How to be idle

by Tom Hodgkinson

Hardcover, 2005




New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2005.


Presents a whimsical antidote to today's work-obsessed culture, sharing a twenty-four-hour guide to achieving happiness while living leisurely.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
This book made me think about life and how I'm living it (and for those who dislike it, at least read the last chapter, it has the most fuel for thought). Although I don't agree with him entirely I do think that we have become enslaved by the system and serve it rather than it serving us. Many of us live to work rather than work to live and we need to look at how we're living and decide if we really want to continue in misery or change things to suit us. We have moved, unthinking, into the 20th and 21st centuries, all the time moving faster, working harder, striving for something that might be within our grasp if we slowed down and thought about it.

Although I wouldn't be as idle as he espouses, I do think that I wouldn't mind down-shifting my life.

This book is a series of views on a variety of issues from smoking to napping, a book that encourages us to think about our lives rather than just put our lives in neutral and keep going. Agree with him or disagree with him, he made me think about how much of my life is spent rushing instead of enjoying.
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LibraryThing member castiron
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 choose to do, and yes, that activity might actually resemble work” (which does appear in some spots to be what he ultimately means) rather than idleness as “doing things socially considered fun, like hanging out in pubs, lying in bed doing nothing, smoking, boozing" (which seems to be the larger part of his argument). Many of the activities he talks about as examples of how to enjoy idleness would drive me batty with boredom. It’s quite possible that an evening of knitting for the joy of the yarn and the desire to see the final project (and not because I really need to finish this project for a deadline) would fit right into his definition of idleness, but if it doesn’t, well, I’d much rather spend an evening knitting than an evening drinking beer in a pub.

Also, I come away from this book with the strong impression that he’s speaking to men, not to women. For example, he brushes off the work of childrearing with “train them to get their own breakfasts on weekends as soon as possible”. That’s nice, but in the intervening years, the kid has to be nursed or bottlefed, diapered, bathed, kept from poisoning itself, civilized into a reasonable human, etc., etc. As a mother, especially as the mother of a mentally disabled kid and for several years a single mother thereof, I had no choice on whether to be idle, because if I didn’t do the work of caring for my child, no one else was going to take up the slack. (The chapter in which H. sings the praises of skiving, slacking on work and enjoying watching someone else do it instead, raised my hackles to say the least.) The chapter on sex, too, is clearly aimed at men, with a token wave of “yeah, women just lose all interest in sex once they’ve got some kids”. (Er, not necessarily.)

Overall, an interesting concept, and I would love to see a book on the glories of idleness written by a mother, but H.’s take didn’t work for me.
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LibraryThing member midlevelbureaucrat
Picked this one up on a lark, and it's a been a life-changing, mood-altering kind of book for me. To hell with Steven Covey and his 7 habits. give me an ale and I'm off skiving. There's more to life than work. Ain't it a damn truth.
LibraryThing member JenneB
Well, I broke my foot and was kind of stuck being idle, so I figured I ought to find out how to do it right.

This is a fun little book--each chapter corresponds to an hour in the day, and some type of thing you might be doing, or not doing, then.
I didn't feel obliged to really read it especially closely, I skimmed some parts and skipped around a bit, but it was very enjoyable.

I definitely agree with him that everyone needs to get more sleep.
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LibraryThing member Mendoza
Any book that endorses sleep and putting off everything possible until another day is for me.

'With advice, information, and reflection on such matters as lying in, long lunches, and the art of the nap. How to be Idle gives you all the inspiration needed to take a break from your fast-paced, overworked life.'

The whole book is soaked with nostalgia for the turn-of-the-century English gentleman's lifestyle. And that is an added treat for me. Although the book does have problems holding up it's tongue in cheek attitude and keeping the humor going. I'd say it was stretched out a few too many pages. Other than that, I find it enjoyable to skim through and pick out passages.
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LibraryThing member MiaCulpa
While I need to instruction on how to be idle, it's always good to have refresher courses and "How to be idle" is such a refresher course. Hodgkinson's thesis, that pre-Industrial Revolution, humans didn't necessarily adhere to a work ethic and spent much of their time kicking back, attending Saints' feast day dinners and drinking, can't be faulted too greatly, although I take on board criticism that Hodgkinson writes for a male audiences and some of what he suggests may not be as possible for women.

Hodgkinson's suggestion of returning to the pre-Industrial Revolution lifestyle, including cutting back to four day working weeks, would no doubt entice some, but for someone like myself, who prefers as much international travel as humanly possible, one needs to work full-time (or at least be paid that way).
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LibraryThing member subbobmail
Tom Hodgkinson would like to return to the days of Samuel Johnson, before the Industrial Revolution came along and turned independent workers into cogs in the bosses' machine. "How To Be Idle" encourages the reader to sleep in, lie about, meditate, daydream, go fishing, take a nap, and generally opt out of the rat race. True, he goes a bit too far -- odes to smoking and hangovers have no charm for me. (Yeah, stick it to The Man by wrecking your lungs and liver!) But on the whole, I agree that idleness is beneficial and necessary, at least in comparison with the usual hyper-caffeinated sleep-deprived existence. Productivity nuts take note -- Samuel Johnson slept in and lingered over dinner AND got a lot done.… (more)




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