Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Importance of Living” as Want to Read:
The Importance of Living
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Importance of Living

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,005 ratings  ·  128 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, and t ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published September 16th 1998 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1937)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Importance of Living, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Importance of Living

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,005 ratings  ·  128 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Importance of Living
Diane Barnes
I am going to bail on this book. I have been reading a few pages at a time for about 4 months now, and while it's a nice, calming book about different philosophies in China and other countries around the world, with the view that people should slow down and enjoy their world, apparently this advice is just for men. In his opinion, women MUST be mothers to be happy, because it's their reason for existence. Women MUST be married, to create a family and home to take pressure off the husband trying ...more
Vikram Karve
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, philosophy
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
Dr X
Sep 16, 2008 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 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
Jul 22, 2012 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 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, etiquette
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
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.
Nick Klagge
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise." -Lin Yutang

This is a lovely old book that I discovered due to Robert Wringham quoting it, with high commendation, in his book _Escape Everything!_ Mr. Lin, who was born in China in 1895 and published _The Importance of Living_ in 1937 shortly after moving to America, has an outlook on life that will be familiar to anyone who has read Wringham's publication, The New Escapologist: deeply interested in explori
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, classics
If I had judged this book based on the first three chapters alone, I would have given it a poor rating. But in Chapter 4, the book finally seems to find its way. Chapter 4 is "On Being Human," and it's at this point that Yutang begins to write about the book's overall theme: the importance of living.

Throughout the book I found many sentences and passages worth highlighting and sharing. Some especially so given the book was published in 1937. For example, in Chapter 12-I, Yutang criti
Ben Hammond
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd wholly recommend this to anyone who feels like they need direction and quelling of their anxiety about life. The only reason I'm giving this 4 stars is because it is outdated in societal terms, particular in the views of women. As a person of principle I can't 'forgive' these views even if they are of a man of a previous generation. But the prose concerning beauty, nature and religion it is quintessentially Chinese and has really opened my eyes into reading more Chinese/East Asian literature ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Somewhat unexpectedly hilarious and thought-provoking. The book begins with a disclaimer that it's not really a book on philosophy, just a collection of the author's thoughts, and it is very true to that disclaimer. Certain parts I completely disregarded because they were outdated or just not relevant to me, but there was a lot of content that I found fascinating and I loved the emphasis on simplicity and not overcomplicating things.

One of my favourite passages in the book:
"But the essential fact r/>"But
Gnuehc Ecnerwal
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got this book off of the shelf labeled 'Philosophy' at my local bookstore, (where it was correctly placed.)

It seems to me that quite a few people looked at the title on the cover and assumed that it is the kind of book that tells you how to live your life, like so many 'self-help' books and so many 'guru of meaningful living' books. To be honest, if you had to read a book, or have SOMEONE ELSE to tell you, how to live YOUR life, it is rather sad.

This is not that kind of book. It does not giv
Talbot Hook
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books which, even though one disagrees with several (if not many) of its constituent parts, triumphs as a unified whole, insofar as one gains an appreciation of the author's peculiar temperament, thoughts, opinions, purposes, and shortcomings. Because it is so wide-ranging, covering everything from paganism to tea-drinking, and from proper chair-sitting to the psychological importance of humor, one is truly able to bask in another person's mind and life. Lin Yutang writ ...more
Steven Malone
Jan 25, 2013 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 Import
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I picked up an old edition of this book for £2 at a vintage bookshop in Johannesburg and couldn't put it down for the rest of the holiday.

