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Publisher's Summary

This is a book about an almost universal anxiety that is rarely mentioned: an anxiety about what others think of us, about whether we're judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. This is a book about status anxiety. Best-selling author Alain de Botton asks, with lucidity and charm, where our worries about status come from and what, if anything, we can do to surmount them. With the help of philosophers, artists, and writers, he examines the origins of status anxiety before revealing ingenious ways in which people have been able to overcome their worries in the search for happiness. We learn about sandal-less philosophers and topless bohemians, about the benefits of putting skulls on our sideboards, and about looking at ancient ruins. The result is a book that is not only highly entertaining and thought-provoking but genuinely wise and helpful, too.
©2004 Alain de Botton (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A smart and amusing inquiry....Thick with social history and as funny as [it is] acute." (Boston Globe)
"His richest, funniest, most heartfelt work yet, packed with erudition and brimming with an elegant originality of mind....An informative joy to read." (Seattle Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jesse
  • Seattle, CA, USA
  • 02-02-10

A book about one of society's worst diseases

This is a beautifully written and narrated book about how and why much of society is so obsessed with status and why status and material wealth are now widely considered to be the same. I wasn't expecting but welcomed the sociology history lesson(there's quite a bit of it). The author describes himself as secular but I didn't find any notable criticism of religion or Christianity (maybe because I'm secular myself?). Check out the author's 15 minute talk on the TED Talks website for a preview of this book...

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 01-19-11

From the Author of How Proust Can Change Your Life

Alain de Botton offers here a thorough orientation to status anxiety in this volume. The concept is first placed in historical, cultural, and philosophical context. Application to “real world” circumstances follow. This is a well written and thoughtful book. I particularly benefited from his discussion of meritocracy and its emergence in modern society. Listeners interested in the psychological or neurological antecedents of or sources of status anxiety, however, will be disappointed. Listeners looking for insight into how we can improve contemporary life and institutions will be disappointed as well. I was disappointed. Otherwise, the reading of Simon Vance is well done.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jennifer
  • San Francisco, CA, USA
  • 12-27-06

something no one talks about

This is the rare sample of a book which had me engrossed as an audiobook, which I wouldn't have gotten through if it was on paper. Presented as nearly an academic treatise, the book is filled with data and great anecdotes supporting his points. I've been highly recommending it to everyone I know, as it makes you think about the things we strive for every day, and makes you understand why they feel worth so much sacrifice.

But it's not just a thoughtful, serious work -- it also kept me engaged with many amusing stories. I'm going to buy everything else he's written!

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Greg
  • Lansing, MI, USA
  • 08-19-08

If everybody wrote like this I would read more.

I gushed about de Botton in another review, so I'll skip it and just say how good this book is. It's thought provoking, smart, funny, educational... but mostly just a good "listen". It made me re-think that 14kt grill and pinkie ring too - whew!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

So important for the modern, anxious homo sapiens.

Any additional comments?

He's a smart, accessible philosopher - and I feel much, much less anxious after reading this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • United States
  • 03-28-12

Status Quo

After reading about the different social classes, I got one very important thing out of it. As reader of the classics, like All Quiet on the Western Front, Brave New World, the explanation of Jane Austen's writing and how the classic almost always have the same pattern, makes sense..

Totally worth the read. It explains a lot of the status quo.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Second favourite book I've ever read

I've listened through about 4 times. Super insightful, and encouraging to anyone who is knocked down everyday with the bat that is system of materialism and discontent. I also appreciated the acknowledgement of Christian roots in Bohemia (in our often millitantly secular culture). I'll no doubt listen again in 6 months when I need smelling salts to wake me from the hypnosis that is status anxiety.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Philosophical and historical.

This book addresses history of ideas in philosophy and literature more than it does psychology.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • James
  • Chesterton, IN, United States
  • 08-17-18

A succinct overview of a common obsession

In the US as nowhere else, social climbing and social anxiety about about status and "getting ahead" is prominent. Even the dominant religion of Christianity has morphed into the Prosperity Gospel, seeing success and status as rewards for good moral character. The more reminders we have that this hierarchy is arbitrary and not all it's cracked up to be psychologically and emotionally, the better. Botton does us a great service with this nice little book which gives us several alternatives to the current obsession with status.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars

Nice.

Comforting and easy to read. Ordinary pop philosophy. Enjoyed it. Didn't learn anything, or get blown away, but was a pleasant experience.