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Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  199 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
From the author of Crying, a witty, wide-ranging cultural history of our attitudes toward work and getting out of it.

Couch potatoes, goof-offs, freeloaders, good-for-nothings, loafers, and loungers: ever since the Industrial Revolution, when the work ethic as we know it was formed, there has been a chorus of slackers ridiculing and lampooning the pretensions of ha
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2006)
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In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays by Bertrand RussellWhere Did You Go? Out What Did You Do? Nothing by Robert Paul SmithHow to Be Idle by Tom HodgkinsonHow to Stop Procrastinating by Robert MomentDoing Nothing by Tom Lutz
5th out of 5 books — 4 voters
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman MelvilleThree Men in a Boat by Jerome K. JeromeThe Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. WattsThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacThe Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
33rd out of 103 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 629)
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Printable Tire
Seeing as how I haven't worked in a very, very long time, it seems inevitable that I would find and eventually read this book. A true slacker, I've known about this book for a while, but it took me a little bit of time to actually get around to reading it.

Doing Nothing is a pretty good primer to the study of doing nothing (or more accurately "not working," as that is the true subject of the book) from the dawning of America to more or less the current day. The author begins with an enjoyable acc
Dec 18, 2012 nks rated it really liked it
Though I no longer remember what caused me to buy Tom Lutz's 2006 book Doing Nothing, it isn't hard to make an educated guess. As someone who cultivates a lifestyle that involves as little work in the classic sense (company, boss, white office, desk) as I find financially possible, it was likely the call of the kindred spirit, the desire to see this sort of lifestyle through somebody else's glasses. And yet, the title felt irksome. Doing nothing? It is not a state to which I aspire. (Is it even ...more
May 23, 2007 Jeannette rated it it was ok
Boy, this took me a while to get through. It wasn't that I hated this book or that I was lazy (well, maybe) or that I found it boring (because i didn't), it just wasn't a book I could gobble up in one sitting. It felt more like a history lesson which was informative but not something I could jump hoops for. What I couldn't really get behind was the writer's own personal back story...there wasn't much there. I wanted more personal stuff about his own life and the life of his slack ass son (who wa ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Jo rated it it was amazing
I was working too hard doing housework when I learned somebody had stolen my laundry load. Furious, I made my boyfriend take me out of our apartment and into a bookstore. That's where I found Doing Nothing.

I've been unemployed and actively searching for a job for nearly five months now. I've gone through a longer stretch of unemployment due to health concerns. Since the idea of work and unemployment has been on my mind a lot lately, I was immediately interested in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed
Feb 02, 2008 Larry rated it really liked it
Although somewhat of a laborious read for the first part of the book I found that author Tom Lutz had put together an excellent review of various societal expextations regarding work, and individual responses to the same.

Tom Lutz's approach was neither manipulative no leading, but rather a well researched and straight forward presentation of both the shifting and static social perceptions of the value of work.
Nov 14, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
Seemed like Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America was a good choice for my hundredth book posting on Goodreads. The question is: does having read the last 100 books and posting them categorize me as a loafer or workaholic? Is my avid reading habit a sign that I don't know how to relax or I don't have a serious job?

This book goes beyond that to probe our attitudes toward not working, and by extension, working. Is there a national work ethic? Is "slacking" a
Dec 21, 2014 Jerzy marked it as to-read
This caught my eye at the library. I skimmed the first chapter and would like to finish it some day (I need to finish a few other books first!) Seems to be a history of "slackers" in US popular culture and how it interacts in curious ways with the history of the Puritan work ethic.

I like the cute intro about how the author is frustrated with his son's way of "doing nothing" in a sort of post-high school gap year: The son's alleged plan is to get a low-key job while he focuses on playing the bass
Ronald Koltnow
Sep 02, 2015 Ronald Koltnow rated it liked it
Tom Lutz did a tremendous amount of research for his history of slacking; he does not deserve to be in the ranks of the indolent. Although billed as a history of loafers, layabouts, and lazybones, the book is actually a study of the philosophy of work. The concept of work, and ways of avoiding it, are somewhat recent in origin. In the past, if you did not work you did not eat. Slacking needs work in order to mean something; you cannot be the opposite of something that does not exist. In true sla ...more
Lauren Albert
Feb 11, 2016 Lauren Albert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-misc
I totally don't feel like writing this review. I mean I already wrote one today for the Underachiever's Manifesto. Isn't that enough for one day? So I'll just say--It's good. Read it. There. I'm going to take a nap now.
Oct 15, 2008 Taylor rated it did not like it
Shelves: home
I gave up. It was too much work to read this book. And kind of boring.
Feb 10, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it
I am too disaffected to write a review of this book.
Oct 22, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok
The amount of material Lutz puts together on such a broad topic is mildly impressive, though he does stretch it a bit by throwing in actual professions that aren't very active but don't really warrant being labeled "loafing", such as philosophy. I was surprised by the thoughtfulness of this book; I sort of expected a snarky lampooning of "a generation of slackers". Instead, Lutz tracks the sociology of leisure through history, showing us how it evolved from a marker of class to a negative concep ...more
Mar 20, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: read2009
Fascinating social history of the nonworking outcast in American society. Lutz follows this societal archetype from Johnson's Idler character through Thoreau, Melville, the WWI "slacker," hobos, the Beats, communards, surfers, and Generation X "slackers." Mostly he explores America's love/hate relationship with the drop out (think Chaplin vs. welfare mom) and the Catch-22 of hating loafers while working hard in order to loaf (beach lounge, couch lounge, cocktail lounge). This all came about beca ...more
Sep 01, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I have always felt admittedly lazy. I thought 400 years of critique regarding the subject of idleness versus the socially sanctioned work ethic would be cathartic. Indeed, it was, but there are no easy answers, except that it is safest to fall between the two extremes. Lutz began his research when his son, Cody, took a break and "wound up on the couch" back at home. In a sense, both myself and the author have to constantly re-asses our relationship to work, and that form ...more
Richard Martin
May 14, 2014 Richard Martin rated it it was ok
I usually allow the first third of any book ...If I can't get into a book by that time, I drop the book. Well, it happened here. So for's nothing doing.
Jun 24, 2010 Claire rated it really liked it
I read this while thoroughly enjoying my vacation in Italy. This fact may have added an additional rosy hue to the aura of this book.