Someone in the comments described this as listening to the rambling of a grandfather! I thought that was very accurate! Though much like any out of touch grandfather I didn't agreed with all Yutang's ramblings it was nevertheless fascinating. But the stronger appeal for me was with his way of looking at things. The best way to explain it is that lovely quote
Sep 07, 2009 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
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm putting this back on my "to read" list because there's just no way I want to read this book in any fly by night way. It's almost 500 pages and has the most wonderfully named chapters--"On Having a Mind" and "Cynicism, Folly and Camouflage" and a whole section on "The Importance of Loafing." This is a book made for long, lazy days, to be savored and read slowly with lots of time in between for contemplation. Maybe when I retire I will buy myself my own copy and settle into a chair on the deck ...more
Feb 08, 2015 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
Aidan Reid
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Initially enjoyed this but there was so much meandering about mundane subjects (flowers, rocks, tea...), that it became a slog half-way through. Didn't pick up nearer end.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all time. With chapters titled "on sitting in chairs" and "on having a stomach", there's just something so wonderfully pleasant about wandering through this book, as though you're traveling through a country... it gives you a whole new appreciation and awareness of the simple things in life.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
As others have commented, it's impossible to read this book unless you set aside some of the misogynist and totalizing commentary on race and gender. That said, it's still a hilarious dose of common and not so common sense that hardly seems dated although it was written in 1937. In particular, the advice on reading, writing, and traveling is not to be missed. I found it incredibly fun, myself.
May 31, 2014 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
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was first published in 1937 but, unlike fiction from that long ago -- which can often use language and set-ups that could seem stilted to the "modern mind" -- this is essentially a wisdom book and, hence, timeless, as his observations about the oddities (and lunacies) of human nature remain as thoughtful and relevant to us today as do the biblical books of Proverbs, Wisdom, and Ecclesiastes.

Lin Yutang was clearly a brilliant, multi-culture embracing, humorous man, one of th
Jasmine Pope
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found his views of Christianity small considering he seems to believe being a Christian means you try to do good to get to heaven (100% false- John 3:16).

Rating is reflective of the enjoyment of slow reading I experienced and his style, or rather, his flavor of writing. My favorite section was that about the flowers. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it because I have no previous desire to speak or think of flowers, but it was beautiful. I do believe he has some very wise and interesting
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is a very tough book to rate. On the one hand, Yutang's philosophy of slowing down, enjoying life, and recognizing that this is the only life we get is all wonderful. And the book has many wonderful passages that you want to remember on religion, protecting nature, and others. On the other hand, by today's standards, he comes off as somewhat of a misogynist, racist, and quite a snob. He is quite intolerant of other points of view. There were a number of times that I felt that his way of liv ...more
N.J. Kulkarni
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very simply written book on philosophy. Philosophy should be written in simple English but I find many such books contain abstractions which are difficult to relate to reality. Lin Yutang writes about real life and real people and tells us about Life. Yes, his prejudices show but it only goes to show how human he was. This is the second time I read this book. The first time I read it when I was 15, and now when I re-read it, I realised that many of my thoughts in adulthood have been influenced ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
This book is verbose. In all honesty, I probably read around 300 full pages of the 428 that it contains. However, that's all you need to do. When he gets lost talking about one topic that you have gotten the gist of you are not missing out by passing a few pages to get to the next topic. Being from 1937, there was some dated points of view regarding things like women and smoking. However, overall I would say that I liked the book and I found some interesting thoughts and ideas throughout it. I h ...more
Ariel Hau
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall, this book took me a while to read because of the fact that I found it a bit boring. In the beginning of the book, I was not captivated at all and often found that my attention wandered. I think this may have been because Yutang repeated many things that were previously stated, and stated historical myths and beliefs that I didn't think were relevant. However, Chapter 4 was a bit better, as it focused more on what it means to be "human" and struggles that arise in the present day.
Lynne Fisher
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully entertaining read full of wisdom, creativity, and insights on how to live well and appreciate every minute of this life we've been given. Fascinating exploration of the different modes of thinking between east and west. Of perhaps special appeal to writers, artists, and anyone interested in human nature, psychology and philosophy. This book is guaranteed to shake up your thinking and bring some refreshing views into your way of being.
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Chinese traditional culture 2 22 Feb 21, 2012 04:52AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Books for Living
  • بلدي
  • 只要我能跑,沒什麼不能解決的
  • 永遠の0 [Eien No Zero]
  • 無家者:從未想過我有這麼一天
  • 之間:誠品創辦人吳清友的生命之旅
  • おらおらでひとりいぐも
  • On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy
  • القداحة العجيبة
  • العصبي
  • اعرف شخصيتك وشخصية الآخرين
  • انتحار فاشل
  • لغة الجسد - فن معرفة الآخرين
  • عودة الروح
  • وحدي مع الآخرين
  • كيف تقنع الآخرين وتؤثر فيهم؟
  • Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen, #1)
  • Chapter One: You have the power to change stuff
See similar books…
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 advanc
“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.” 228 likes
“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” 195 likes
More quotes…