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The Importance of Living (Writing In Asia)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  659 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
The Importance of Living is a wry, witty antidote to the dizzying pace of the modern world. Lin Yutang's prescription is the classic Chinese philosophy of life: Revere inaction as much as action, invoke humor to maintain a healthy attitude, and never forget that there will always be plenty of fools around who are willing-indeed, eager-to be busy, to make themselves useful, ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published September 16th 1998 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1937)
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Community Reviews

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Vikram Karve
Feb 24, 2010 Vikram Karve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, self-help
A book that enriched my life and taught me the art of living

There is one book you will never find in my bookcase – you will always find it by my bedside near my pillow. At night, just before I go to sleep, I open this book to any random page, and read on till I drift off to blissful idyllic sleep.

The name of this book, which has had a profound defining effect on me, maybe even subconsciously shaped my philosophy of life, is called: The Importance of Living writt
Dr X
Dec 02, 2013 Dr X rated it liked it
This book is like sitting around with your grandfather while he shares his thoughts about everything under the sun, so long as your father is a witty, erudite, philosophically inclined Chinese man. I received this book as a gift. It has an irresistible table of contents, with chapter headings like On Having a Stomach, On Being Wayward and Incalculable, The Problem of Happiness, The Cult of the Idle Life, Celibacy a Freak of Civilization, On Lying in Bed, On Sitting in Chairs, On Rocks and Trees, ...more
David Beckwith
Jul 22, 2008 David Beckwith rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Lin Yutang, Rumi, Martin Buber, Lao T'se, Jesus, Buddha, Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi...these are the words that can heal our troubled world. In a sensationalized world, the reader of Lin Yutang's great classic will learn how to enjoy merely sitting, lying in bed, reading, writing, walking, and nearly everything one can do that harms no other or self.

For my money, the most important part of "The Importance of Living" is where he discusses, at some length, the non-soldier, and all the good and ne
Anh Dũng
Mình có duyên với quyển này thiệt. Bắt đầu đọc quyển này là hôm con bạn dẫn mình tham gia khóa thiền của thầy Minh Niệm. Nhưng mình chẳng hiểu tại sao lại bỏ dở từ đó đến giờ. Mấy bữa về quê vào vườn ở quên, chiều chiều gió mát thổi, tiếng lá của cây sao xào xạc làm mình nhớ đến những bài văn, bài thơ tiểu học ngôn ngữ tượng thanh, tượng hình và hàm xúc; bất giác mình nghĩ: 'những cảm xúc nên thơ lạ không chỉ có ở trong thơ văn' (sắp già tới nơi cmn rồi :D). Vậy nên lại lấy quyển này ra tiếp tục ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Nathan rated it it was amazing
Having just finished this book, I would say that this is probably one of the most beautiful books I've read. Lin Yutang has the soul of an artist and the taste of a connoisseur and through his strongly subjective, yet entirely 'reasonable' opinions and style of writing, I found myself very easily carried away into his points of view on life, the arts, philosophy and the love of pleasure. I cannot imagine everyone would feel the same way, but I feel that reading this book has greatly benefited an ...more
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Apr 09, 2015 Mary Karpel-Jergic rated it liked it
Shelves: etiquette, philosophy
An interesting and quirky read. I had seen a couple of quotes from this author and this had prompted me to read a book written by him. Written in 1936 it is historically embedded in its time so some of his views appear somewhat anachronistic, especially around women, but that aside the book offers a philosophy of life that is in contrast to the Western way of life which values efficiency, punctuality and a desire for achievement and success. It is a book that extols the Chinese way of life and I ...more
Steven Malone
Jan 25, 2013 Steven Malone rated it it was amazing

I regard the discovery of one’s favorite author as the most critical event in one’s intellectual development.
-Lin Yutang

My exposure to Chinese culture and philosophy comes, these days, through my experiences with Tai Chi Chuan and various other martial arts and Qigong. This study brings me close to many Chinese and Taiwanese people. None are more gracious, accepting, and friendly. I appreciate how their culture blends into ours so seamlessly.

Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living is, to me, the
Sep 07, 2009 Mark added it
Lin Yutang's book is slightly hard to classify, if only because, as he admits, he's writing a book about Chinese culture and academic history which he doesn't intend to be taken as especially scholarly or serious in large part. That's not to say it isn't fun, though. The book is an awful lot of fun, even if by the end it starts to run out of interesting things to say. I particularly enjoyed the seventh chapter ("The Art of Loafing"), and highly recommend the entire book on that grounds alone - i ...more
Ray Jackson
Mar 04, 2014 Ray Jackson rated it it was amazing
‘The Importance of Living’ by Lin YuTang is a personal testimony, a testimony of his very own experience of thought and life. The main ingredient of his thought is matter-of-fact prose (the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing), natural leisure discourse. Lin YuTang called his writing, a “Lyrical Philosophy” to express his thoughts which is based on highly personal and individual outlook. It lays no claim to establish eternal truths.
When I started reading this book, I was jolted
Azadeh Seif Amirhosseini
Jul 09, 2014 Azadeh Seif Amirhosseini rated it really liked it
The Importance of Living is a lovely book of, wisdom, wittiness, living and a Eastern philosophical outlook of life.

If it wasn't for my Mother, I would have never come across this book and author, it is with thank you to her she introduced me to her most favorite book. Sadly many other of his books are very difficult to obtain because they have stopped publishing them for a long time but are still available from Amazon as 2nd hand books.

Lin Yutang opens his first page as though you are sitting
Patricia Welker
My first book read after retiring was The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang. I enjoyed the easy going stories in the old Chinese scholar perspective. How to relax, smoke and make a proper pot of tea. I recommend this book for the point in life when slowing down is permissible and possible.
Dec 16, 2015 JT rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of book that brings you back around to what is most important: living. It's a kind of personal philosophy that is imbued with a scholar's perspective on history, culture, psychology, and literature. The best part is the feeling you get reading it that the author is not terribly concerned whether you agree with him or not. The whole premise behind this book is that taking life and/or oneself too seriously is utter folly. It's not about achievement or competing for the usual rewar ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Rather disappointingly,the majority of this book consisted of sweeping statements, sexist comments and outdated/inaccurate comparisons.
Sarah Shahid
I didn't like this book
the writer underestimates the human mind
and makes it nothing
he describes us badly and makes us like animals
Erika RS
Dec 24, 2013 Erika RS rated it did not like it
The Importance of Living is a number of essays about the importance of enjoying life and ways to do so. In some ways, the author's ideas are kind of silly, but they are presented in such a non-pushy way that they the unpleasant ideas are easy to forget. However, his attitudes towards women are infuriating. At one point the author talks about how it is best for people to be natural... and women require lipstick to be natural. At another point, he makes this statement
Is it merely because woman is
Aug 23, 2014 Yolanda rated it it was ok
This book is pretty dated and sexist, but I did enjoy the following:

",,,we sweat and labor and go through life, living not for ourselves in accordance with our true instincts, but for the approval of society, like "old spinsters working with their needles to make wedding dresses for other women," as the Chinese saying goes (pg 105).

The great Taoist philosopher Liehtse gave the famous parable of the Old Man At the Fort:

"An old man was living with his son at an abandoned fort on the top of a hill,
Aug 18, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
This scholar of Chinese and English literature extols a Chinese philosophy of living which is the enjoyment of a simple life. His choice of title seems to emphasize living over achieving and/or a career. In a very congenial, chatty style, he first explains his preference for Eastern practicality over Western theory in philosophy. Then he explains why the Christian religion of his childhood doesn't suit him. Then he describes the ideal Chinese character - the 'scamp', a free spirit who ignores co ...more
Dec 11, 2013 Marivl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-ficción
Un autor que nos sumerge en su pensamiento subjetivo (como él mismo aclara) acerca de lo que es realmente vivir, con títulos de capítulos muy sugerentes nos introduce en la filosofía oriental y nos recuerda los verdaderos placeres que en vida debemos disfrutar como la holganza, la naturaleza, el arte, la comida, la bebida, el amor, los viajes, las reflexiones que salen del corazón y no pertenecen a una corriente determinada, además de una variedad de temas que se ramifican de aquellos.

No se cuá
Wens Tan
Jun 20, 2010 Wens Tan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-of-living
"A series of essays that takes an sharp and honest look at life, making one reflect upon life and laugh at it at the same time." This was exactly how I felt, yet this description smacks of the cookie-cutter feel-good aspirational books so common in the self-help section, which is emphatically what this book isn't.

