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The News: A User's Manual

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  1,565 Ratings  ·  221 Reviews
The news is everywhere. We can’t stop constantly checking it on our computer screens, but what is this doing to our minds?

We are never really taught how to make sense of the torrent of news we face every day, writes Alain de Botton (author of the best-selling The Architecture of Happiness), but this has a huge impact on our sense of what matters and of how we should lead o
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Pantheon (first published February 2nd 2014)
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Sep 09, 2016 Matthias rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews
When is the last time you heard something new in the news?

Considering all the time spent reading, watching and listening to the news, what did you learn from it? What do you remember? What remains of all this information aside some vague ideas about the economy, the other side of the world, your compatriots?

I was wondering about these questions myself and decided that instead of reading the news, it was time to read about the news.

Alain de Botton, an author relatively unknown to me before my e
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally published at

The basics: The News: A User's Manual is a manifesto for what we should want and demand from news organizations, as well as a critique of their current offerings.

My thoughts: I majored in journalism as an undergraduate, and although I walked away from my desire to ever be a journalist, I still have a deep love for journalism. I spend a lot of time with the news, as a consumer and as a critic. I assumed I was the target audience for this
Rebecca Foster
Poor Alain de Botton gets a lot of stick for his pop philosophy, especially here in the UK. I’ve read most of his books and quite like them (The Art of Travel is probably my favorite), and I admire the work his School of Life does, especially on bibliotherapy. I didn’t get a chance to read this one all the way through because my Edelweiss download expired on publication day, but from skimming it I’d say this is among his weaker works.

The premise, that laymen need help in figuring out how to read
J. Simons
Feb 09, 2014 J. Simons rated it liked it
Alain de Botton is a modern-day philosopher who has tried to make the examination of topics as diverse as Religion, Happiness, Proust and Travel accessible to a wider audience. In his latest book, de Botton tackles the all-pervading concept of The News which he considers to occupy a position of power and influence comparable to that previously held by faith and religion in earlier civilizations.
In this user’s manual, de Botton delves into how the media deals with politics, economics, disasters,
Mar 28, 2014 Kimee rated it liked it
(More to come later at

I'm a huge Alain de Botton fan. I've read 11 of his books. That's why I'm giving this book 3 (really 3.5) stars. De Botton takes the best bits of his previous books and applies them to "The News." The book lacked the original research and observations about the specific, eponymous topic that I love so much in his other work. "The buildings we love reflect qualities we want to see in ourselves," an idea I adore in "The Architecture of Happiness,"
Mary Ronan Drew
Nov 18, 2014 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was amazing
Alain de Botton is again brilliant in The News: A User's Manual. He discusses how politics, economics, and disasters are covered by the media - or rather mis-covered. He encourages more narrative in news and less "objectivity" which he points out is almost nonexistent in today's news which is usually deeply biased. A quote:

"A contemporary dictator wishing to establish power would not need to do anything so obviously sinister as banning the news: he or she would only have to see to it that news o
Jun 10, 2014 Ade rated it it was ok
Started well but I was weary of it and de Botton's seemingly repetitive arguments by the end. "Wouldn't it be great if the news was nicer?" He doesn't really tackle why the news is the way it is, or the influence and culture of large news organisations. Crucially, any personal experience or perspective is lacking in comparison to his better works such as The Art of Travel, which makes this a fairly tedious read over the long haul. Also, I usually enjoy his books because I learn about something n ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Blair rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Took me two days to read and it feels like that's how long it took to write. I thought there might be some material in it that would be useful for school, and there was a bit, but it's very, very slight. I can imagine that journalists would be infuriated by this, as de Botton just doesn't seem to know enough about the media that he thinks needs to be reformed.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Moving from a time and a society in which the news was hoarded by a select few at the top of the social ladder, to the seemingly-sudden abundance of mass-produced newspapers in the mid-19th century, to today's situation in which we are saturated with readily-accessible, constantly updated news 24/7, cannot fail to have its repercussions. And not only because of the constant access, but because of what constitutes 'the news'.

Alain de Botton, populist modern philosopher, here scrutinises six diff
Feb 24, 2014 George rated it really liked it
A fascinating take on the modern news industry, The News: A User's Manual is Alain de Botton's latest success in applying philosophy to every day life in the time in which we now live.

