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Published on February 2nd, 2014


The News: A User’s Manual by Alain de Botton

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Blurb: Alain de Botton explores our relationship with ‘the news’ in this book full of his trademark wit and wisdom.

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Following on from his bestselling Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton turns now to look at the manic and peculiar positions that ‘the news’ occupies in our lives. We invest it with an authority and importance which used to be the preserve of religion – but what does it do for us?

Mixing current affairs with philosophical reflections, de Botton offers a brilliant illustrated guide to the precautions we should take before venturing anywhere near the news and the ‘noise’ it generates. Witty and global in reach, The News will ensure you’ll never look at reports of a celebrity story or political scandal in quite the same way again.

(Hamish Hamilton, 2014)

Peter Preston, The Observer 

“…De Botton can be infuriating as well as stimulating. He pronounces from a philosopher’s lofty chair. He does nothing you could call probing research. He merely analyses what he sees – and that can be naively obvious… you can’t make the whole journey merely by playing the dissatisfied consumer. You have to turn the mirror the other way and, perhaps, find an editor to examine his latest “reading and noting” survey in which those consumers actually tell him what they read one morning.”

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AN Wilson, The Telegraph 

“This book bears every sign of having been dashed off on a laptop and never read again, either by its author or, if it had one, by its editor … de Botton never addresses one of the most interesting questions about the news: that is, whether the news actually creates the stories it reports. This is clearly true in relation to the lives of celebrities, about whom he seems rather confused.”

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Ian Jack, The Guardian 

“Apart from never quite deciding what news is, De Botton is also remarkably uninterested in who pays for its gathering and transmission, and who defines it. A kind of fluent ignorance is at work that might be innocence in disguise.”

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Archie Bland, The Independent 

“Coming in a tone that carries the dogmatic confidence of the guru, this ignorance cannot help but come across as disdain… The work is not without original insights, but they are undermined by its lack of the most journalistic virtues: precision, economy, and diligence. De Botton may not value them highly, but his book is a sharp reminder of why they continue to be important.”

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Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday 

“‘A perfect news service,’ he says,  ‘…would be guided by a sense of where one should be going, operating with an economic utopia in mind, a community both prosperous and civilised, concerned as much with money as with its proper ends: fulfilment, fairness, generosity, beauty and kindness.’ Well, yes – but then a perfect pair of trousers would walk you to wherever you wanted to go, and a perfect car would be big enough to give all your friends a lift to work, yet small enough to put in your pocket. And the perfect pig could fly. And if it were ever printed, would anyone want to read The Daily de Botton, with its uplifting stories of fulfilment and fairness?

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Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times 

“At times it appears de Botton — a notably elegant essayist — can’t abide the fact that there are no reporters with the perceptions of a Tolstoy and no newspaper photographers with the eye of a Cartier-Bresson. Yet the work of the greatest artists is the result of an almost monastic solitariness. Newspapers are intensely collaborative enterprises, in which compromises between speed and quality are inevitable. They are also commercial enterprises, which — especially in the mass market — is why they will often fail lamentably to meet the high moral and literary standards de Botton demands.”

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David Sexton, London Evening Standard 

“Having formed a dim view of de Botton myself, I hadn’t actually consulted any of his work for a long time. But studying his latest, The News: A User’s Manual, a book beautifully produced by his publisher to look like a prayer book, misleadingly making you think it must be something to treasure, has caused me quite drastically to revise my opinion, downwards.”

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