The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Book - 2009
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Random House, Inc.
We spend most of our waking lives at work–in occupations often chosen by our unthinking younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people wake up to do each day–and night–to make the frenzied contemporary world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around a deliberately eclectic range of occupations, from rocket science to biscuit manufacture, accountancy to art–in search of what make jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying.

Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet? Characteristically lucid, witty and inventive, Alain de Botton’s “song for occupations” is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life which is all too often ignored and a book that shines a revealing light on the essential meaning of work in our lives.

Baker & Taylor
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?

Book News
De Botton is an author of both fiction and non-fiction who has employed a philosophical perspective in this volume to discuss "the joys and perils of the modern workplace." Written for general readers, this volume examines a wide variety of occupations in the fields of art, finance, manufacturing, aviation and science to uncover what makes employment either fulfilling or "soul-destroying." Black-and-white photographs by Richard Baker provide an interesting counterpoint to the text. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2009
ISBN: 9780375424441
Characteristics: 326 p. : ill. ; 21 cm


From the critics

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Jun 06, 2016

More an observation from an outsider than an analysis of work in modern England. De Botton makes some interesting observations but he stays quite removed from his subjects and maybe because of that has a rather depressing view of modern work life. The parts in enjoyed most were the ones that didn't deal with corporate life like the section on painting and the ramble across the English countryside following a power line.

Nov 27, 2015

I agree in part with joshsmith, mundane experiences well some aren't but the melancholy tone throughout - a romantic melancholy no less- drove me nuts.
And the title was misleading. This is TV in a book, PBS even.

Also beware the book is falling apart.

Apr 09, 2011

I found this book extremely cold. It is nicely produced and well written, but the author seems entirely removed from his subject. The title could more accurately have been "The futility of work."

I got as far as his discussion of accounting, which I know a bit about. De Botton fails to capture any of the actual pleasures or frustrations of accounting. His treatment focusses entirely on the vacuity of the public face of accounting. I quit reading at this point.

There are actual pleasures in working. But they escape de Botton.


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Jan 18, 2011

Violence: This title contains Violence.

Jan 18, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

Jan 18, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.


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