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Publisher's Summary

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 makes 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, clever, and inventive, de Botton's "song for occupations" is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life that is all too often ignored and a book that shines a revealing light on the essential meaning of work in our lives.

©2009 Alain De Botton; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"De Botton's sprightly mix of reportage and rumination expands beyond the workplace to investigate the broader meaning of life." (Publishers Weekly)

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The private work life of a biscuit brand manager

Now I know why I'm mostly bored by the celebrated personalities of film, music and art, much less TV culture, but am inexplicably fascinated by what's found in gargantuan container ships, the private work life of a biscuit brand manager, the origins of the pylons that stretch power lines across our urban and rural landscapes, and on down the list of obscure objects and professions that Alain de Botton contemplates in this essay collection. The reason I get bored -- and I imagine others -- is that celebrity culture sucks way more attention than it merits. As this writer-philosopher demonstrates, our civilization creates and transacts and consumes many splendid things that don't happen to make into a museum or get digitized for posterity, but they and the work required to bring them to life have consequences -- both corrupting our souls and giving life meaning. De Botton's style can be dense and his arguments spiral, but this book is studded with humorous accounts and consistently entertains.

As a riposte to the preceding reviewer, I've also been listening to Audible audiobooks for 10 years and this is the first time that I remember giving five stars.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Greg
  • Lansing, MI, USA
  • 09-01-09

Good, but not my favorite

I love this author, but wasn't wild about this book. He presents some interesting perspectives but without some of the flare I have come to expect. Maybe it was the narrator (not his usual guy) while not bad, also nothing special. Worth the credits... just not awesome.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Jersey City, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 11-25-09

Interesting, but sterile

Botton is eloquent to the point of mastery, but fails to grip the audience by highlighting the human element of the 21st century workforce. Exploring the underrated corners of the global economy, we are treated to interesting anecdotes, but no central thesis. The book provides great fuel for cocktail party chatter, but not a call-to-action I can bring with me back to the office on a day-to-day level.

Could be more aptly entitled "The Hidden Economy", leaving human emotions out entirely.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 07-18-09

very disappointing

While the narration of this book was a delight, I was totally unable to follow what and where De Botton was going...throughout the book.
This is the only book I've listened to at Audible in ten years that I've rated one star.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful

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