Doing Nothing and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: $25.00
  • Save: $5.88 (24%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Doing Nothing: A History ... has been added to your Cart
+ $3.99 shipping
Used: Good | Details
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Book shows minor use. Cover and Binding have minimal wear and the pages have only minimal creases. A tradition of southern quality and service. All books guaranteed at the Atlanta Book Company. Our mailers are 100% recyclable.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America Paperback – May 15, 2007

See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$3.39 $0.01

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of January
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Frequently Bought Together

Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America + Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears
Price for both: $38.18

Buy the selected items together

Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086547737X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lutz eases readers into this sparkling cultural history of stylish American torpor with an anecdote about his 18-year-old son, Cody, moving into his house and bivouacking on the couch—perhaps indefinitely. Lutz himself spent a decade before college "wandering here and abroad," so his intense anger at Cody surprised him—and inspired him to write this book about the crashing fault lines between Anglo-America's vaunted Calvinist work ethic and its skulking, shrugging love of idling. An English professor who admits to being personally caught between these warring impulses, Lutz (Crying) has a gimlet eye for the ironies of modern loafing: that the "flaming youth" of the 1920s were intensely industrious; that our most celebrated slackers (Jack Kerouac, Richard Linklater) have been closet workaholics; that our most outspoken Puritans (Benjamin Franklin, George W. Bush) have been notorious layabouts. Lutz's diligent research on a range of lazy and slovenly subjects, from French flâneurs to New York bohos, ultimately leads him to side with the bums. Flying in the face of yuppie values and critics of the welfare state, his "slacker ethic" emerges over the course of this history as both a necessary corrective to—and an inevitable outgrowth of—the 80-hour work week. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Samuel Johnson identified literary loafers in his periodicalIdler (1758-60), and here Lutz lays sharp-eyed analysis on society's reaction toward those who repudiate regular work. Productively informing his appraisals of the Thoreaus and Kerouacs with his own youthful experiment in communal^B living, Lutz weaves no grand theory of the slacker because he finds that wastrels have been different in every generation. In the late 1700s, a disinclination to work was an aristocratic affectation. In reaction to industrialism, the back-to-nature primitivist appeared, embodied by Thoreau, while cultural vulgarity made the Gilded Age vulnerable to the effete cynicism of an Oscar Wilde. In Wilde and others, Lutz nails, with concise sophistication, the mix of anger and amusement such nonconformists provoked. Though a serious study of spongers, this wry book is fun to read. With layabouts such as Theodore Dreiser, the Beats, and our epoch's own Anna Nicole Simpson on offer, cultural-history mavens won't be able to pass Lutz up. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this book largely because I was curious as to how anyone could write a history of people who did nothing. Afterall, people who do nothing wouldn't do enough to leave a history behind (that follows, doesn't it?)

Well, Lutz surprised me. People who do nothing, or at the least strive to not work, are quite an interesting crew. I ran into a lot of famous people I had never thought of as loafers before: such as Ben Franklin and Samuel Johnson. Of course the usual suspects were also there: like Kerouac and Ginsberg (and the beats in general.)

The author seems to suggest that he is something of a slacker himself. But I found that hard to believe as clearly a great deal of work went into this book. The amount of digested reading, research, review of culutral materials such as films, etc., was impressive. The writing was also quite good. Either Lutz is a very good writer or he has an excellent editor. I say that because he wove a large amount of disparate material into a fascinating narrative about people and segments of society committed to doing nothing. The pace was never boring; while the amount of information presented was always informative and stimulating. And as I read, sprawled out on the couch, I found myself reflecting more deeply on just where I fit into the argument of, to work or not to work.... I guess I'd have to say that Doing Nothing proved to be an edifying read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Doing Nothing: A History Of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, And Bums In America by Tom Lutz is the true story of the American anti-work ethic from Benjamin Franklin's "air baths" to Jack Kerouac's dharma bums to the notorious slackers of Generation X to doctors declaring the medical problems of overwork and much more. The history, philosophy, and justification of goofing off, supplemented with careful research and statistics, makes for engaging reading whether for expert sociologists researching the cultural phenomenon's of shirking or lay readers making the most of their own relaxation time. A true pleasure to read cover to cover, especially while the reader is allegedly at work.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My father, of blessed memory, Reuben Kelly Freedman used to say ,"Be a worker, not a shirker". And all my life I have been driven by the idea that I must be working , doing something useful at each and every moment. Now the paradox in my case is that I chose a way of work which to many people is not work at all ( writing) and which in terms of earning power certainly fits more in the 'shirking ' category than the working one.

Tom Lutz takes on the theme of ' working- shirking' in a broad- ranging experiential exploration starting with Ben Franklin and Samuel Johnson and working up to our Internet days. He hits upon the paradox of the master measurer of his own useful time Franklin's spending much time in idle conversation with the belles of the City of Light- while the composer of 'The Idler' Johnson was doing the drudgery of compiling his dictionary.

Lutz who is an English university teacher, one that is who works in a job which most people would envy for its short- hours, a job which in fact has longer hours than most tells many an interesting anecdote in tracing the history of those who Bartlebylike preferred to say 'no' when asked to do their work. He highlights the fact that it is often the 'slackers'( A term coined in World War I days for those who did not want to serve in the Army or work) who get a different more important job done. Thoreau after all did not march to the tune of an industrializing New England, but rather heard the sound of a different drummer.

Lutz himself seems to be a champion of the 'more time you have for yourself the freer and better off you are' school though of course for some such a recipe is one for disaster.

I would only point out that one of the conclusions of the new 'Happiness School of Psychology ' people is that one of life's greatest happinesses is when we are involved wholly in doing our work, especially if that is a kind of creative work in which we know our own individual effort matters.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Clary Antome on May 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you happen to be the kind of person who prefers week-long naps to making a career and winces every time somebody starts talking platitudes about the value of work, the need to "strive" or the immorality of idleness, here's a book for you.

In it you will find lots of references to more or less respectable intellectuals and artists who spent a great deal of their time celebrating the "slacker" ethos (before the term even existed) by advocating our inalienable right to do nothing. Of course, apart from gaining fame (or infamy) for their ideas, none of these people was actually able to overthrow the prevalent "work ethic", which proudly claims that "happiness" and "fulfilment" can only be achieved if you toil your life away.

So what IS it that makes the slacker such a nagging presence in Western culture? This is what Lutz tries to answer by looking at the development of this figure in America.

Not surprisingly, one of the first things we are told is that the "work ethic" and its converse, the "degenerate" idleness, can be traced back more or less to the Industrial Revolution. Apparently before this period humans wasted less time extolling the virtues of work. The hunter-gatherers, as we well know, were so "primitive" that they thought sleeping and playing around were just about the greatest luxuries one could enjoy - and they had plenty of that. The ancient Greeks even went so far to consider work a "curse". And we all remember how much Jesus praised the lilies in the field for... well, just standing there not doing much.

What has changed, then? Lutz's answer: "the nature of work".

As more and more people were dispossessed (i.e.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.