Book Club: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Book: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton (2010).

Ever wondered about the exciting world of biscuits? Me neither, but we don’t often think of the research and design, marketing, sales techniques and all round effort put into a simple biscuit but this book explores different occupations and into a large part of our adult lives, namely work. If we do indeed spend 1/3 of our lives at work, then understanding such environments is important.  From inspiring jobs to soul-destroying jobs, De Botton explores ten different professions and how they exist in the modern world. The reflection aspect by De Botton, where he makes the reader consider how we ended up in our professions, often stemming back from choices made as 16 year olds (our unthinking selves).

Some Points:

  • How products are made, the front end understanding only as technology underneath renders most of us helpless.
  • Specialisation of jobs, it will be a case of what can be automated in the future.
  • Mass production and megafactories moving away from local small-scale production.
  • Globalisation: in the food industry it is possible from source to table across the world in less than 72 hours is such an amazing feat, so when you shop you may never notice seasonal changes in food availability. Don’t even consider relating this to the postal service!
  • Consider all the things we are surrounded by and how they came to be there – any idea?

“The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people get up to all day – and night – to make the frenzied contemporary world function” (De Botton, 2010).



De Botton, A. (2010). The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Emblem Editions. [Goodreads blurb]