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How to Be Idle

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,913 Ratings  ·  247 Reviews
From the founding editor of The Idler, the celebrated magazine about the freedom and fine art of doing nothing, comes not simply a book, but an antidote to our work-obsessed culture. In How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson presents his learned yet whimsical argument for a new universal standard of living: being happy doing nothing. He covers a whole spectrum of issues affecting ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman MelvilleHow to Be Idle by Tom HodgkinsonThree Men in a Boat by Jerome K. JeromeThe Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. WattsThe Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
104 books — 9 voters
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
5 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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M. D.  Hudson
Apr 14, 2010 M. D. Hudson rated it liked it
There is something disappointing about this book that puzzles me, since I found that I agreed with much of it, and that it often made a great deal of sense. It’s use of the great literary past to bolster its arguments were quirky and effective – Against Nature by Huysmans, lots of Walt Whitman and, oddly, but to good effect, Robert Burns (Hodgkinson spends a lot of time in Scotland, which explains the Burns, I guess). It is an agreeable, pleasant book, as a book about being idle should be….

I gue
Aug 08, 2007 Julia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who want to shake off the effects of office anxiety
The quality of your life and the quality of your happines deserve to be high. Take long walks, drink loose tea and beer, sleep late, skip work, meditate, and other advice (some less warm and fuzzy) are contained in Hodgkinson's manifesto for loafers. It's refreshing to demonize Edison and Franklin, and to elevate flaneurs, Oscar Wilde, and whoever else loves idling around streetcorners and cafes. It would be difficult to follow the day as prescribed by Hodgkinson-- each chapter explores the cult ...more
Jan 13, 2008 Jeremy rated it really liked it
A book solidly lobbying for the return of the nap, the long lunch, the idle stroll, the enojyment of sleep and the absurdity of the full-time job. He makes it sound as though the ideal life is the idle life and all one needs to do is find that occupation that gets them by with the essentials of life. Leisure and loafing will take care of the rest. Of course, he's also an Englishman so his ability to avoid the full-on career is augmented a bit by the universal health-care he enjoys. I trust fulfi ...more
Aug 19, 2009 Castiron rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-checkout
I didn’t finish this book, though I read large chunks of it. The author has some really good points, that apply just as much (if not more so) to American society as to his own British. Why should we look at any apparent idleness with suspicion? Why is it more important to look like we’re busy for eight hours than to accomplish something really useful in four and enjoy the rest of our time?

And yet….

The book would have worked better for me if H. had been clearer about idleness as “doing what you c
Kasey Jueds
Dec 13, 2011 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
When I first picked up this book (Tom Hodgkinson's work is recommended in Lyanda Lynn Haupt's excellent blog), I assumed it would be a fun, light read, not much more. And it is certainly fun, and funny, and clever, and light-hearted. But some of How to be Idle is also surprisingly deep. Hodgkinson recommends idleness as a way of life (and can I mention here how much I love the fact that one of the chapters focuses on the joys and benefits of sleeping in?) not only because it makes people happy, ...more
Elizabeth A
Sep 18, 2013 Elizabeth A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
There is this notion that we seek out books that validate things we already feel, and if that is the case, I am guilty as charged. As a person who did not grow up in the States, I have lived in cultures that celebrated two hour lunches and lots of vacation time, and I have never really understood the American work-obsessed culture. Now, I do admit to falling prey to it myself, after all I did not want to seem lazy, but thankfully I realized before I hit the grave that there is more to life than ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Hannah rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
If you're someone who has a job that you can't just leave, a family to take care of, any major responsibilities at all, this book is 100% unhelpful. The author gives advice like "turn off your alarm clock! work less!" without adequately acknowledging that most people can't do that and would still like to learn how to enjoy the little leisurely time they can afford themselves. Tom understands that capitalism traps people but then turns around and acts like it's no big feat to free yourself from i ...more
Justin Douglas
Jul 17, 2012 Justin Douglas rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding collection of witty, profound, and Britishly-humorous essays to inspire those who would desire true leisure—that is, control over one's time and thoughts, something that has largely eroded in our times. The book is like an explication of Pascal's aphorism "All human evil comes from a single cause: man's inability to sit still in a room"; a reframing of history as a grim battle between Industry and Idleness, stretched out leisurely and languorously over some 270 pages. The ...more
May 30, 2016 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 mit Hang nach unten.
Dec 05, 2011 Gabriela rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to-and-co
Probabil pentru a-mi da peste nas cu puturoșenia mea am primit cadou de la niște prieteni „How To Be Idle” de Tom Hodgkinson. Nenea ăsta editează cică o revistă care se cheamă Idler și apreciază omii leneși ca subsemnata.
Ce-am văzut io la Hodgkinson încă de când am deschis cartea e că omul e punkist și anarhist și beutor și fumător. Eram chiar entuziasmată până i-am văzut și poza și mi-am dat seama că nu toți punkiștii sunt sexoși. Aia e, am rămas să povestesc de carte dacă autorul e nașpet.
Ricardo Policarpo
" You are just rationalizing your own lazyness! " - Probably every human being that was suckered in this all grandiose scheme that is social engineering, that, ironically, IS the target population that Hodgkinson is aiming at.

