No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authorsKaren Joy Fowler (Introduction)
Paperback, 2017

Call number



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017), Edition: First Edition, 240 pages


"From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, and with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, a collection of thoughts--always adroit, often acerbic--on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation. Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she's in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice -- sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical -- shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula's blog, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her wonder at it. On the absurdity of denying your age, she says, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub." On cultural perceptions of fantasy: "The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is 'escapism' an accusation of? " On her new cat: "He still won't sit on a lap" -- "From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, a collection of thoughts--always adroit, often acerbic--on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation"--… (more)

Media reviews

Prompted by an alumni survey from her alma mater, Radcliffe, that asks how she occupies her spare time, she takes issue with the idea that any time occupied by living—whether that means reading, writing, cooking, eating, cleaning, etc.—can be considered spare. Moreover, with her 81st birthday fast approaching, Le Guin declares, ”I have no time to spare.”

User reviews

LibraryThing member nancyadair
Subtitled, Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin's newest book No Time To Spare is a collection of writing from her blog begun in 2010 when she was age 81. Le Guin addresses a variety of subjects, from her rescue cat Pard to the feminist movement and The Great American Novel.

I was struck by her strong voice and in the early sections was very drawn in, enjoying my reading. In the first essay she reacts to a questionnaire that asked what she did in her 'spare time.' She remarks that retired people have nothing but 'spare time', yet she has always been 'occupied'--by living, reading, writing, embroidering, socializing, traveling... She ends by writing,

"None of this is spare time. I can't spare it. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eight-one next week. I have no time to spare."

I so related to this insight! I hate polls where I have the choice of checking 'retired' or 'housewife.' I am 'retired' because I collect Social Security, and I am a housewife because I do most, but not all of the cleaning and cooking and bill paying. But I have no spare time. I read, I write book reviews, I design and make quilts, I do research on genealogy. I am not paid for any of it, unless you call free e-books, ARCs, galleys and giveaway books 'payment.'

I was like, "You go, girl!"

The first essay I read was "Would You Please F******* Stop?" I had received the book in the mail the day of my family Christmas gathering, the Thursday before Christmas Day. I opened the book to this chapter and read it out loud. Perhaps not the best choice, but my brother laughed. Le Guin attacks the abysmal decay of American English that peppers the f-word throughout every sentence uttered. Le Guin writes that the word has taken on overtones of "dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred." She ends with, "God is dead, at least as a swear word, but hate and feces keep going strong."

My favorite essay It Doesn't Have to Be the Way it Is, which concerns imaginative literature and the nature of fantasy, and why fundamentalists find it objectionable.

The later essays did not all resonate with me, perhaps showing the generation gap between Le Guin and myself. I have no WWII idealization of service uniforms, even if my Uncle Dave's Navy whites are a fond memory. She talks about the economy, politics, the feminist movement, but many times I felt dissatisfied and even bristled, while still a little unsure of what she meant. I was not comfortable with references to slapping children or her striking the cat.

In Lying it All Away Le Guin attacks political lying. In one paragraph she mentions Hitler, Nixon, Reagen, and Obama. The essay is dated October 2012, written shortly after the Obama-Romney debate. Le Guin remarks, "What was appalling to me about Obama's false figures and false promises in the first debate was they were unnecessary." I went to the Pulitzer Prize winning PoliticFact to see their fact checking of the debate claims by both Obama and Romney. Romney and Obama both made false statements and told half-truths, which tallied up come out about even. There is a bias in Le Guin's essay in that she only mentions one candidate.

That bothers me.

Le Guin is influential, a literary light and icon. But readers, I remind you to always consider that every artist and every work of art is personal, reflecting their own experience and perceptions. We must use critical thinking every time we open a book or watch a movie or listen to a song and not assume our icon's version of the world without thought.

I will say that Le Guin never shys away from saying her piece, even when she also remarks on her incompetence in an area.

The essays were entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking.

