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How to be Free

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,756 ratings  ·  239 reviews
'How to be Free' is Tom Hodgkinson's manifesto for a liberated life. Modern life is absurd. How can we be free? If you've ever wondered why you bother to go to work, or why so much consumer culture is crap, then this book is for you.

Looking to history, literature and philosophy for inspiration, Tom Hodgkinson provides a joyful blueprint for a simpler and freer way of life
Paperback, 340 pages
Published 2007 by Penguin (first published 2006)
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Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murray Bookchin once made a distinction between "social anarchism' and "lifestyle anarchism," and if we adopt his conceptual scheme this work definitely falls in the latter. It is, after all, catalogued in the self-help section rather than the social science section. This is a lively, wide-ranging and anarchic assault on modern Western lifestyles and a plea to adopt the wisdom of our medieval forebears, who if Hodgkinson is to be believed, enjoyed a level of freedom and leisure that can scarcely ...more
In this very confident book Tom Hodgkinson tries to set us free from our 'mind-forgd manacles'. He is an anarchist of thoughts, nostalgic for a communal, more caring past. I think it's easier to first point out some of the things I didn't agree with...

-Some of his views were inconsistent or contradicted himself. For example, he criticised 'extreme sports' as a waste of money, and something that wage slaves have to do to feel alive. However, later he says that we should not worry about money but
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Hodgkinson's admirable intention may have been to write a parody of self-help books but unfortunately ends up falling into similar territory of smuggery as the genuine articles. It seems to me the underlying reasoning behind authors of self-help guides is steeped in narcissism, i.e. I am great ergo do as I do and you too shall be great. Thus, the cynical reader of 'How To Be Twee' will find it difficult to see beyond the calls to mimic the author's own choice examples of upper-middle class v ...more
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is either the best or worst book to read when you’re finishing a PhD and thinking deep thoughts about what to do next with your life. I’m not sure which yet - ask me in a few years. ‘How to be Free’ continues in the same vein as How to Be Idle, which I greatly enjoyed. The former has a more philosophical and political bent, however. The tendency to skip thither and yon, drawing inspiration from Sartre and Chaucer, reminds me a little of a less obtuse Žižek. Hodgkinson makes no claims to pre ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not a self help book. If anything, it is an examination of modern, western, middle-class (particularly British) society and the 'mind forg'd" manacles it perpetuates. There are a few suggestions in each chapter for various alternative ways of living, but no one lifestyle is suggested over any other.

I found this a brilliant, amusing and liberating read. Not because it proposed any revolutionary concepts, but because it validated and affirmed my own attitudes to life and my own values whi
Dec 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody who works for a living (English Profs don't count)
Shelves: set-aside
Just starting it, but it reminded me how much I liked Hodgkinson's previous book
How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto. Alas, I managed to ignore it's lessons completely and now I work too much and am unhappy b/c of it. Will try again.

The lessons here though are very simple and are spelled out at the end of each chapter. For example, "THROW AWAY YOUR WATCH" and "RIDE A BIKE."

Can't get much simpler than these, but they do make a difference. Just 100 pages in, but I'm going to give it the full f
David Gross
I seem to have a soft spot for eccentrically reactionary radicals. For a while, I was eagerly reading up on the anarcho-primitivists, who thought civilization was a bad idea and that mankind had taken a wrong turn when we started messing around with things like cities, agriculture, and literacy. And you may remember when I reviewed Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists, which had a soft spot for the American isolationist, regionalist ...more
Simon Harvey
This book was recommended by a friend and as I ploughed on, I could understand why the friend enjoyed it as there were obvious links between his and the authors 'quirky' world view.

There are some interesting ideas discussed within the book which have elevated my star rating from one to two, but ultimately I felt that it was written from a vantage point of smug middle class privilege. ' Hey let's all quit our jobs and move to the country and grow our own veg'. I have grown up and still live in a
The second book in weeks to point out that success = somebody else’s failure. I’m listening, universe. ...more
Dec 09, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this on the heels of Tim Ferris' Four Hour Work Week and thematically they sort of go together. Except where Ferris argues that you should make a ton of money and then stop working (duh!) Hodgkinson argues not to bother with money at all. In fact, his premise seems to be it's better to go through life without anything so you won't be stressed about what you are missing.

I'll give Hodgkinson credit for being creative about his theory, but to me his premise goes too far. He seems to be "livi
Ernesto Elias
Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't put this book down, It's a fantastic read! It seriously feels like you are having deep conversation with Hodgkinson, his writing style is that of a conversation's.

Hodgkinson is so passionate of a topic I love , that notion that simple is more and if any one was to offer an argument that is similar you'll easily get me on your side. So when Hodgkinson uses those fantastic references from a range of different fields and periods of time it inspires me to go an read those books. (even thoug
This is my second read of this terrific little book. His ideas are based on life before the Protestant Reformation when people lived without mortgages, without the weight of individualism, consumerism and "keeping up with the Joneses" - He suggests anarchism in everyday life:

Share a House with friends
Grow your own food
Light candles to avoid direct light on the dust & dirt
Pour yourself another glass of wine, invite friends over
Turn off the TV,
Lose the "Career"
Stop Worrying
Remember that Societal
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Edged dangerously close to self-help schmutz.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sure don't agree with all of his premises, but he does raise some interesting points- and advocates some possibilities that most of us would not really think of otherwise.

