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Anyone who’s ever lost sleep over an unreturned phone call or the neighbor’s Lexus had better read Alain de Botton’s irresistibly clear-headed new book, immediately. For in its pages, a master explicator of our civilization and its discontents turns his attention to the insatiable quest for status, a quest that has less to do with material comfort than with love. To demonstrate his thesis, de Botton ranges through Western history and thought from St. Augustine to Andrew Carnegie and Machiavelli to Anthony Robbins.
Whether it’s assessing the class-consciousness of Christianity or the convulsions of consumer capitalism, dueling or home-furnishing, Status Anxiety is infallibly entertaining. And when it examines the virtues of informed misanthropy, art appreciation, or walking a lobster on a leash, it is not only wise but helpful.
“His richest, funniest, most heartfelt work yet, packed with erudition and brimming with an elegant originality of mind. . . . An informative joy to read.” —The Seattle Times
“A smart and amusing inquiry. . . . Thick with social history and as funny as [it is] acute.” —The Boston Globe
“A typically de Bottonesque romp. . . . Full of great. . . literary and philosophical references.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“His insights float on a kind light irony. . . like pixilated Barthes. . . . The pleasures of his prose come from following the play of his mind, the vast erudition, the succinct paraphrases, and vivid, often lyrical physical descriptions.” —Boston Phoenix