I received a free book from the publisher through a giveaway.
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LibraryThing member quondame
I love spending time with Ursula K. Le Guin's writing and ideas. This book is full of short pieces, blog posts, about her thoughts and the incidents in the last few years of her life. Her refusal to accept what passes for truths in American so-called ideology can be refreshing and/or disturbing. Just approaching 70 I too feel I have no spare time.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
It has only been in the last several years that I have added essays into my already cumbersome reading repertoire. As a younger reader I was all about the books, prose and plot, not realizing how much of an author's own self goes into the writing of each and every book. I fell in love with this literary form, such a wonderful way to get to know what is important to an author, glimpses into their personal lives, how they think, and how they feel about things impacting their lives. What may be even stranger, is that I am not a scyfy reader, well except for post apocalyptic novels, so I have never even read oned of her novels. So why did I decide to read this? She is going to be eighty one, and the wisdom she has accumulated, as well as all the changes she has seen, had to be interesting.

It was, and so much more. Her wisdom and inner grace shines in her writing, as does her acerbic wit.
There are some that deal with her personal life, mainly her one year old cat named Pard. These are absolutely delightful and insightful. She has intelligent opinions about many things, from our government, and the corporation owned Congress, to feminism and it's results through the years.

Love this quote, which is only one of many witty comments within. She writes about the absurdity of denying your age, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub." Common sense for sure and she has plenty of it, shown again and again in her writing. She writes exceedingly well, and I think I will stretch myself this coming year, and actually try one of her shorter works. If nothing else I am sure I will enjoy her writing, will see about the plot.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Absolutely loved these short essays and blog posts, which at multiple points had me laughing out loud and also drew the tears a time or two as well. From cats to anger to music to aging ... I would happily read Ursula Le Guin's musings on just about anything.
LibraryThing member lauriebrown54
This is a collection of short essays that LeGuin originally put up on her blog. Basically they are short form essays, and the book is divided roughly into subjects that include aging, sexism, politics, morals, nature, religion, swearing, writing, and, in between, are the Annals of Pard. Pard being the author’s latest cat, who is still a youngster- a year old when procured. But these are not your ordinary old woman with a cat entries; she examines the moral issues of cats catching mice.

LeGuin is in her eighties now, and has seen a lot of changes in the world. Always the feminist and anti-authoritarian, she has said a lot about those subjects in her novels and continues to have lots to say about them. Her essays are written in simple but elegant prose and are a delight to read. Five stars.
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LibraryThing member hardlyhardy
Just a matter of days after acquiring Ursula K. Le Guin's “No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters,” I saw that the author had died. She died on Jan. 22 at the age of 88. Truly she didn't have time to spare.

The author of more than a score of novels, mostly science fiction, and several books of poetry, Le Guin turned to blogging when she reached her 80s. It was a way to stay in the writing game, but with short essays rather than an exhausting book, a book she might never live to finish. This book collects the best of her blog.

Her book's title comes from the last line of its first essay, one called "In Your Spare Time." This was triggered by a questionnaire she received from Harvard for her 60th class reunion. (She actually graduated from Radcliffe in 1951, but Radcliffe was affiliated with Harvard.) One question asked what she did in her spare time.

Le Guin reflects on how the meaning of the phrase "spare time" changes as one ages. For younger people it means "leisure time," whatever time is left after work and after household chores and parenting and other responsibilities are taken care of. At some point, after retirement, virtually all time becomes leisure time, meaning people can use their time however they wish. At least this seems true in theory, however untrue it may be in practice. Yet because time grows short as we age, there really is none to spare.

From there Le Guin goes on to tackle a variety of subjects, some relating to aging, others to literature, nature, her cat and, in one of her most entertaining pieces, putting our soldiers in camouflage. "I find it not only degrading but disturbing that we dress our soldiers in clothes suitable to jail or the loony bin, setting them apart not by looking good, looking sharp, but by looking like clowns from a broken-down circus."

As for her cat, she writes about Pard more than any other topic: how she got him, how he misbehaves only when he has an audience, how he catches mice but doesn't know what to do with them, and so on. Another essay focuses on a much bigger cat, a captive lynx that captivates her.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
This collection of essays all came from a blog Le Guin was keeping in recent years. Boy, was this hard to read in the days just following her death--so many of the essays are about living in old age, about what she will live to see and what she won't, what mattered to her knowing that most of her life was behind her. Gah. And then there are the pieces about her cat. They are exquisitely observed bits about cat life and being a cat lover, and now I'm thinking about how her cat must be so sad having lost her. Double gah. This is a wonderful collection on a range of topics--some about writing of course, but much else as well. Particularly poignant in this last week, but marvelous I think even without that timing.… (more)
LibraryThing member bell7
In 2010, after discovering that author Jose Saramago had started a blog, Le Guin decides that she too could express herself in that medium. Here is collected a few dozen of her posts from 2010-2014, covering diverse topics such as getting old, writing, responding to fan letters, observations of her cat Pard, and the delight of soft-boiled eggs.

