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How to Be Idle

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,758 ratings  ·  332 reviews
Yearning for a life of leisure? In 24 chapters representing each hour of a typical working day, this book will coax out the loafer in even the most diligent and schedule-obsessed worker.

From the founding editor of the celebrated magazine about the freedom and fine art of doing nothing, The Idler, comes not simply a book, but an antidote to our work-obsessed culture. In How
Paperback, 286 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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M. D.  Hudson
Apr 14, 2010 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 19, 2009 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
Jan 13, 2008 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 29, 2015 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
Aug 08, 2007 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
An interesting little book that I picked up at a booksale. Hodgkinson actually founded a magazine (still in business!) called The Idler.

A good portion of his theory I agree with--we go to college to get a job, but then we need the job to pay for college and all the "stuff" we need, including vacations to get away from the job. But I think (18 years after the book was printed) things are changing slowly. Little houses need less "stuff" and Uber drivers can work 4 hours a day and have a life as w
Kasey Jueds
Dec 13, 2011 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
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
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all those who need a break once in a while
Shelves: fiction, 2007
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.
Kayla Peebles
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Great read. It really got me thinking - about the way we prioritize a job above all else, how insane it is that I feel like I should be doing something productive the moment I awaken on my day off, about how I’ve structured my life so far.

See - I’ve been an idler at heart all along. I’ve basically set up my life in a way that guarantees a big ole vacation at least once a year. Once I got a job where I worked 30 hours a week I swore I’d never go back to a 40 hour week. I have - but I work a seas
Jul 02, 2014 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
Justin Douglas
Jul 17, 2012 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
I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand Hodgkinson makes some good points about the rampant over-worked society that we find ourselves and the need to slow down a little, to find what we want to do or what we are passionate about and do it rather than doing what we are meant to do to appear productive. On the other hand, there is no real distinction between slow down for the sake of sanity and health and being out right lazy, which I think is an important distinction to make, particula ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
YES. On the one hand, whole chapters that only a 30-something dude could write. On the other hand, vital message, and timely encouragement for this exhausted born idler.
Dec 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well if was not so lazy I would write a long convoluted review but it seems like a lot of work, so I won’t! Suffice to say that I enjoyed the erudite research he did to support his thesis but the book, being a bit out of touch with today’s reality, fails to consider that a lot of the younger generation is now forced to work 2 or 3 part time jobs just to pay lodgings and food! But I still agree that more leisure and less tedious work would make us happier! All in all quite enjoyable.
Oh and much e
Dec 03, 2012 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 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
" 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
Jun 07, 2015 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
Lee Osborne
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a book I've read before, but not for a while, so I dug into it while staying at a particularly pleasant bothy in the middle of nowhere. Given that the subject is enjoying life while doing as little as possible, this was a perfect location to read it.

I think you'll either get the idea behind the book, or you won't. If you love to brag about how busy you are and have a house full of the latest technology, you probably won't get it at all, but if you appreciate living a simple, uncluttered
Dec 11, 2007 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 poe
Dec 21, 2007 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. ...more
Maria B.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I first started this book I had a preconceived idea of what I could find inside: irony towards the lazy people, perhaps refined, perhaps brutal, but clearly against them, because who could possibly dare to have another official opinion? Once again, books find a way to surprise me, this time with humor and wisdom and a new perspective.
This book is indeed a guide for the lazy, for those who always find excuses not to do something, not to enter in the game of the consumerist society, for those
Falynn - the TyGrammarSaurus Rex
I have spent the last few years trying to deal with the internalized perfectionism and constant pressure to success, to produce, to be better. I am in the process of trying to change parts of my life for the better & I picked up this book because it seemed to speak to that theme.

Overall, it is a fun read, I highly appreciate the philosophy behind it, and the quotes from poets & thinkers over the centuries are interesting.

However, I did have a few issues with the book.

The most major can be summed
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
I always thought I should have been born a gentleman of leisure, and now, having been retired some 18 years, I feel I have just about reached that happy state. Just as I try not to leave food on my plate, I try not to leave a book unfinished, but I couldn't quite finish this one.
To start with, I disagree with much of his definition of idleness. For me, to be truly idle, you have to be in a state where you could - if you were so inclined - "do something useful". So I do not count sleep as idlenes
Phil Willis
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this during COVID-19 isolation which was the perfect time to get comfortable with the idea of being idle.
Esther Jeon
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it
a fitting book in the time of social distancing. it was witty and quirky. it started off well and had some moments of “oh yeah same!” but then it seemed to drag on and started feeling, well, unrelatable 🤷🏻‍♀️
May 06, 2008 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
Jul 29, 2012 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
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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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Nature, in Her infinite awesomeness, can provide solace even when you’re stuck in the house. As a matter of fact, the numbers suggest that...
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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.” 46 likes
“The art of living is the art of bringing dreams and reality together.” 22 likes
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