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The News: A User's Manual

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,932 ratings  ·  379 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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Pantheon (first published February 2nd 2014)
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Aug 19, 2016 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 th
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
I have to admit, first of all, that I haven't finished reading this book, not because it would be a bad one, but it's not quite my type of reading. Besides, he didn't bring me anything new, about News.

A friend used to tell me the other day, that he hadn't watched TV in a few years, and news - for about 10 years. He was intrigued by the fact that out of 8 advertisements, 5 are for medicines, and the rest for products containing chemicals. Another friend told me that nowadays, the model from the G
Jun 02, 2014 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
This book studies the effects of the news on modern mentality, viewed through the prism of 25 news stories. Nothing innovative to me, but the writing was informative, clear and perfect for those with even a mild interest in the subject.
Patrick Sherriff
Speaking as a reformed news junkie, this was the perfect book for me at the time I read it -- a month or so into swearing off the urge to tweet and Facebook every last inane thought that entered my head. I'm back blogging and tweeting and goodreading again, but in a much diminished capacity, and this book gives all the reasons why shunning the news cycle is an eminently sensible thing to do. As de Botton says, trying to understand the complex world around us with soundbites and headlines is like ...more
J. Simons
Jan 28, 2014 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,
Feb 12, 2015 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
Jenny Domino
Dec 10, 2014 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 presente ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Jun 06, 2014 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
Feb 10, 2014 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. ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Appropriately enough, I read ‘The News: A User’s Manual’ during a weekend of news-avoidance. There has been too much news lately and it stresses me out to constantly confront the apparent collapse of society, the economy, and the environment thanks to Brexit, Trump, and climate change (to name but the three main headings of news I read). I recommend completely avoiding the news at weekends as a relaxation technique. This is probably easier if, like me, you hate smart phones and don’t have a TV. ...more
Feb 27, 2014 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,"
Mar 25, 2014 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 belie ...more
Martin Waterhouse
Feb 14, 2014 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 numbers ...more
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
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Definitely some of Alain de Botton's weakest work, but an interesting and quick read during this current period of news hysteria. ...more
Feb 24, 2014 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 13, 2014 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
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bright teens, adults
Recommended to Helen by: Library personalized service
This book was recommended to me by the Sacramento (CA) Public Library's new Personalized Recommendation System. It was the first book I tried, and I was wonderfully delighted!

A. de Botton, with a philosophy background, covers each section of the news: Politics, World News, Celebrity, Disaster, and Consumption. He first offers illustrations of headlines or stories, giving us food for thought. He then proceeds to analyze the reasons these articles are chosen for the news; these are not simply "t
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely crucial. We do need instructions on how to deal with the news. It is not neutral. Here are two quotes I loved:

“Though anger seems a pessimistic response to a situation, it is at root a symptom of hope: the hope that the world can be better than it is. The man who shouts every time he loses his house keys is betraying a beautiful but rash faith in a universe in which keys never go astray. The woman who grows furious every time a politician breaks an election promise reveals a precario
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
Faye Cheadle
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I always appreciate Alain de Button's take on why we behave the way we do. I don't always agree with him, but I do like that he gets you to think with regards to history and philosophy.

He does well picking apart our tendencies towards the news as well as the tendencies of the people that give us the news. His ideas here are intriguing and fresh as always.

I do wish there were a bit more practical advice on how to filter the news, but that is a complex problem that perhaps can't be placed on our p
Feb 26, 2014 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
Paris Karagounis
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great book about the chaos of News in the web era;

Laura Ngoc Lan Tran
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy

Alain de Botton has done it again with this book which I believe will remain unendingly useful for people. I have been constantly made disoriented by the news and the echo chambers formed in comment sections and social media groups, and at a time I had been so disenchanted that I stopped looking and listening to reports and quit social media. People around me encouraged and applauded this decision, which prompted me to realise that the problem is not so much a deficiency of my intellect but
Jess Dollar
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I don’t follow the news but I often feel guilty about it. I used to watch and listen to the news all the time but now I find that it serves little purpose. In fact, in today’s culture the news is mostly meant to entertain. And I find that kind of entertainment distasteful and counterproductive to gaining wisdom.

I am a big fan of the author and he did not disappoint with his insightful explorations of the motives and desires b hind our insatiable appetite for news. We are indeed a species of weak
Noel Ward
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
The best parts of this book are the ideas of other people: Hegel, George Eliot, etc. Credit is due for having some good taste there.

Mostly this book reminds me of Bill Burr's routine about Steve Jobs and how he just told other people what to invent. The author would like for journalists and news organizations to do a lot of things better, basically to approach their topics in a more probing literary or artistic fashion. He isn't doing that himself or showing how they should do it or creating a s
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Usually a huge fan of Alain de Botton. Like all of his pieces, this book proved that he is capable of fantastic writing and philosophising. Just felt that this book was overly drawn out. After reading the conclusive chapter, I felt I could have read just that and come out equally as wise, but with a few more hours under my belt!
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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 li

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