As a fantasy fan, I couldn't help but have heard of Le Guin though this is my first introduction to her works. I've most often seen her quoted in defending genre fiction (particularly science fiction and fantasy) as not being secondary to more literary fiction beloved by critics, so I knew I liked her. In this collection, though I often didn't agree with her political statements, I found much food for thought and enjoyed her way of expressing herself whether she was definite about something ("Old age is for anybody who gets there.") or grappling with questions ("What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion?"). The descriptions of her cat were especially delightful to me, and interspersed in some of the heavier topics were a respite and made it easier for me to keep reading "one more essay..." before putting the book down.
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LibraryThing member john.cooper
Le Guin in her eighties, as evidenced by the blog entries that make up this collection, was still smarter than nineteen out of twenty pundits, and pithier than ninety-nine out of a hundred. Having decades of practice in truth-telling both in nonfiction and fiction, she arrived at old age's let-those-who-are-troubled-be-damned candor better prepared than the average grandparent to rant effectively and be listened to. The pieces here are not always weighty--there's quite a lot about her cat--but they are refreshing. Some are about art, some about politics, some about the confusion of thought surrounding things of fact and things of faith. And, of course, some are just musings about whatever was on her mind when it was time to write another entry. There is a charming chapter about Delores Pander, whom Le Guin hired to answer her mail for many years; she was the wife of Henk Pander, a fine painter here in Portland. The book is full of all kinds of surprises, and feels intimate in a way that's a bit sad so soon after Le Guin's death in January 2018.… (more)
LibraryThing member meandmybooks
I really enjoyed these short pieces – blog posts – on a variety of topics. They have a casual, friendly feeling about them, but also, almost always, a solid core of real thoughtfulness. Having just acquired a small black kitten, I particularly enjoyed the stories about her black cat, Pard, and also the ones about the lynx and the rattlesnake. Oh, and the one about the soft-boiled egg was just marvelous. And the pieces on aging, on fantasy, and on answering fan mail. Really it was just the political ones that dragged a bit for me, and not because we don't share roughly similar political views, but because, I think, her complaints about lying, self-centered politicians in 2011, 2012, 2014, and so on just seem so... outdated now. The bar for truly shameless political misconduct has been raised to stratospheric levels (or perhaps just deported entirely) since January 2016, when the most recent of these pieces was published. Still, that's certainly not a development Le Guin could have been expected to anticipate (who could have imagined?), and the book's short essays include a delightfully wide range of subjects. Recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member ladycato
I received a galley of this book via Netgalley.

Le Guin's blog posts are gathered in this new book that is refreshing and packed with wisdom. With a gently acerbic voice, she confronts the silliness of denying one's age, discusses the time she refused a Nebula nomination, and muses about the many goings-on of her cat, Pard. This book feels like sitting down an old friend who is tactful and blunt at once, and it's a joy to read. I say that, though I read it in a very difficult time (the passing of my beloved elderly cat followed by a sudden bout of flu). Her words made me smile when most things didn't make me smile.… (more)
LibraryThing member jen.e.moore
A delightful collection of blog posts on a variety of subjects, large and small, handled with Le Guin's characteristic grace and wisdom.
LibraryThing member msf59
Ursula K. Le Guin, inspired by a blog written by an aging, Jose Saramago, began her own blog in 2010. This is a collection of the best of those essays. Musings, about old age, the state of the union, her cats, literature and various other observations, expressed with sharp intelligence and wit.
I have to admit, I am a bit under-read in the Le Guin canon but I hope to catch up with this immensely talented American author.

