Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain…

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Alain De Botton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0412715,353 (3.48)35
Alain De Botton explores the world of offices and factories, convention halls, outdoor installations and transportation routes. He spends time in and around some less familiar work environments and discloses both the sheer strangeness and beauty of the places where people spend their working lives. Along the way, De Botton uncovers some of the most compelling questions that we rarely make time to consider: Why do we do it?… (more)
Title:The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
Authors:Alain De Botton
Info:Pantheon (2009), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton (2009)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 35 mentions

English (25)  Dutch (2)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
In this delightful treatise, de Botton invites us to rethink work, to look at all that surrounds us and how much of it is the product of human thought and build, from the rotors that lie in the furnace to the tuna that travelled around the world to end up as a sandwich in a lunchbox. With humour and insightful observations, de Botton casts a philosopher's eye to all that we don't notice so that we look at the world with fresh, new eyes and a renewed sense of wonder. A wonderful read made easy by the numerous photos that illustrate the words. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Jul 8, 2020 |
Some initial thoughts:

The felicity and clarity of Botton's prose is intoxicating, even as his approach to the topic of work is somewhat scattershot, his subtle wit too often punctuated by maladroit attempts at cleverness, and his distractibility (by pretty women, father figures, etc) and perturbation at times leads him astray.

Botton's selection of details is impeccable, but the frequent photographs and illustrations are never redundant against the text.

While his portraits of various workers seem sincerely empathetic, we mostly are given the author's impressions of how they might view their jobs or lives rather than hearing from the workers directly. While this doesn't purport to be a work of journalism, sometimes de Botton substitutes direct inquiry with speculative musings purely for literary effect. Then again, his focus, while inclusive of workers, has a broader range: that of human desire and human endeavor from a historical and philosophical perspective. This encompasses everything from Aristotelian vs. Protestant conceptions of leisure and industry; pre-modern vs. modern ontologies; subjugation or sublimation of laziness, fear of death, and the libido - just for starters, and all delved in a very accessible manner free from pretension or pedantry.

His observations can be incisive, funny, or expansive, while his admiration, anxiety, or envy all seem readily provoked by the people, situations, and structures he investigates or imagines.

Though they are thematically interdependent, each chapter could function as its own essay. Seen in this manner, his overall conclusion seems less conclusive - his pessimism tempered by contemplation, reverence for skill, and awe of our individual or collective accomplishments as well as our delusions.

Very quotable, engrossing, at times funny, and provocative of thought and conversation... ( )
  augustgarage | Aug 27, 2016 |
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton, is a quirky, interesting perspective on work. Written by the man who is head of the Youtube channel 'The School of Life' who has a very interesting philosophy on life, death, love, family, relationships, work, entertainment, taboo, etc - this book does an interesting job of showcasing a few select employments. Filled throughout with numerous pictures, the book details cargo boats, biscuit factories, tuna fishers, electric and conduit workers, accountants, entrepreneurs, a man who specializes in work therapy/work reassignment, a satellite launch, and aviation. Through the lens of these various fields de Botton describes and details his philosophy on work, on humans, and the way we live, and our infinite struggle with work and death. ( )
  BenKline | Aug 7, 2016 |
It was interesting to have explained some of the differences between current workplaces and previous work places. I struggled a little with de Botton's writing as it felt quite condescending to those who work in non-creative industries. ( )
  brakketh | May 3, 2016 |
In Fates worse than death. An autobiographical collage Kurt Vonnegut wrote that a beginning writer should be on the look out for unusual fields, technology, occupations or cultural niches, which may harbour a treasure trove of unusual vocabulary and usage of language. Alain de Botton is hardly a new writer, but The pleasures and sorrows of work seems to be a typical illustration of Vonnegut's tip.

In The pleasures and sorrows of work De Botton collects 10 essays about a very wide variety of topics: (1) Cargo Ship Spotting, (2) Logistics, (3) Biscuit Manufacture, (4) Career Counselling, (5) Rocket Science, (6) Painting, (7) Transmission Engineering, (8) Accountancy, (9) Entrepreneurship, and (10) Aviation.

One typical problem of this choice, is that few readers of essays may have rather little interest in any of these topics. Another problem is that, while reading, one gets the feeling that these are not essays per se but rather pieces of journalistic work. Then, too, as journalism, they would be a tat too literary. Each of the essays does introduce a wealth of vocabulary and particular language use. Besides, De Botton treats every topic with a broad sweep of elegance and seriousness, oddly juxtaposing literary erudition and matter-of-fact knowlegeability about such plebescite topics.

The pleasures and sorrows of work was published in 2009, and it will come as no surprise that A Week at the Airport was published in the same year. These two works are clearly related, in the choice of topic area, scope and style.

For readers who are interested in mastery of language in ususual areas, or faithful fans of Alain de Botton, The pleasures and sorrows of work may have some appeal. Incidentally, the essays are not a reflection on our own work or the psychology of a working (wo-)man's life. They are rather descriptive features of an odd-ball variety of occupations. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Apr 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
added by gordogan | editBooksa (Jun 24, 2009)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
House-building, measuring, sawing the boards,
Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing, shingle-dressing,
Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and brick-kiln,
Coal mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness, echoes, songs, what meditations...

-- from Walt Whitman, "A Song for Occupations"
for Samuel
First words
Imagine a journey across on the of the great cities of the modern world.
Nevertheless, it was in a worrying state. Much of its exposed piping was rusting in the sea air, and a large cloth had been used to bandage up the base of a cooling tower. It seemed a particular folly that the English had been allowed to involve themselves with fission technology, for what people could be less appropriate to toil in this precise and rule-bound industry, given their instinctive distrust of authority, their love of irony and their aversion to bureaucratic procedure. It was evident that the field should more wisely have been left entirely in the hands of the Teutonic races.
Now I began to see the matter differently: it seemed obvious that no order, however lucrative, would actually render these women available to buyers, so their presence on the stands took on a more poignant and commercially effective dimension. Their real function was to serve as a reminder of the unavailability of beauty to an overwhelmingly male, middle-aged and harried-looking base of customers. The women were goading the men to lay aside all romantic ambitions and to focus instead on their business and technological agendas. Rather than seductresses, they were in truth spurs to sublimation, and symbols of everything that the buyers would be better off if they forgot about in order to concentrate on the thousands of pieces of precisely engineered equipment arranged around the halls.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Alain De Botton explores the world of offices and factories, convention halls, outdoor installations and transportation routes. He spends time in and around some less familiar work environments and discloses both the sheer strangeness and beauty of the places where people spend their working lives. Along the way, De Botton uncovers some of the most compelling questions that we rarely make time to consider: Why do we do it?

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (3.48)
0.5 4
1 3
1.5 1
2 13
2.5 6
3 45
3.5 16
4 77
4.5 4
5 16

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 166,319,067 books! | Top bar: Always visible