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The bestselling author of The Architecture of Happiness and The Art of Travel spends a week at an airport in a wittily intriguing meditation on the "non-place" that he believes is the centre of our civilization.In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton was invited by the owners of Heathrow airport to become their first ever writer-in-residence. Given unprecedented, unrestricted access to wander around one of the world's busiest airports, he met travellers from all over the globe, and spoke with everyone from baggage handlers to pilots, and senior executives to the airport chaplain. Based on these conversations he has produced this extraordinary meditation on the nature of travel, work, relationships, and our daily lives. Working with the renowned documentary photographer Richard Baker, he explores the magical and the mundane, and the interactions of travellers and workers all over this familiar but mysterious "non-place," which by definition we are eager to leave. Taking the reader through departures, "air-side," and the arrivals hall, de Botton shows with his usual combination of wit and wisdom that spending time in an airport can be more revealing than we might think.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780771026287
List price: $18.99
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This is a slight book, enlivened by some excellent reportage-style photography, it doesn't say much and it doesn't go anywhere and was written at the behest of the BAA boss for the new terminal 5 at Heathrow airport. I hope he thinks he got value for money.

That said, it was quite an enjoyable mix of philosophic musings and the life of an airport, of travel. I would think it would actually be the ideal book to pass time waiting at the gate for the plane to be called.more
De Botton was asked to be a writer-in-residence for a week at a brand new terminal at Heathrow. He and a photographer showed various facets of the airport experience: the airport hotel stay, the different workers, what happens to your luggage inside the terminal after you give it over, where the airline food comes from, people leaving each other, people meeting each other - and he gets just enough details to be interesting without becoming mundane. I would say it's a collection of airport essays, but there's a sequence and cohesiveness to the book that elevates it from a collection of essays.more
The magic of this book is that it reminds me of my most wonderful trips, makes me sentimental for more adventure - including the long expanses of time at airports. I've fond memories of the upgraded Heathrow, and can't wait for my next sojourn.more
Anyone who knows me will tell you I have a borderline unhealthy attraction to airports. Be it a major one, like Heathrow or LAX, or one of the smaller, like Ben-Gurion or (my hometown's) Landvetter, I will be the first one to volunteer to give you a ride or to pick you up. And I will linger for a long time after your plane has taken off or waiting for it to land. I love watching people and luggage and planes and tarmac - just the thought of people traipsing about all over the world makes me giddy. Love it! So, when it comes to Alain de Botton's writing about being hired by BAA to spend a week at Heathrow as their writer-in-residence, I probably cannot be trusted to be an impartial judge (extraordinarily jealous as I am of his all-access pass and his opportunity to walk on 27L, where the inbound aircraft touch down). Although the writing is more philosophical than technical, I really appreciated the behind-the-scenes information and the stories of the travelers and workers that de Botton met. Spending seven days and nights in Terminal 5 and its adjacent hotel, he got to see Heathrow from all angles, those that the rest of us see and those we never will have access to, no matter how much we ask to get a glimpse behind the curtain. His story should invoke severe wanderlust in just about anyone. I only wish it had been a much longer book (it's only 100+ pages), but since it is a commissioned work, de Botton obviously had some restrictions, time- and otherwise.more
I thoroughly enjoyed De Botton's mix of philosophical observation in the context of something as material/physical in our world. Engaging writing at times very humorous and very relevant.more
The author is employed by the owner of Heathrow Airport, given free reign to its new Terminal 5, and encouraged to freely record his observations. He writes about passengers he meets, and expounds upon their lives, loves and past encounters; the airport workers, from the president of British Airways to a restroom attendant; the structure and layout of Terminal 5; and the various and abstracted experiences of being in an airport and flying. Reading this book was an interesting contrast to the Perec book, and what made this a much more interesting read for me was de Botton's personal and philosophical statements and his behind-the-scenes look at the functioning of a modern airport filled with passengers and employees from various lands and different backgrounds.more
This one feels very much like a commissioned book. It isn't at par with the other de Botton books, but it still has some interesting thoughts, sandwiched between ramblings and images of the airport and the people in it. In a way, it feels like an essay that was stretched so it could be published into a book, and also satisfy the patron/sponsor. I'd still recommend the book, but potential readers may just want to borrow it, due to its steep price (there are many images inside which aren't particularly beautiful or striking).more
Not one of his best, but a decent read none-the-less.more
Read all 11 reviews

