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The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure (Exploded Views)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Every weekend, in cities around the world, bleary-eyed diners wait in line to be served overpriced, increasingly outré food by hungover waitstaff. For some, the ritual we call brunch is a beloved pastime; for others, a bedeviling waste of time. But what does its popularity say about shifting attitudes towards social status and leisure? In some ways, brunch and other forms ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Coach House Books (first published January 17th 2014)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Last winter, my husband and I found ourselves seeking a mid-morning meal after a night out sans bebe. We were in a trendy east-end neighbourhood, so I figured the options would be plentiful. We checked out one place that I had heard lots about. It was lined up out the door. Eff that noise, we said ... and headed to a tried and true neighbourhood diner that had been firmly in place before the words organic and artisan had become common verbiage. Over our perfectly serviceable and reasonably price ...more
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Assertions I can't get with in this book:

The solution to vapid brunch-going is to go to less popular brunch places or dim sum. Both are a much more revolutionary display of class consciousness. (Really?)

Brunchers of the world could unite over brunch. Because that is the closest thing the creative class has to a concrete thing in common. But for the foreseeable future, the creative class appears to believe they have nothing to lose. They’re just focused on expressing identities through consumptio
Andrew Nolan
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
After a horrible beginning that made me want to quit Micallef settles into a an interesting description of the shared habitus of a certain kind of contemporary, young, middle class, North American.

At his best he writes about class issues in a style reminiscent of psychogeographic writings and discoveries.

And then the conclusion is incredibly disappointing, though more readable than the opening passages.

Part of the problem for me is that I'm not convinced that Micallef has a good understanding
Nov 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

I'm a bit conflicted on this book, and think it is more of a 3.5 if anything.

I appreciated the link between brunch and class politics -- a historical concept, which has been certainly gaining more traction these days. However, I found that I disagreed with a lot of points, or, more so, felt the explanation and discussion limited to more generalized versions of the conversation. I'm not sure if this was because of a specific length or what.

While I liked certain aspects of the writer's voice, I fo
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
A witty punch in the face to the artifice and self-ignorance of the creative classes.

What does that mean? It means that Shawn Micallef - in the best of essayist styles - skewers a large portion of the middle class for failing to recognize its own class delineation in favour of artificially grasping at markers of working class identity. And simultaneously completely failing to recognize needs and world views beyond their own. Brunch is just one of the vehicles by which this performance is acted o
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shawn Micallef certainly has some kind of beef with modern, hip, urban capitalism, but it isn't clear exactly what in this book, part of the "Exploded Views" series from Coach House. His issue seems to be with unexamined privilege, but is the weekend late-morning meal really the focal point? Is overpriced eggs benny really the height of modern decadence? I thought this was kind of muddled.
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
I got a lot out of this little book. Firstly, it was great to see a Toronto darling defending No Frills and pointing out the absurdity of protesting the arrival of a Walmart. He also offered a lot of interesting insight into what the hell is going on in hipster culture or “the creative class” as he calls it. While I am a professional and not exactly in this group a ton of the people I know are, and these sensibilities, tastes and “morals” dominate. Some of it went a bit over my head. I think he’ ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lifestyle
I didn't agree with everything Micallef suggests, but such delicious food for thought! It's easy to hate Walmart, it's harder to have class consciousness. What does "Keeping up with the Joneses" look like today? How can the same cultural practice look and feel so different, and mean such different things, for different people? Income is no longer the determinant of class - education, sensibility, how we live. Great potential for unification across social and economic classes, by recognizing our ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Feb 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a fan. I couldn't really relate to Micallef's statement that the middle class, or creative class (he often seems to use the terms interchangeably) spends their Sundays at expensive brunches drinking mimosas. Although I have gone to brunch from time to time, alcohol has never been part of the experience, nor has the expensive boutique restaurants that he describes. I do know people who this probably would apply to, but not being one of them, it was hard to accept his basic premise as being as ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting little book that's not really about brunch. Instead, it's a fairly basic primer on class consciousness as it pertains to the creative class; in particular, it explores the tension between class defined by income and class defined by other social factors such as education and type of work. Micallef's focus on the global sameness of brunch is a solid entry point for the topic, and will hopefully inspire people to think more deeply about what's accepted as standard working conditions ...more
Caroline Pisano
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From beginning to end I craved brunch.

Brunch is something I've always enjoyed at home and didn't realize the culture surrounding it until I watched portlandia and later read this book.

It's so hard to come to the realization of the politics surrounding a simple brunch. However it's equally hilarious to dissect.

Micallef has a great tone throughout the book. He doesn't take himself too seriously and considers the perspectives of many others which rounds out the book.

Overall I enjoyed the book a
David Macpherson
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
A look at modern class structure as seen through the lens of brunch: long lines, unhealthy food, leisurely eating (ya know). I wanted to like it. Hell, I bought the book after all. But I felt the focus was all over the place. Brunch and how it works, and why it is popular only shows up briefly in the second half, and then goes into a look at Walmarts in Toronto (I don't know)Some of it is interesting and if he stayed on Brunch he might have made his points on class better. But at the end I didn' ...more
Martha Hunter
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 50-books-2014
The book raised more interesting points than its slight length could really address. By the end, I felt like the trouble with brunch wasn't brunch, but a a complex mimosa of a precarious economy, low civic participation, and some crappy brunches Micallef had the misfortune to eat. ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: firstread
I received this book as a first reads from the publisher so I would like to thank them for send me the book.

