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Comment: Crisp, clean, unread hardcover with light shelfwear to the dust jacket and a publisher's mark to one edge - Nice!
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Boredom: A Lively History Hardcover – May 24, 2011

4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"As for his engaging new book, Toohey needn’t worry: Boredom, with its wise insights, is never boring."—Carmela Ciuraru, Boston Globe
(Carmela Ciuraru Boston Globe)

"Readers who are willing to meander from science to literature to art and other realms will find themselves engaged."—Nina C. Ayoub, The Chronicle Review
(Nina C. Ayoub The Chronicle Review)

"Mr. Toohey presents his case with verve."—Elizabeth Lowry, Wall Street Journal
(Elizabeth Lowry Wall Street Journal)

"[Toohey] makes a persuasive case that there are even benefits to boredom, and at the very least this engaging read proffers a temporary antidote to the noonday demon."—Kelly McMasters, Newsday
(Newsday Kelly McMasters)

"Highly entertaining."—Gordon Pitz, PsycCRITIQUES
(Gordon Pitz PsycCRITIQUES)

"A lively, eminently readable book."—S. Halling, Choice
(S. Halling Choice)

About the Author

Peter Toohey is a professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. His previous books include Melancholy, Love and Time: Boundaries of the Self in Ancient Literature. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300141106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300141108
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. P. Birkett on September 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this lively and entertaining collection of musings and learned a lot from it. Dr Toohey has read a lot of books to kill the time. In fact it is largely a book made out of other books. The author does not present his own experimental work and is not a psychologist by training. (The jacket and the New York Times review seem to suggest that living in Calgary is enough to make you an expert on boredom.) He gives clear and interesting explanations of what philosophers say about emotions. He believes that boredom is not necessarily a bad thing.
The sections on neurology tell us, among other things, that smell sensations travel from the nose to spinal pathways and thence to the insula.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a study of an essential and incredibly common emotion in human beings – boredom. This book is not a physiological or psychological study of boredom but a synthesis of how painters, monks, novelists, scientists, psychologists, and biologists visualize, narrate, an analyse boredom via artworks, literature, films, and academic papers from BC to nowadays.

In this book, Professor Toohey guides readers to understand salient features of this emotion that are easier to experience than to write about. Boredom is regarded as a universal and common emotion in our daily life, regardless of origins of culture and social background. According to Professor Toohey, there are two forms of boredom, including ‘simple’ boredom and ‘existential’ boredom (P.4). Simple boredom is the result of lengthy duration and when a situation is predictable and inescapable. It is also due primarily to its repeatability or when one is too satiated with a situation or in a state of entrapment. Existential boredom is, however, more than a concept than an emotion or feeling (P.142, P.189). It has diverse names such as nausea, disgust, ennui, mal de vivre, and despair. Existential boredom takes places when one feels that his/her existence has no relationship with the world around.

This six-chapter book collects and analyses abundant information about boredom. Chapter 1 is an introduction of salient features of boredom through artworks, literature, and latest scientific research findings. For instance, Orpen’s A Bloomsburg Family (1907) and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (1900) capture the excruciating sense of boredom caused by entrapment. Bocklin’s Odysseus and Calypso (1883) depicts infinite or endless vista to the cause of boredom.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Toohey, a professor at the University of Calgary, author of "boredom: a lively history," has brightened his 190 text pages with 27 illustrations. His sharp insights inspire closer looks at art, photographs, history, and ourselves, as he traces the varied postures of boredom, the appearance and universal fascination with boredom by painters, thinkers, authors, playwrights, historians, scientists, photographers, and just about everyone who has ever been bored. And who hasn't? Mr. Toohey has done an exhaustive search of anyone who has ever touched upon the subject. That he has completed his compilation in so few pages is pleasing and not boring at all.

Mr. Toohey's location at the University of Calgary, approximately 200 miles north of Glacier National Park (shared by the U.S. and Canada) might seem out in the boondocks and a bit boring, but that is not the case. Calgary, Alberta, is a very large metropolitan area some 50 miles east of the Canadian Rockies. The city, the university, and the professor, as the book reveals, are good to know.

Mr. Toohey has a pleasant tentative way of expressing himself. He presents the facts as he has gathered them, letting the reader form his or her own conclusions, while offering his own in a self-effacing way. And he can be subtly funny. I have never met Professor Toohey other than in his book, but I think I should like to sit in at the back of some of his classes. In a calm and straightforward way, he would most assuredly not be boring.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There are books that you know will be a great read from the very first page. This one was one of them. Very interesting and very enlightening. I found this in my university library while researching for a paper, specifically about the relation of boredom to disgust. I found the answers I was looking for but I got hooked into reading the whole book. Toohey's prose is so fresh it feels like a light-read. No snobbery here, no ridiculously long or complicated sentences for the sake of sounding witty, yet very smart and complete. If you're looking for an interesting non-fiction that could read on a weekend, this is it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me save you some money and several hours of your life. Toohey's thesis in this book is that "simple boredom" and "existential boredom" are different, and while simple boredom has existed since time immemorial, existential boredom is a creation of modern philosophy. By his definitions, existential boredom is essentially chronic depression/dysthymia, and simple boredom is a lack of engagement with your activities due to being trapped in repetition. He thinks this distinction is maniacally important, and spends a large portion of the book claiming that few previous researchers note this difference. In reality, few draw this distinction because it goes without saying. Depression and boredom overlap and interact, but are distinct. His position that existential boredom is a creation of modern man is categorically false, given that depression has been described for ages. At best, the name "existential boredom" is relatively new.

After opening the book with a 40 page chapter showing low-quality images (at least in the paperback version) of artwork depicting or implying boredom, Toohey spends the remainder of the book causing boredom. His idea of a history of boredom is to over-interpret artwork that may or may not depict boredom. He teaches us that a chin resting in the hand may depict boredom, and that a lack of people in an image implies it. When the author himself gets bored, he throws in another piece of artwork (27 in all) and spends a page or two talking about what boredom looks like.

It takes the author 181 pages of demonstrating to the reader that he's discovered the thesaurus feature of MS Word to come to the conclusion, "And so it seems that curing boredom seems to be related to managing empty time.
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