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Boredom: A Lively History

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  103 ratings  ·  20 reviews
In the first book to argue for the benefits of boredom, Peter Toohey dispels the myth that it's simply a childish emotion or an existential malaise like Jean-Paul Sartre's nausea. He shows how boredom is, in fact, one of our most common and constructive emotions and is an essential part of the human experience.
This informative and entertaining investigation of boredom--wh
ebook, 224 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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The concept of this book is interesting. Toohey examines, what he terms, "simple boredom" (the emotional effect of being involved in repetitive, uninspiring tasks or being confined to a space for too long), as opposed to the much-studied/discussed "existential boredom" (why am I here? what is my purpose?). He argues that too much time, literature, philosophy, and art has been spent on existential boredom because it appears, on the surface, to be more "intellectual," while simple boredom is often ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
A book on a topic which is ubiquitous in modern life yet mostly overlooked. Boredom is a state of mind which the author divides into the run of the mill kind like sitting through a slideshow presentation of your aunts vacation, and the profound kind called the noonday demon by medieval Christians and much written about by philosophers especially existentialists. People have different levels of proneness to boredom. Being overly sensitive to boredom can correlate with risk taking, dangerous, add ...more
About as good as a book on boredom from an academic press can be. Toohey breaks down boredom into two styles: simple boredom (repetitive tasks, long airplane rides, etc.) and existential boredom (boredom with life bordering on depression). I wish Toohey had delved a little more into the biological/evolutionary advantages of boredom beyond its link with disgust and how it can disincentivize certain social behaviors. Chapter 4 was, for lack of a better word, boring.

Not bad given the subject matter
Damon Young
Toohey makes boredom sexy. His crisp, conversational prose is untainted by jargon or pretence. His arguments display impressive erudition: history, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and aesthetics all get a guernsey. If good writing requires authorial boredom, Toohey was undoubtedly tortured by tedium while writing this sharp, humane and funny book.

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Ironically, this was a thoroughly interesting read which examined the human experience of boredom from historical, psychological, practical and philosophical perspectives. Toohey alludes to various pieces of literature, philosophy and art to examine the role boredom has played in the human narrative. I don't think I'll ever view boredom in the same way.
Jer McS
An academic making the leap to popular writing in this case illustrates the dangers of writing for a paying audience instead of lecturing to a captive audience that needs a passing grade to get through the course... Neither lively nor engaging.
Here is my comment in my Spanish Blog:

This is a book that tries to describe the emotion of boredom. It goes far back in the past and the arts and shows different depictions of it in literature; painting and other arts. I was trying to figure out what boredom is; because to me it is yet a mystery. I don't understand what it is or why it is so bad. The book succeeds on covering every aspect of how it is depicted through history; but it doesn't quite describ
Margaret Sankey
Let me start by saying that no Sankey child ever whined, "I'm bored" twice. Either you were found something unpleasant to do, or got the look and "if something is boring, it must be because you aren't very interesting yourself." So I was amused by Toohey's social history of boredom--from neurological studies of ADD/ADHD and inattention, representations in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Hedda Gabler, cabin fever in the context of The Shining, animals who pull out their feathers in boredom, medieval mo ...more
Lynette Monteiro
Despite the title, the only thing lively in this book is the free-floating logic and untethered definitions of boredom. Toohey seemed to have difficulty honoring his own definitions and opportunistically interpreted various art, fictional and real characters, and sundry quotes to fit his theory. Early promises to investigate the differences between existential and situational boredom (poorly defined as the latter was) were sloughed off in favor of attempts to be humorous. If Yale Publications co ...more
it would be easy to say that this was boring but it was interesting if not thrilling
he distinguishes between situational boredom as in being in an office meeting or a wet winter sunday afternoon sort of boredom and existential boredom which is more like longterm depression
the writer being a professor of classics there are rather a lot of classical references .
once you get the drift it becomes a litle repetitive but on the whole it is a not too pop philosophy and thought provoking read .
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
TWO MILLIGRAMS OF The Big B, the doctor will say not so long from now after you have come in for relief from the Theme Park Adventure that is your life. It will cure what ails your restless iPodded, iPadded, and Kindled existence. Boredom, which begins, as Walter Benjamin put it, when “we don’t know what we’re waiting for,” is now a solution, not a problem. Read more...
Kimberly Kieffer
There were a few moments while reading this book where I found myself suffering from the very subject matter. However, over all the work explores boredom thoroughly and and interestingly. The writing is clever, humorous at times and highly accessible. The later part of the book explored the psychological, neurological, and psychiatric aspects of boredom to which I found the most enjoyable.
I couldn't finish this book, it was too boring! I was seriously excited to read this book, but found myself slogging through it like a dread pirate in a fire swamp. The authors style was to disengaging to maintain my attention. Sadly he jokes about this early on, minus the part where it isn't a joke. If someone else made it farther in the book, let me know if there was something worth while.
Burton Cromer
A bit scattershot. Uses quotes from others sometimes pointlessly. The quote adds nothing to the point he is making. Also existential boredom seems to be defined as simply clinical depression--if so why is this book not called clinical depression? Still, this is a smart reader-writer grazing, and I'm picking up interesting leads from his munching.
A great topic to distinguish between simple, common instances of boredom and perhaps more complex, existential boredom, but poorly executed with few profound insights. Filled with armchair interpretations of art, personal anecdotes of friends suffering from depression, unclear definitions of his subject matter, etc., I was very disappointed.
Chris Leuchtenburg
An intriguing title can get a book published, but an extended discourse on the difference between simple boredom and existential enui would require a sharper intellect to make it interesting. Unfortunately, this book is limited to scintillating insights such as "What does this say about the frequency of chronic boredom? Nothing definitely."
Chris LaHatte
An interesting book, which i guess it had to be in order to overcome the title. The principle issue was the distinction between existential boredom and common boredom. I would have liked more discussion the link with depression which he skirted but did not explain in any detail
Amy Turner
So, why did I think it would be entertaining to read a book about boredom? How much can you say without getting boring?

I did not read this whole book, but enough not to feel guilty about reviewing it and adding it to my books.
Lisa Beaulieu
I wouldn't go so far as lively ... maybe a moderately amusing history that peters out the last chapter ... but still an interesting read.
Richard Anderson
Some good stuff. Well-written but repetitive .
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