How to Be Idle
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How to Be Idle

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,270 ratings  ·  177 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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In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays by Bertrand RussellHow to Be Idle by Tom HodgkinsonWhere Did You Go? Out What Did You Do? Nothing by Robert Paul SmithDoing Nothing by Tom Lutz
2nd out of 4 books — 3 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Books That Could Change Your Life
480th out of 767 books — 678 voters

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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 09, 2007 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Kasey Jueds
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
M. D.  Hudson
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...more
Elizabeth A
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
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...more
Justin Douglas
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
Dec 11, 2007 Chazzle rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
'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
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
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.
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.
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
ChaCha Ala Mode
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".
Sep 28, 2008 Lavinia rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.

uneori e ok sa lenevesti in pat citeva minute. cartea asta m-a invatat sa nu fug dupa autobus. intotdeauna vine altul dupa citeva minute.
Hans-Peter Merz
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.
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
As a German/Japanese workaholic I'm learning to embrace my quirky and idle english self... it's hard, but Tom is here to show the way! For every hour of the day there is an appropriate chapter centered on one topic for Tom to share his real life experiences of living as an Idler, as well as a bully pulpit for his Philosophy to take shape. I loved this book as it is so different from so much of my own background, and I find it inspiring to begin to embrace the life of the Observer, the life of on...more
Mar 07, 2012 molly added it
Shelves: read-in-my-30s
I'm returning this one to the library unfinished. It was boring. I'm already super good at being idle.
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...more
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.
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An interesting book, well worth reading.

On the plus side, the central theme of how much consumer society consumes us (in particular our time) comes over well. And he covers a lot of ground.

However, he doesn't separate the evils of modern society with things he simply doesn't like or perhaps doesn't understand. I get the impression his ideal idler distrusts science, and is male.

I feel the section on smoking is particularly misguided. No "nanny state" has stopped him smoking, and having seen smok...more
This was very enjoyable (though I think I very much prefer 'How To Be Free'). I feel 'How To Be Free' is a more advanced, developed version of this book, and it is nice to be able to see just how Tom Hodgkinson has improved as a writer and maker-of-points between the two and all the things I love most in life. I think 'Free' is a great add-on as it eradicates all the rest of the guilt you feel for indulging yourself by slamming the modern world and revealing just how ridiculous and corrupt it re...more
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
This is a dangerous book. Although it is good for me in that it provides an antidote to my TYPE A behavior and pesonality, it could be just the wrong message for the less disciplined person since it praises smokeing, drinking, and take drugging (I was ecstatic about that). I found lots of great advice in this book, and some of the most flippant dismissal of health concerns that I have ever read. Nevertheless, I would recommend the book for other driven individuals.

Best Chapters:
Waking Up is Har...more
A charming book by a lazy man. Hodgkinson celebrates the virtue of laziness and turns his own laziness into a virtue. It gives the impression of having been written off the top of his head. He cites constantly from a few sources, as if they are the books which happened to be lying on his desk when he wrote the book. That's not entirely a bad thing: it is as if he's at table with Barbara Ehrenreich, Walt Whitman, Lin Yutang, & Dr. Johnson, because they (& others) speak up so frequently. I...more
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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
More about Tom Hodgkinson...
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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.” 33 likes
“The art of living is the art of bringing dreams and reality together.” 17 likes
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