We spend most of our waking lives at work-in occupations most often chosen by our inexperienced younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our jobs mean to us.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace. Here we see what other people wake up to do each day-and night-to make our frenzied world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around an eclectic range of occupations, from rocket scientist to biscuit manufacturer, from accountant to artist-in search of what makes jobs either soul-destroying or fulfilling.
"What do you do all day?" children often ask their working parents. The activities of all but the most obvious occupations -- butcher, baker, candlestick maker -- can be especially mysterious and abstract, and not just to children. Brand supervision coordinator? Rocket scientist?
The question has spawned numerous books, including Richard Scarry's children's classic What Do People Do All Day? and Studs Terkel's great oral history, Working (1974). In The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Botton explores some of the increasingly specialized fields of the workaday industrialized world -- cargo shipping, snack food product development, accountancy, airplane parts. He laments that most of us are woefully ignorant of, indifferent to, and disconnected from "the manufacture and distribution of our goods" and, indeed, from the machines and processes that facilitate our lives.