoyed "The Consolation of Philosophy". In "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" I loved his insight into our attempts to create meaning, especially in areas of life where we seem to be simply a cog in a machine. I enjoyed the diversity of these stories of working lives and the way Alain de Botton immerses himself as far as possible in the experiences of others.It provoked reflection on my own working life and its significance orinsignificance. Ultimately the book left me feeling rather sad perhaps because of the grim picture of globalisation and the monster of capitalism portrayed through these personal stories.
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on July 1, 2013
I enjoyed reading this book for its clear writing. But it left me feeling sad for Botton whose image of work in the end seems to be a variation on the theme of despair. It would have been interesting to see what he would make of his own craft: is writing popular philosophy from an atheistic perspective ultimately as vacuous as that of the work he elegantly describes as little more than a distraction from death and oblivion?
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