Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New This Month: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton is, first and foremost, a philosopher. Just a few months shy of his 40th birthday, de Botton is perhaps one of the most important philosophers alive today. Arguably, of course. But then, that’s part of the point of philosophy, is it not? Everything we see isn’t always what it seems and where we look is not necessarily where what is searched for will be found. Things like that. Philosophy is intended to help us not only answer questions, but -- perhaps more importantly -- to help us work up the right answers. It’s a field that is too often ignored or overlooked in our busy world.

Case in point: the word “philosophy” comes up not once in de Botton’s bio for his new book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. He’s called “a bestselling author.” This is, of course, not inaccurate: de Botton’s books sell very, very well. But it is interesting that the word at the core of his work -- the word that drives it, if you will -- has been, as much as possible, struck from conversations about his writing. This can’t be unintentional. For some reason I still can’t comprehend, the word “philosophy” strikes terror into the hearts of many people. And it should not, which is why I belabor it here. Once again. (The first time I did so in this space was in a review of an earlier de Botton work, The Consolations of Philosophy, way back in 2000.)

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is another enjoyable foray into serious thought with a witty, knowledgeable and considerate guide. As much as anything, de Botton is a keen and practiced observer and through his eyes we see what is delightful and horrible and defeating and satisfying about how we put bread on our tables.

More than any of his previous books, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is as much art project as powerful social statement. In many ways, it is a deeply personal book, one that I suspect will be interpreted differently -- personally -- by each reader. As he journeys, de Botton asks and leads us to answer: why do we work? What makes work joyous? Is it meaningful? In the larger picture for our planet, is work worth it?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

No comment yet until my copy arrives!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 7:18:00 AM PDT  

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