A delicious read on a Saturday morning...
Mar 05, 2015 rated it liked it
#12 - a book published by an Indie press
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
The best part about this book is very clearly its analysis of brunch and its relevance to the middle class - Micallef accurately identifies a lot of the problems that affect a subset of the middle class, the creative class: long, undefined hours and a constant overlap of work and leisure. However, it tries to elevate brunch to this grandiose unifying element across the middle class with no real arguments that would support it, claiming that the consumption of brunch should act as the unifying el ...more
Ian Mathers
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
There's a lot of good material here, along with some stuff I didn't agree with, although in the latter case the issue is often the emphasis rather than the gist of it. I think the titular conceit is actually the trouble with this book; I live in Toronto, I've certainly been to brunch (and also out to breakfast), and the concept isn't quite as load bearing as Micallef wants it to be. But I imagine it's easier to sell this book (or to get people to pick it up, myself included I guess) when you've ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a pithy entertaining exploration of class, capitalism, creative class and leisure time. I've stopped waiting in line for brunch as a function of aging although waiting in line is sometimes unavoidable.

Something that isn't explored in this book: the juxtaposition and commonality of Westerners unnecessarily waiting in line for food that is available everywhere compared with people in desperate circumstances waiting for food aid.

Full disclosure: I'm friends with the author and I've read t
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love brunch. This was a great gateway to understanding why I am attracted to the practice of brunching, and some of the other leisure activities that Micallef mentions in this concise analysis of class relations. This book is a helpful tool to better understand some fairly complex ideas in a basic and accessible-for-almost-anyone way.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short but thoughtful. A worthwhile read on class consciousness.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Slog through tangential thoughts. Lost interest and skimmed through last few pages.
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
He lost me at brunch in Argentina. Why would brunch be different elsewhere in the world? It's the same formula whether one is in Toronto, Berlin or Detroit. That's the beauty of this timeless activity. A classic get together with friends, ad nauseoum discussions about our weekly events, loves, and trials. What are dinner parties to him? Why is brunch at home acceptable? A few too many theories with little factual support. His quirky social cues get in my way of understanding the trouble with bru ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure book was an interesting read. It was a quick read. I expected to gain more sociological insight on the impact of middle class on brunch. Instead, I found myself still wondering about it by the end of the book. There were a lot of references made to television shows, music artists and authors That I was unfamiliar with at the time of this reading. In addition, I was distracted by this additional unnecessary information. These types o ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Micallef asks a question that any stand-up comic could riff of for hours:

"What's the deal with brunch?"

But instead of quickly transitioning into, "And what's the deal with flying? Airlines are the worst!", he asks us, what if the working/creative/middle classes stopped performing brunch as an over-stressed act of public leisure, and instead started using it as a unifying factor and think-tank for how to raise class-consciousness and build power for collective action?

I super liked this book. It's
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway-wins
Disclaimer: I received this book as a giveaway.

I live in the suburbs, and honestly I had never even heard of the brunching trend. Brunch where I live is occasionally going to IHOP after church on a Sunday. The brunch described in this book is a trendy thing they do in the cities, not something I'm familiar with - so there's a large element of this book that I just can't relate to.

That being said, I found this book to be so-so. It is intelligently written, and certainly succeeds in bringing class
Una Rose
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars is my rating. Class is a fasinating topic but most books on the subject are pretty tough to get into. I didn't find that to be the case here. I really appreciate Mr. Micallef's easy and consise style. I'm from Toronto so can relate to the environment and social subculture he is referring to. Class is very relevant in this age. Yuppie lifestyle once only attainable to the upper classes is now available to all. Its a new world in that respect. The rise of the new creative class shares th ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Trouble with Brunch occasionally borders on having substance but sadly shies away from any real analysis or content. Micallef begins with a call to arms against the classisist conspicuous consumption mentality of brunch - and yet it becomes abundantly clear that his real problem is that his brunches are no longer imbued with the social cachet he expects and he is forced to find even more conspicuously consuming modes of brunching. He is not the student of Thorstein Veblen - merely his creatu ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Extended essay on 'brunch culture' among the urban creative classes, characterized as a performance of leisure that in fact serves as a drain on time and money, while obscuring class consciousness among the increasingly precariously employed. Lots of meandery, interesting semi-digressions (Walmart, farmers' markets, growing up in Windsor, transnational liberation theology) all feeding into the author's main point. ...more
Nicola M.
A Toronto writer and journalist takes a look at how that mid-morning weekend meal has become a symbol of how we spend our leisure time. He explores the history and rise of "brunching" and how it relates to our view of work, class and why we choose to spend our free moments standing in long lines for greasy food. An interesting analysis from an equally interesting angle. It will make you rethink your next invite to brunch! ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Initially I thought the book was an insightful consideration and musing on how and why people chose to spend their leisure time. It’s so valuable (for all classes) but what are we doing with it?

But it wasn’t. Not really.

The book is focused more heavily on class and how and why we divide into it despite this being a day-in-age where everyone claims to be middle class.

It was interesting to read, but the topic ended up being less to my personal preference than I was expecting.
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