One of the things that surprised me was that for a book about doing nothing, it had a lot to say about the nature of work. Lutz's basic, compelling premise is that self-defined slackers are often workaholics, and self-defined workaholics have periods of slackerdom. Both definitions require the other, within society and often within individuals. Lutz struggles with
Apr 30, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookstore-coop
This book cracked me up. It is a history of loafers, loungers and slackers in US history. Lutz takes the reader from the writings of Ben Franklin, our founding loafer, to the money Office Space—the slacker cult film. Lutz is doing an historical analysis of the work ethic and its other—the lazy bum. Lutz uses a range of cultural texts and historical characters to make his case. The upshot is that the work ethic is what is producing the slacker. Lutz quotes at length many writings that extol the v ...more
May 10, 2010 Cheree rated it really liked it
Doing Nothing by Tom Lutz is essentially the history of the slacker. From Benjamin Franklin and Thoreau to communes, beatniks, the punk movement and George W. Bush – I found this history to be quite interesting. While I expected to see references to Office Space and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I was surprised by the amount of references to authors, music and movies that I had not considered before. It turns out that our culture is heavily defined by slackers.

Complete review at http://chereemoore.b
Katherine Rowland
It took me a while to read this, as it gave me plenty to think about. Lutz springboards from his son's indolence to a study of societal impressions of work and play throughout history. He doesn't draw a lot of major conclusions, opting instead to report how each generation has handled the question of how much to work and how much to rest. The book is packed with information and deeply thought-provoking on a personal and societal level.
Mar 17, 2007 Izzy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: slackers
If you resent having to devote all your time to your job, and you feel like a whiny brat because of it, the introduction to this book will soothe your worry by putting your complaints into context. If you are like me, however, you will become so soothed that you will immediately lose interest. I'm giving it 3 stars because I really enjoyed the first 40 pages, but the sad truth is that I was too lazy to read any more.
Dec 29, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Perhaps not strictly a history of "American" slackers, but a truly comprehensive history nonetheless. Alas, the book only made me want to loaf around and slack off more than usual! It really was interesting though, examining real life and literary slackers throughout the years and delving into whether some claimed slackers really were such. Fascinating.
Mike Barretta
Feb 14, 2008 Mike Barretta rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, nonfiction
This book was so in line with my view of life...I often saw thoughts and ideas I had, but not elucidated, appear in the beautiful prose of some famous loafer.

I fully subscribe to the idea of otium and after reading of those that do too, am happy to be in such good company.
Reese Forbes
Jul 16, 2013 Reese Forbes rated it it was amazing
Slackers are the creative people - don't be a corporate worker bee, drop out and become creative.
This was a very scholarly book, more references to other books and movies that I have seen in any onother 320 pages of text that reads much like a novel.
Jessie B.
Apr 02, 2011 Jessie B. rated it liked it
A fascinating look at the history of the slacker and their ilk from the 1800's to the present. I very much enjoyed this book and learned some interesting things about various subcultures and counter-culture movements.
Jamie Ding
Jul 02, 2013 Jamie Ding rated it really liked it
It's pretty good. A chronological overview of what Western attitudes have been toward work and laziness. Gets at the paradox of working so that we can not work. Made me feel very lazy, though.
Dec 04, 2008 Stefanie rated it it was ok
Sadly, I'm giving up on this one... I've put it down 3 times already and it's just not grabbing me to pick it back up. The author's style is a little hard to absorb.
Dec 23, 2009 Craig rated it really liked it
Fun and engaging overview of slackers, famous and infamous, and their respective ideologies, philosophies, quirks, ups, and downs.
Jan 08, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
The history of notable slackers throughout history. A call to arms for anyone unsatisfied with the Protestant Work Ethic,
Jen helms
Dec 10, 2008 Jen helms rated it did not like it
This book was so dull I gave up and put it down about 2/3 the way through. I just can't find it in myself to finish it!
Sep 04, 2008 k8beeZ rated it liked it
This is kinda cool, read it if you feel you're feeling like a slacker and like to get a history on that feeling.
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