Welcome to the world of Idling - When one can, in a joyfull and entertaining way, amuse himself by just. There is no need for video-games, books, gadgets and such for one to enjoy himself. Sure, one CAN use those very atributes to follow the direction that the idling in its
Dec 11, 2007 Chazzle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who love leisure and hate work
I really liked this book. At times it was really funny, as when he discusses smoking, saying "My New York friend Tom says that there are so many people smoking in the street that you have to go inside for a breath of fresh air."

At other times it was profound, as in this pearl from the chapter on fishing: "It's nice to catch a fish," the master explained, "but it's not really the point."

The author is British, and correspondingly, the book is surprisingly literary; in fact, too many difficult poem
Dec 21, 2007 Tosh rated it really liked it
A very witty manifesto by a man who truly understands what is important in life. I like the British aspect of the writing that comes through quite strongly. It reminds me of PG Wodhouse for some reason. It has that 'eccentric' quality that is a must in British commentary. Which is a weird thing to say or write, but I have this Noel Coward/Wodheouse/Ray Davies/Morrissey British concept that is deeply into my very own DNA.
Sep 03, 2008 Lavinia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all those who need a break once in a while
Shelves: 2007, fiction
What I learned from this book:
Sometimes it’s OK to idle in bed a few more minutes, and yes, there’s no use in running after the bus. There will be another one.
Dec 03, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it
'How To Be Idle' filled me with a huge sense of vindication, as I am an idler by nature. In this book, Hodgkinson takes the reader through a day of idling, covering such topics as lie-ins, hangovers, rambling, and fishing. He draws on a diverse and idiosyncratic range of literature, including Against Nature, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, and Three Men in a Boat, all of which I enjoyed. The tone is affable and amusing, albeit avowedly masculine (this is my only real quibble). ...more
Dec 22, 2010 James rated it it was amazing
Writing a book is probably the least idle thing I can think of. Try to not hold that against Mr. Hodgkinson when reading his “How to be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto.” The inherent irony of this book’s existence will torment your lazy brain.

Take your time with it. Library fines be damned.

“How to be Idle” is a whimsical lark of a book, pondering such hefty topics as Saint Monday, hangovers, and the “Death of Lunch.”

There are pertinent references to [productive] cultural luminaries such as Keats and
May 06, 2008 Jafar rated it it was ok
It’s ironic that I read this book at a time when – totally uncharacteristic of me – I’ve been working quite a bit. This is really ridiculous as I neither enjoy what I do, nor do I really have any ambitions. Working more just because there’s a lot of work to do – is that being a workaholic? Maybe I should ennoble this sad slide by claiming that I’m putting my extra bit to pay for the 700 billion dollar bailout. Anyway… so this book has 24 chapters, one for each hour of the day, with each chapter ...more
Beatriz Canas Mendes
Quando o meu namorado me recomendou How To Be Idle, julguei que este seria "mais um livro" constituído por meia dúzia de teorias parvas anti-capitalistas, uns quantos bitaites a elogiarem o ócio e a preguiça.
No entanto, logo a partir das primeiras páginas, percebi que me havia enganado. How To Be Idle é, principalmente, um livro que nos apresenta teorias fora da caixa e que nos obriga a pensar sobre a economia e história mundial e sobre a história da economia - não só apresentando a opinião do s
Jul 29, 2012 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Hodgkinson's How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto is a tongue-in-cheek look at why sleep and contemplation are better than stress and constant action. Hodginkinson takes a hard look at English history and comes up with some sharp observations of how we managed to get into the mess we are in. Caught up in consumerism, Americans no longer work to eat, but instead eat to work. Feeling morally wrong about taking a sick or personal day, employees go to work while sick, and even take medicine to g ...more
I read The Freedom Manifesto before this one, so even though I was kind of expecting How To Be Idle to be weaker and less polished, seeing it was published first and juggles around with big and relatively difficult thoughts to hold together and to form a whole, I still found myself mostly bored and unhappy reading it. Whereas I really enjoyed the general, positive look on idling, napping, staying home if you wish, gaining back at least a little control of your life through easy, small steps, man ...more
Jun 07, 2015 Hope rated it liked it
I agree strongly with Hodgkinson's premise that rest and leisure are necessary to healthful, joyful living, but I disagree with his reasoning and with his extreme conclusions.