LeGuin does not narrate the audio, but the woman that performs, captures her tone perfectly.
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LibraryThing member abycats
Several of the essays at the beginning were so on point and provocative about life as an older woman that they made my almost 70yo self nod and ponder. They more than offset other essays later in the volume that don’t speak to me at all later. Love her essays about their cat Pard. And, of course, whether the topic is of interest or not, everything is impeccably written.… (more)
LibraryThing member dasam
How much I already miss Ursula Le Guin. Her fantasy and sci-fi novels explore what it means to be a human, to be gendered, to live with a natural world instead of against it. This collection of essays from her blog are more personal--and leave me with the illusion that I knew her or at least the wish that she had been my neighbor. Here we watch the natural world together. Here I listen to her thoughts on politics and science vs belief and find myself nodding.

Whether you are already an avid reader of Le Guin or if you are not a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, this collection is thogh-provoking, full of heart and joy, and a joy to read.
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LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
Thinking this was a book of short stories, discovering that it was a book of musings, I delighted in every single page and every single thought expounded upon by the great writer (and erstwhile guru) Ursula K. Le Guin. Brilliant!
LibraryThing member sturlington
This is not a collection of essays but rather a collection of posts from Le Guin's blog, and as such, they lack the sense of polish or significance that an essay might impart. But they do showcase the precision of language that makes Le Guin such a satisfying writer, and there are several gems in here. As in her other nonfiction, Le Guin seems to be at her most insightful when discussing literature and women. One of my favorite selections, for instance, combined the two in an examination of the yin and yang of utopian/dystopian fiction. I also greatly appreciated her insights into Homer. Toward the end, the writing becomes more poetic, introspective, and--as I was reading this in honor of Le Guin's life and her impact on me as a reader--bittersweet. One essay on soft-boiled eggs almost brought me to tears. An uneven collection, but certainly a worthwhile one.… (more)
LibraryThing member ThomasPluck
a collection of blog posts. but in her hands even a blog post is wonderful reading.
LibraryThing member waldhaus1
Although an started her blog later in life it provides enjoyable insights into her life. The stories of her life with her cat were fun although I am far from a cat person. Hearing her expound on her fascination with words was fun.
LibraryThing member bragan
A collection of short essays -- originally blog posts -- from the late, great Ursula Le Guin. These cover a wide variety of topics: aging, writing, feminism, the state of the world, the antics of her cat, how to eat a soft-boiled egg. Some are serious, some slightly playful, a few just a little bit curmudgeonly, but, unsurprisingly, they're always thoughtful and well-written.… (more)
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
I don't read much sci-fi or fantasy, so LeGuin has never been on my favorites list. But this collection of essays on various subjects (from the author's blog) really hit a lot of my sweet spots. What a mind...I'll bet she was usually the smartest person in the room, but never flaunted it. She covers things like the truth about getting old (don't say "it's not for sissies" and stop telling people they're only as young as they feel); the uselessness of swear words that appear five times in one sentence; the inanity of surveys, even those conjured up at Harvard; the narrative gift; and best of all--"The Annals of Pard". Once in a while I found myself disagreeing with her, but she was smarter than I am, so I'm OK with that. I don't mean I grant that she's probably right and I'm wrong, just that I'm fine with an intelligent person holding an opinion I don't share. Once or twice I found I couldn't quite follow her reasoning, and because she was smarter than I am, I think she may have left out a logical step or two that was obvious to her, but not to me. Wish I could sit down and talk to her about those bits.… (more)
LibraryThing member cstebbins
Disappointing to find that the much-admired sci fi writer was a regulation, standard issue "liberal", but she does make some clever remarks, of which my favorite is this: "I've lost faith in the saying 'You're only as old as you think you are, since I got old . . .It is a saying with a fine heritage. It goes right back to the idea of the Power of Positive Thinking, which is so strong in America because it fits in so well with the Power of Commercial Advertising and with the Power of Wishful Thinking, aka the American Dream."… (more)
LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
This is my first Le Guin book. It is an appeasing and intriguing piece of non-fiction that has short, sometimes anecdotal, pieces about the nature of things, personal observations, and explorations. I found it to be well thought out and written with poise and tacit style.

Overall, a good read.

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LibraryThing member grandpahobo
This is a very nice compendium of blog posts and commentary by Le Guin. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that several of the pieces are about her cat, and I'm not a cat person :)
LibraryThing member SESchend
Essay/blog post collection that reads with great voice and character that made me miss Ursula Le Guin all the more





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