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A Week at the Airport by Alain De Botton

A Week at the Airport (2009)

by Alain De Botton

Other authors: Richard Baker (Photographer)

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I got really into this book. The format is simple. There are three sections: departures, airside, and arrivals. Each offers its own issues and insight into how an airport operates beyond the short amount of time people usually spend there. There are touching stories of people around for only a fleeting moment. De Botton talks to various people about why they are there, including staff. Some people he just observes and plays the game of trying to guess their circumstances without knowing anything about them. The resulting book is part diary, part philosophical treatise. It made me think.
  Tselja | Oct 21, 2014 |
This is a slight book, enlivened by some excellent reportage-style photography, it doesn't say much and it doesn't go anywhere and was written at the behest of the BAA boss for the new terminal 5 at Heathrow airport. I hope he thinks he got value for money.

That said, it was quite an enjoyable mix of philosophic musings and the life of an airport, of travel. I would think it would actually be the ideal book to pass time waiting at the gate for the plane to be called. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Alain de Botton was invited to spend a week at Heathrow, to observe and interpret the moments of the world's busiest airport. I anticipated a literary behind the scenes tour, but instead was rewarded with a different but ultimately more satisfying collection of reflections on the nature of journeys, anticipation, human foibles, power, economics and shoe-shines.
He reminds us that anything and everything can be interesting, even the mundane things we encounter every day, but no longer really see or notice because they are so familiar. If we look with a traveller's eye, we can once again see the wonders and complexities of our own daily worlds. It's a slim little book, littered with small photos accompanying his observations, and is a fast but satisfying read. ( )
1 vote BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is a light version of his Art of Travel, which is not a bad thing at all. ( )
  rkreish | Mar 31, 2013 |
I agree with readers who found this to be lighter than they had hoped, and also with those who found it sufficiently absorbing. De Botton provides a nicely phrased but ultimately superficial pensée on his week spent in or adjacent to Heathrow. The idea of this project is a good one, though not de Botton's--he was a recipient of the opportunity. There's nothing to dislike about the narrative, and the photos provide a additional medium that is wonderfully atmospheric.

My dirty secret is that I love airports. I regularly kill up to 12 hours at international airports. If I were to be a writer in residence at an airport (and let's be frank: Many of us have spent many days trapped in a single airport), I'd have explored aspects unexamined by de Botton, such as sleeping in the airport (not at the adjacent hotel)--at a gate, in the women's room, behind an unused counter, in a car in the parking garage--, riding a baggage cart on the tarmac, eating foods I never eat, watching rest room traffic, or determining the feasibility of visiting the other terminals, for example. I'd want to evaluate the art, see what long-term menu variety can be constructed at the shops and restaurants, try on clothes, or see how good a haircut and massage I could get. The man is in Heathrow, where I'd assuredly sample as much Scotch as God and nature permitted, perhaps purchased by strategically flying in to Terminal 5 from a trans-border point of origin so I could stock up at the World Duty Free Arrivals Store. If I were lucky they'd have my favorite, Glenmorangie Cellar 13, a 10-year-old special bottling that until recently was only available at duty free and was not exported, and to which I am extremely partial. To sip a wee dram at Heathrow, perhaps accompanied by a "luxury chocolate" from The Chocolate Box while perusing a copy of Jackson's beautifully illustrated [b:Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide|291997|Whiskey The Definitive World Guide|Michael Jackson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173461325s/291997.jpg|283310] (acquired at WH Smith) would be a deep and quiet pleasure with no plane to catch or security queues to endure. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Let me start by saying, on a purely aesthetic note, that De Botton’s books are always graphically interesting and stylistically ahead of the black-and-white pack.
The bizarre idea behind this work is that Alain de Botton would become London’s Heathrow Airport’s first “writer-in-residence,” stationed for an entire week in the new Terminal 5, observing passengers and talking with staff from shoe-shiners to security guards. His observations run the full gamut of the airport experience (he is no PR mouthpiece for Heathrow, as the premise of this book almost hints), from the uncomfortable (awakening at 5:30 am to the sound of descending planes), to the vast (the pure scale of Terminal 5, coupled with the diversity of humanity to walk its corridors), to the materialistic (the reverence for the executive lounge, which reeks of a caste system to me), to the inspiring (groups holding handmade signs to welcome back loved ones from far away).


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alain De Bottonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baker, RichardPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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While punctuality lies at the heart of what we typically understand by a good trip, I have often longed for my plane to be delayed-- so that I might be forced to spend a bit more time at the airport.
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Meditative writings about one of the world's busiest international terminals liken an airport to a microcosm of modern-world themes, feature interviews with travelers and workers and share observations on topics ranging from haiku-like concession menus to the silence on a nighttime runway.… (more)

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