He credits capitalism and Christianity with "ruining everyone's fun" by elevating work above leisure. He cites the Nazi slogan "Work makes us free" (posted above the Auschwitz gates) as proof that since work was valued by the Nazis, it shouldn't be valued by us.

With such faulty reasoning he glibly concludes that homeless, j
Alexander Alexiev
Nov 29, 2016 Alexander Alexiev rated it liked it
A weird book, with an interesting message. It basically tells you "take it easy, the order in which you have to work/be productive/do much stuff/achieve isn't the norm - it came around with industrialism; people didn't always live this way and you don't need to either. do what makes you feel good and don't feel bad about not being like the others; work is not the point of life, living is, and we all define living in our own way; for some it could be lying in bed 10hrs a day and that is fine". I ...more
Nov 15, 2012 Miike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Within the one broad theme of 'Idleness', Hodgkinson manages to encompass so many neglegted yet important facets of life. Our need to work less and play more is justified in a very well written book using examples and quotes from some great thinkers through history.
The greatest strength of this book is that it gives you a warm feeling that things you enjoy - beer gardens, sleeping etc - are actually really good for you. The guilt associated with not working so many hours per week, or needing to
Jul 02, 2014 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love being idle. On the many days I have off, I don't do anything productive, and I don't feel guilty lounging around. So you would think I would love this book!

Some of the chapters in this book were great, like the one on the stupidity of holiday. I have never really understood the desire to blow wads of money traveling around the country on days off. Just stay at home and relax. Also, the quotes and passages from philosophers, poets and writers were very good and made parts of this book a g
Mar 10, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Another review for this book mentioned this: “... we seek out books that validate things we already feel” which struck a chord with me as that was what motivated me to pick up How to be Idle : a loafer’s manifesto by Tom Hodginson. The title alone hooked me but as I began reading I realized I had picked up a gem of a book that was more than just about being idle. Inside Hodginson discusses philosophy, historical information and personal anecdotes all relating to idleness and the effects of work ...more
Jun 29, 2009 Rekha rated it liked it
The best parts of this for me were the parts where the author identifies a historical tradition of idling via famous writers and philosophers. I had forgotten that Neitzsche extolled laziness and hey, it makes me feel better about the time I spend doing absolutely nothing when there are certified brainiacs sayings it's good. Although it's well-written, well-researched, and fun to read, I think you would have to really, really want to read something about loafing to get into this. If the interest ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Rachael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book, but also a very boring book. How can this be? I'm not really sure.

Hodgkinson uses literature and history to extol the virtues of idleness. The literature and history are very interesting. The tale of idleness is told in twenty four chapters, one for each hour of the day. This is excessive. Some points are made in more than one chapter. Generally they were interesting the first time.

I really do like the premise of the book, I wish I had enjoyed it more.
Yitzchok Lowy
Jan 05, 2015 Yitzchok Lowy rated it really liked it
How nice to finally have a book that tells you that what you love to do is to be desired, and not just provide some new unattainable goal to feel inferior about. Seriously though, idleness is no idle activity, and should be given much more serious thought. for which books like these can provide context and language. now if only I wouldn't be so lazy and would get around to do something like say producing a book of reflections on laziness.
ChaCha Ala Mode
Dec 31, 2013 ChaCha Ala Mode rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lifestyle
Another book that reaffirms my desire to wander and to live minimally. Not that I do not want to work, but that I do not want to live to work. I want to work and live. I want my life to be full of joy and peace, this book reaffirms all that I have already embraced and felt like a little pat on the back to say "yes you are on the right path".
Hans-Peter Merz
Apr 27, 2014 Hans-Peter Merz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grossartiger Generalangriff auf die protestantische (Arbeits-)ethik, die uns weissmachen will, dass nur ein Leben voller Arbeit und Anstrengung ein erfuelltes Dasein ist. Für Workoholics sollte es dieses Buch auf Rezept geben.
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Tom Hodgkinson (b. 1968) is a British writer and the editor of The Idler, which he established in 1993 with his friend Gavin Pretor-Pinney. He was educated at Westminster School. He has contributed articles to The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sunday Times as well as being the author of The Idler spin-off How To Be Idle (2005), How To Be Free (released in the U.S. under the title The Free ...more
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“I count it as an absolute certainty that in paradise, everyone naps. A nap is a perfect pleasure and it's useful, too. It splits the day into two halves, making each half more manageable and enjoyable. How much easier it is to work in the morning if we know we have a nap to look forward to after lunch; and how much more pleasant the late afternoon and evening become after a little sleep. If you know there is a nap to come later in the day, then you can banish forever that terrible sense of doom one feels at 9 A.M. with eight hours of straight toil ahead. Not only that, but a nap can offer a glimpse into a twilight nether world where gods play and dreams happen.” 40 likes
“The art of living is the art of bringing dreams and reality together.” 19 likes
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