Note that i do NOT favor his dicta to stop voting. I think voting is not only important, but a civil obligation. However, voting for what YOU want- not to try to game the system- is vital here. In the next election, I plan to vote green; I know they won't win, but I would hope that my vote, combined with others, might give th
Emily Bibens
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is provocative and uncomfortable for those of us who have grown up in industry-based, anxious, busy, consumerist, work-obsessed Western cultures. There will likely be ideas in this book that rub you the wrong way or that you adamantly disagree with, but it's still very much worth a read for the 1-100 nuggets of wisdom/new perspective/new ideas that might make you feel freer, more energized, excited, or at the very least more thoughtful about life and the joy that you can find in a simp ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I took this book too seriously, or more seriously than its intended purpose. I tend to agree with Hodgkinson's general philosophies of life, but I disagree with the details. I think he drastically oversimplifies things and if everyone were to adopt his strategies the world would be an even more impoverished place. He makes sweeping statements about modern life and then the "sources" he cites are either 17th century poets or unknowns who I'm presuming are his drinking buddies. Statements ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life
It's a good read. Some chapters are great and spot on, but on some I've felt like he was trying too hard to make a point and his views were just too out there for me, too radical. I would've liked a more grounded approach because some people (me) just aren't ready or don't want to committ to the level he expresses. But other chapters really spoke to me and I would recommend it in spite of the flaws stated before. Some of the things he said truly changed the way I face and live my life.

quotes tha
Lee Osborne
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note: The Freedom Manifesto is the US edition of this book. I read the original UK version, which is entitled How To Be Free. I'm assuming it's largely the same book, but there may be differences. How To Be Free does not have an entry on Goodreads.

I first read this book about ten years ago, not long after it was published, and it's been a favourite ever since. I tend to dip in and out of it regularly, but I've just re-read it following a bout of gloom induced by Trump and Brexit. I needed cheer
Annie Harrison
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adore this book. Until reading it, I hadn't appreciated quite how enslaved we all are - to the boredom of our jobs, the supermarkets' toxic tentacles, the hollow promises of our pensions, the rip off of our mortgages and the benign blandness of modern life.

This book is full of obvious observations, but I found myself re-reading certain paragraphs, nodding and even screaming out loud, 'You're right, you're so bloody right!' How can we be so closed to the truth? Tom Hodgkinson is in fact, the Da
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a bit like pearl diving. There are bits in it that are absolutely fantastic, but the hard-on that Hodgkinson has for the medieval era is nothing short of bizarre. His nostalgia for the ancient Catholic church borders on frightening. I gave this two stars because there is some insight in this that is incredibly well though-out. However, references to "Piers Plowman" and "Pilgrim's Progress" are what kept me out of pursuing my English major to a PhD. Hodgkinson oft references problem ...more
Sarai Mitnick
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable but sometimes silly book on the joys of removing oneself from the endless cycle of work and consumerism.

First, the eye-roll-inducing: I don't buy his oft-repeated premise that life was better in the middle ages, although I do understand the frustration with the protestant work ethic and what it's done to us. His position also reeks of privilege, something he admits to but brushes off as irrelevant. There's also a strong current of luddism, another viewpoint I understand but do not e
1 star. i absolutely hated this book including some of the comments the author made. he really doesn't grasp the fact that the things he says/does only work BECAUSE of all the things which we have and take for granted. f.ex. i am really glad that we have a functioning well established law system incl. police. it is only BECAUSE we have that that we can walk around at night everywhere. i really cannot think of ANY reason to want to go back living like in the middle ages f.ex. where you'd have to ...more
Tom Hodgkinson and Joe Strummer (from The Clash) have a few things in common. I recommend listening to Sandinista during your reading breaks to maintain the Protesant work ethic-smashing spirit.
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome guide to getting free from the chains of credit, working for corporations, and generally living a freeer life.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too much religion in it for my likings - or better say spirituality - but apart from that an inspiring and thought-provoking read like very few others. Not a flaw per se, but I believe concepts could have been rendered without calling in God every five pages or so. Going 'back to the roots' doesn't necessarily have to entail going back to Bronze-age beliefs, we're supposed to have become smarter than that. His style is clean and straightforward, if a bit rhetorical at times, but still very enjoy ...more
i enjoyed reading this book and agree with many of its ideas - nothing new, but it's always good to be reminded that "freedom is a state of mind"
and many of the chapters contain good thoughts, "want less!" be (more) self-sufficient, stop competing and generally try not to work your life off in a job you hate to make money to spend on things you don't need (to impress people you don't like) such as a mortgage etc. also liked the ones about being "free" from loneliness and from fear, these ideas i
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agreed with maybe two thirds of his opinions.

Some of his thoughts were really obvious. If you haven't had a mindset shift around freedom, I could see how this book could be helpful. Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World is just a thousand times better, however.

Other ideas were the author making things more difficult for himself (and being less idle--e.g. some of his views on money.. being financially independent makes being idle and free much easier, if you don't care about mon
Helen Su
May 07, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan Whitaker
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to read this 10 years ago and stopped after the first few pages. I found it to be the cliched nonsense I was used to hearing from my fellow students at the time e.g. slating capitalism without understanding what it provides; believing in some romantic version of our past where everyone was happy; anti-technology; anti-industry; anti-progress.

Ten years in the rat-race later and here I am writing a positive review about it. I still find some of it cliched and perhaps unrealistic, but over
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book purports to tell people how to be free, to do what they want and live how they please. However, the author just sets up his own rules that you need to follow, or else you are a slave, a fool, rude, lazy, etc. Basically the moral of the book is if you don't live by the precepts I live by you are wrong and bad. Between this, the sexism, privilege, narcissism, absolute bastardization of history, hatred for Protestants, and absolutely dangerous recommendations (such as telling people who a ...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

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