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A Week at the Airport Paperback – September 21, 2010
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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
"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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Top customer reviews
With sly humor and a keen sense of observation, de Botton offers up well-written essays whose setting is Heathrow Airport but whose subjects range from classical literature to modern relationships to our quest to satisfy psychological needs through consumerism.
As he has done earlier de Botton pairs his work with well-chosen photographs to enhance the mood and setting. Although this book is short, it's evident that a great deal of effort went into writing it. A certain amount of effort or at least calm attention is required to appreciate its depth, and the reader who offers up the attention this book deserves will not be disappointed.
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.
For anyone who has not yet entered De Botton's philosophical world via his writings, A Week at the Airport is short enough, at a little over 100 pages, and put together so nicely (the author has a skilled and touching turn of phrase, deployed as needed), that it's the perfect gateway into his longer and deeper works.
Assembled as a series of observations by De Botton and anecdotes from the denizens of this odd other place, A Week at the Airport is a pleasant and well worth it short diversion that should be on your reading list. I finished wanting a longer, deeper tale.
I'm giving it 4/5.
I've quoted several passages of this for my upcoming book and whenever I return to those passages I'm always newly impressed by the fluidity and insight in de Bouton's writing.
PS "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is another wonderful book from him, and probably more generally interesting if you don't travel a lot.
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