Reviews

This is a slight book, enlivened by some excellent reportage-style photography, it doesn't say much and it doesn't go anywhere and was written at the behest of the BAA boss for the new terminal 5 at Heathrow airport. I hope he thinks he got value for money.

That said, it was quite an enjoyable mix of philosophic musings and the life of an airport, of travel. I would think it would actually be the ideal book to pass time waiting at the gate for the plane to be called.more
De Botton was asked to be a writer-in-residence for a week at a brand new terminal at Heathrow. He and a photographer showed various facets of the airport experience: the airport hotel stay, the different workers, what happens to your luggage inside the terminal after you give it over, where the airline food comes from, people leaving each other, people meeting each other - and he gets just enough details to be interesting without becoming mundane. I would say it's a collection of airport essays, but there's a sequence and cohesiveness to the book that elevates it from a collection of essays.more
The magic of this book is that it reminds me of my most wonderful trips, makes me sentimental for more adventure - including the long expanses of time at airports. I've fond memories of the upgraded Heathrow, and can't wait for my next sojourn.more
Anyone who knows me will tell you I have a borderline unhealthy attraction to airports. Be it a major one, like Heathrow or LAX, or one of the smaller, like Ben-Gurion or (my hometown's) Landvetter, I will be the first one to volunteer to give you a ride or to pick you up. And I will linger for a long time after your plane has taken off or waiting for it to land. I love watching people and luggage and planes and tarmac - just the thought of people traipsing about all over the world makes me giddy. Love it! So, when it comes to Alain de Botton's writing about being hired by BAA to spend a week at Heathrow as their writer-in-residence, I probably cannot be trusted to be an impartial judge (extraordinarily jealous as I am of his all-access pass and his opportunity to walk on 27L, where the inbound aircraft touch down). Although the writing is more philosophical than technical, I really appreciated the behind-the-scenes information and the stories of the travelers and workers that de Botton met. Spending seven days and nights in Terminal 5 and its adjacent hotel, he got to see Heathrow from all angles, those that the rest of us see and those we never will have access to, no matter how much we ask to get a glimpse behind the curtain. His story should invoke severe wanderlust in just about anyone. I only wish it had been a much longer book (it's only 100+ pages), but since it is a commissioned work, de Botton obviously had some restrictions, time- and otherwise.more
I thoroughly enjoyed De Botton's mix of philosophical observation in the context of something as material/physical in our world. Engaging writing at times very humorous and very relevant.more
The author is employed by the owner of Heathrow Airport, given free reign to its new Terminal 5, and encouraged to freely record his observations. He writes about passengers he meets, and expounds upon their lives, loves and past encounters; the airport workers, from the president of British Airways to a restroom attendant; the structure and layout of Terminal 5; and the various and abstracted experiences of being in an airport and flying. Reading this book was an interesting contrast to the Perec book, and what made this a much more interesting read for me was de Botton's personal and philosophical statements and his behind-the-scenes look at the functioning of a modern airport filled with passengers and employees from various lands and different backgrounds.more
This one feels very much like a commissioned book. It isn't at par with the other de Botton books, but it still has some interesting thoughts, sandwiched between ramblings and images of the airport and the people in it. In a way, it feels like an essay that was stretched so it could be published into a book, and also satisfy the patron/sponsor. I'd still recommend the book, but potential readers may just want to borrow it, due to its steep price (there are many images inside which aren't particularly beautiful or striking).more
Not one of his best, but a decent read none-the-less.more
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