For in these essays are the insight of a highly erudite and observant man who grew up amidst both Chinese and Western ways of living, at a time when these two philosophies seemed so at
Sep 28, 2016 ms rated it liked it
I read the Chinese version of this book. Being someone who has spent half her life in China and half her life in US/UK it's interesting to compare notes on the differences between China and "the west". Some wise words but I felt much of his opinions are simply too outdated now. I could see how some of them were true at his time, but the world has moved on.

Also I felt some of his comments were quite sexist which again might have been considered normal and even respectful of women at the time, bu
norman wei
Mar 28, 2015 norman wei rated it it was amazing
Being a Chinese working overseas, what I always want is success, success and more success---in order to prove my value.
Lin Yutang's words somehow show that I have a much better purpose of life, which is to live a life abundantly. To enjoy every detail of the life is the most meaningful.
Apr 19, 2012 D S rated it liked it
I can't escape that most of what I read I liked. Interesting as one man's understanding and explanation of China and the US in the 40s, with much philosophy. The author is fighting a discrimination in the 1940s that we have little knowledge of in 2012, but he often pushes his case too hard. Unfortunately, when I got to the chapter on women, while I felt some points were valid, his full and clear argument was repulsive to me. I cannot agree with sanctioned economic dependence of women no matter h ...more
Julie Unruh
Jul 24, 2013 Julie Unruh rated it liked it
Reading it, it just talks about the difference between the Chinese culture and the "Western" (America) culture. I am a feminist and the writer of this book, does not even realize that women do not want to be defined by how they look or if they are good mothers. There are some women who do not want to be mother's, and it's not because they are afraid they would miss up their girly figure. Yes, women do want jobs, we do not want to rely upon a male and have to take what little scraps men give wome ...more
A companion to Lin's My Country and My People, The Importance of Living examines how one ought to live one's life to gain maximum enjoyment out of it: in reading, travelling, work, and relaxing.

Lin aims to restore the reader to a more relaxing and leisurely time in which the bustle of the busy modern world is far removed from everyday life. Drawing from a long Chinese tradition, Lin calls us to be humorous, to revere inaction as much as action, and to remember there are plenty of people busying
Paulus Mango
May 07, 2016 Paulus Mango rated it really liked it
A great book. He mixes East and West and casts a wise eye on the foibles of all of us and what keeps us from living instead of what most of us do which is existing like we're in a dream.
Michael Marchal
Sep 09, 2015 Michael Marchal rated it it was amazing
This an other time a really sharp writing and really funny view from Lin Yutang who grows in both eastern and western way. Personally I love all his books really elegant writing spirit.
Mar 25, 2015 William rated it liked it
I'd love to give this a higher review, and objectively I have the date of original publication firmly in my thoughts but for every nuance and charmingly phrased thought and spark there were at least twice the number of sweeping generalisations to the point of xenophobia and misogyny upon occasions, many of which were backed up by repetitive caveats that overshadowed my general enjoyment of the book. That being said I would recommend it to anyone with an open literary mind and there were a number ...more
Jan 17, 2016 John rated it really liked it
The author had opinions on every subject you could ever imagine. I agreed with many and not so with many other as he wrote this 85 years ago and things have so changed. It was an easy read but not a fast read, I had to reread many parts over a few times. I did like his quote Reading books in ones youth is like looking at the moon through a crevice,, reading books in middle age is like looking at the moon in ones courtyard,, and reading books in old age is like looking at the moon on an open terr ...more
Howard Mansfield
Mar 25, 2012 Howard Mansfield rated it it was ok
A bloated book by a bloviating author. Lin is man of a thousand opinions about national characteristics, about his native China, about the role of women. It’s all as stale as it was when he served it up in the 1930s. He is one of those maximum dinner party bores. There isn’t a subject, an object, a lump of dirt that he doesn’t have a lengthy opinion about. But when he draws from the deep well of Chinese Taoists and Buddhists, the book is alive. He flexes a muscle we lack in America – the praise ...more
Apr 16, 2015 Stephen rated it it was amazing
one of my favorite books in the high school years!
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Prolific writer of a wide variety of works in Chinese and English; in the 1930s he founded several Chinese magazines specializing in social satire and Western-style journalism.

Lin, the son of a Chinese Presbyterian minister, was educated for the ministry but renounced Christianity in his early 20s and became a professor of English. He traveled to the United States and Europe for advanced study; on
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Share This Book

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” 166 likes
“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” 137 likes
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