Taking inspiration from the term check the news, the aim for the author is to create 'an exercise in trying to make this ubiquitous and familiar habit seem a lot weirder and rather more hazardous than it does at present.' In this, he succeeds, as he covers almost every theme beloved by the mass media, including pol
Mar 14, 2014 Adriano rated it really liked it
Dear Alain, your most recent work is a cut way above that book you wrote about spending time at the airport (LHR?). In fact, I would recommend your latest as highly entertaining material during a monotonous trans-Atlantic flight. Nice assortment of fascinating excerpts, framed by your usual wit and philosophical insights. I agree with what you said recently, "The news takes us to the edge of something deeply interesting – but then abandons us at the process Aristotle calls catharsis -- that expl ...more
Mar 15, 2014 Jennie rated it liked it
I'd really like to give this three and a half stars if I could.

This book reads like a research paper or essay you might write in school. Tirelessly researched and presented from angles like celebrity and culture, the author has you contemplating how news has changed and want the public deems important.

Newspapers and print media have used manipulation for years via language and placement. Social media has made the broadcast of events immediate and the sharing of these events global.

Quick read if
Martin Waterhouse
Feb 18, 2014 Martin Waterhouse rated it really liked it
As always, after finishing one of Alain de Botton's books, you look up with a fresh perspective on something that had seemed sorted and steady in your mind; the world seems to be a slightly brighter and more interesting place. Here he takes on that multi-headed behemoth, the Media, and slowly dissects it and its relationship with us so that we can better understand its motivations and faults. A very good read, well narrated, though the production (the music, and the constant interruptive ...more
Andre  Aguiar
Jul 04, 2016 Andre Aguiar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alain de Botton (já meu queridinho antes da leitura, pelo canal do youtube que tem) traz não somente reflexões sobre o contexto atual do Jornalismo como também tenta apresentar soluções, alternativas e possibilidades de encarar isso de forma diferente e positiva. Bem recomendado para quem cursa Jornalismo ou se interessa pelo tema.
Paris Karagounis
Feb 19, 2014 Paris Karagounis rated it it was amazing
A great book about the chaos of News in the web era;

Jan 14, 2014 Paul rated it liked it
Here's my review from The List:

In this engaging and thoughtful book, the popular philosopher and co-founder of London’s School of Life, Alain de Botton, turns his attention to the news in its various forms. Specifically, he seeks to question the generally accepted positions of authority held by Western news outlets, and to offer some perspective on the effects of our incessant consumption of news from sources that multiply exponentially every year.

Beginning with the point that news ‘now occupies
Jun 14, 2015 Max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2015, philosophy
This book spent a long time on my shelf waiting to be read, but why? I hardly read or watch any news, why would I want to know how news has its impact on socialization? Well, I don't think that the news is doing its job well, and neither does Alain think so, and it was time to find out if I could develop a better structured opinion.

Alain analyzes different news sections. He starts with politics followed by world news, economics, celebrity, disaster, consumption and ends with a conclusion. In the
Mar 08, 2015 Grace rated it did not like it
Alain I love you but you were trying to be a philosopher, a writer, a psychologist, and a social commentator in this book and it just ends up in disarray.

The author writes beautifully; every time I read a book of his, my brain involuntarily marvelled at how someone could have such an astute mastery of the Queen's english. It's absolutely enjoyable to read a book that's made of beautiful sentences.

But this book, oh, where should I start. Under its seemingly organised structure, the writing is i
Jan 14, 2016 Jeremy rated it liked it
This is a highly flawed book still worth reading.

The author's take on the news is like that of a space alien who doesn't know how the news actually works. In his attempt to diagnose and remedy the failings of the news industry to represent the world appropriately, the author makes no attempt to see why this might be the case from, say, the perspective of someone in the news business.

But then, we have enough people who know how the news "works," and they've written their books, and how much bett
Dissapointing two stars book.

It was just such a simplistic take on the theme. The general theme is, wouldn't it be great if news were not so boring, written like literature, educated the masses on economy, humane in giving celebrity gossip, etc; please add your own idealistic gripe. To which, the only sensible response would be, "well, yes... so?"

Everything were discussed fleetingly, even the caution about news being dictated by advertisement, a crucial subject that I've read partially on Noam C
Desiree Cox
Jan 13, 2016 Desiree Cox rated it really liked it
A few months ago, I quit reading the news. It seemed like I could never recall what I learned from one day to the next, and I decided there must be better used of my time. So I got a butterfly when I happened upon this book in Pegasus. Alain de Botton provides a simple yet eloquent summary of the feelings we experience as we read the news: namely, fear, envy, anger, and a general despondency about the state of things.
By deconstructing the relationship between reader and reporter, he also descri
Jun 06, 2014 Sukanto rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2014
Having heard a lot about his writing, I finally got down to reading a book by Alain de Botton. And I can only say that all the hype surrounding him is justified. As someone who has made production of news his source of income since the last seven years now, it was easier to relate to the text of this book. A very meticulous and superb study of the nature of news as we see today, and how it can be improved. All this purely from the user or consumer's perspective. But offering lessons for the ...more
Jul 08, 2016 Grace rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though I agree that many of de Botton's idea are not pragmatically realizable, I strongly believe that "wishful thinking" is very valuable and can be initially applied on an individualistic basis, if not a societal one.

