Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Work Book

Alain de Botton’s new book is required reading for the workforce

Published: Jul 8, 2009 09:01:00 AM IST
Updated: Jul 8, 2009 08:22:47 PM IST

Alain De Botton is an intellectual DJ. His books deftly mix philosophy, psychology, art, everyday observations and personal musings with sharp prose to create an end product that is increasingly rare: Entertaining navel-gazing.
He has the knack of finding insights that anyone can relate to, and putting them across in ways that resonate.

His latest, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, seeks to unravel the true importance of work in our lives. Work, he says, along with love, is the principal source of life’s meaning.

Image: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Over two years, Botton reseacrhed and closely analysed 10 different professions (and professionals) from rich and poor countries. The careers he trains his detached yet observant eye upon form an eclectic mix — “normal” choices like accountancy, aviation, entrepreneurship, newer fields like career counseling, unique jobs like biscuit manufacturing and, yes, rocket science — that should appeal to most readers.

He seems to suggest that work, though central to our lives, is often banal and meaningless, it often fails woefully to enrich our lives.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, notwithstanding its somewhat meandering structure and storytelling style, will be a stimulating read for executives rushing up the corporate ladder or pausing on it, wondering where it all leads to.

It will definitely be a far more intelligent accessory than The Alchemist.

(This story appears in the 03 July, 2009 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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