Thursday, April 26, 2018

The News - Alain de Botton

The News
Title: The News: A User's Manuel
Author: Alain de Botton
Publication Date: 2/11/14
Pages: 272
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: Several sources have recommended it recently. 
Date Completed: 4/25/18

Summary: de Botton takes a wide angle look at our news climate. He breaks the book into sections, each one tackling a different type of news: political, international, celebrity, disasters, weather, etc. 

What I Thought: After seeing recommendations for this in several places, it seemed like a good time to pick it up. After all, we are struggling with how to handle media in our world right now. A user's manual seems like just the ticket.

The book is fascinating. de Botton has a lot of astute observations about how the news works and how we consume it. I particularly enjoyed the section on political news, as that is the majority of what I consume these days. 

I happened to pick up this book at just the right time - the same week I was teaching the Mass Media unit in my Critical Thinking course. Several times while reading I wished I had started it just a week earlier so I could have incorporated some quotes and content from the book into my lesson about the news. de Botton's thoughts are right in line with much of what I say in class.

This book is part of my 2018 TBR Challenge!
My biggest disappointment with this book is I felt it was more exploratory than guiding. Because of the subtitle of the book, A User's Manual, I had hoped for more action steps. de Botton does a wonderful job explaining our current condition, but doesn't give many ideas as to how to remedy the problems therein. Perhaps if this book had been written today instead of in 2014, he would have included more of that. After all, the last two years and opened a lot of our eyes to the need to revise the nature of our media consumption. 

I appreciated that de Botton broke his sections into chapter and chapters into small, digestible chunks. His content is dense at times, though very readable, so it helps to have it sliced up. It's a book that is worth taking in slowly, so even just reading a piece or two at a time would be enjoyable. I know I'll be chewing on the thoughts from this book for a while and that would certainly be the case if I had read it slowly - probably even more so. 

If you are a news consumer or even are just wondering why in the world you should care about the news at all, this is a great book. He generally stays out of the nitty gritty controversies around the news and instead takes a big picture approach that applies to us all regardless of political persuasion or level of news obsession. 

Quotes I Loved:
  • See my whole litany of highlights and notes here.
  • "Once our formal education has finished, the news is our 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."
  • "The press had made it very possible for a person to be at once unimaginative, uncreative, mean-minded and extremely well informed. The modern idiot could routinely know what only geniuses had known in the past."
  • "They are...suffering not so much from ignorance as from indifference."

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, maybe
If You Liked This, Try: Tribe / Amusing Ourselves to Death / The News Sorority 

A Reduced Review: Alain de Botton's guide to the news is informative and interesting, though I was hoping for actual guidance about how to move forward. 

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