De Botton is extremely pleasing to read, and one feels invigorated about the outcome of the world and self chapter after chapter. The concept of investment in the mundane culture, larger and smaller perceptions, additional context, and overall rati
Jan 23, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
I would love to Alain de Botton more stars. And I blame myself, because I read this haphazardly and non-continuously.

Here de Botton does what he does best. Make you think (at least if you don't already have a philosophy degree). In echoes of Religion for Atheists he makes a case for the didactic value of news - but for the "big" questions. The news should be presented in ways that cause us to learn, to be humble before the universe, to understand our own mortality.

And I couldn't agree more. So
Aug 24, 2016 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book I don't look at news the same way. It offers insight into the purpose of news, arguing that maintaining wide readership causes news agencies to necessarily cherrypick the juiciest stories that appeal to the widest audiences. This, of course skews how we as individuals come to perceive the world- we, in many areas, have created a false reality. The author proposes very sensible ways that news could be recast so as to better service the needs of humanity. Sounds very ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Vicky rated it it was ok
I was not impressed by The News the same way as by de Bottons’ other titles. His analysis of the news and newspapers is very predictable. Practically many of us are on the same page, but there were no new insights or revelations. Yes, we are surrounded by news that superficial, sensational and very often misleading. Yes, we are addicted to gossips, consumerism and envy from the news. With new technology it is easy to drown in the endless ocean of news. The problem is where to stop, whom to ...more
Jaqui Lane
Jan 30, 2016 Jaqui Lane rated it really liked it
As always, Alain takes the reader on a wide and thought-provoking journey. This time its about the news we receive and what's actually being presented. It's not really's a commercial company's perspective on events that are happening, more often than not with little connection.
He traverses all types of the 'news'. Disaster, happenstance, celebrity, politics...consumption, always with a unique and insightful perspective.
Once I finished it, I immediately re-read it as I knew I missed so m
Dec 12, 2014 Jenny rated it it was ok
interesting topic, but shallow. i felt like large portions were unexplored, and the book, merely a compilation of observations. some observations were interesting, but not enough to hold the book together. the first half was definitely better than the latter part (The chapter on Consumption was the worst, the ones on Politics and on World News, the best). nonetheless, i don't regret reading this, as it urges us to think more about the news we consume everyday, and how it might be better ...more
May 18, 2014 Tarik rated it liked it
I think some of the lower scores for this book stem from his writing style. He sometimes begins with more obvious observations, which make the deeper insights he gives afterward, seem a little less meaningful.

I enjoyed the book. I'm going to read it again. He's such an intellectual that all of his examples have to do with reading poetry and going to museums, but I appreciated the way he was able to give good detail about something that is taken for granted.
Aug 29, 2016 Frances rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
My favourite non-fiction book!

It's a great guide to refer to if you want to become a journalist but also a brilliant reference for studying and understanding the ever-growing entity known as the news.

I think it's worth listening to it on audio but it'd be better to read it as a physical book to take notes and to keep for life :D
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
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“Our capacity for calm ultimately depends on our levels of expectation: if we suppose that most things normally turn out to be slightly disappointing (but that this is OK); that change occurs slowly (but that life is long); that most people are neither terribly good nor very wicked (and this includes us); that humanity has faced crisis after crisis (yet muddled through) – if we are able to keep these entirely obvious but highly fugitive thoughts alive in our minds, then we stand to be less easily seduced into panic.” 8 likes
“For all the talk of education, modern societies neglect to examine by far the most influential means by which their populations are educated. Whatever happens in our classrooms, the more potent and ongoing kind of education takes place on the airwaves and on our screens. Cocooned in classrooms for only our first eighteen years or so, we effectively spend the rest of our lives under the tutelage of news entities which wield infinitely greater influence over us than any academic institution can. Once our formal education has finished, the news is the teacher. It is the single most significant force setting the tone of public life and shaping our impressions of the community beyond our own walls. It is the prime creator of political and social reality. As revolutionaries well know, if you want to change the mentality of a country, you don't head to the art gallery, the department of education or the homes of famous novelists; you drive the tanks straight to the nerve center of the body politic, the news HQ.” 4 likes
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