The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work: Reviews

Nick Rennison in the Sunday Times, 29 March 2009

When does a job feel meaningful and why? In pursuit of answers to such questions, Alain de Botton investigates the mysterious processes involved in biscuit production, accompanies a landscape artist into an East Anglian wheatfield, attends a convention for would-be entrepreneurs where the ideas flying around range from the improbable to the outright deranged, and traces the journey of a fish from its capture in the Indian Ocean to its appearance as tuna steak on a supermarket shelf. In the past, de Botton’s books have sometimes seemed to lay claim to greater wisdom and profundity than they actually possess, but the workplace as subject matter brings out the best in his writing. His concluding speculations about the value of work – that it serves to distract us from thoughts of mortality – may not be particularly cheering (or even particularly persuasive), but his wit and powers of ironic observation are on display throughout what is a stylish and original book.

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