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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Idle bliss
Okay, so this is a book that you just have to read while at work, since spending your idle time reading it would do it injustice. Celebrating the human spirit and life in general, this book will delight and inspire many a sick-day or an impromtu midday walk in the park. After reading the chapter on naps, I closed my office door, turned off the light, sprawled across two...
Published on July 7, 2005 by Roman Tsivkin

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Witty, well-written, wise in parts, way-out in others
Tom Hodgkinson is in the company of many thinkers who deplore the way our life since the Industrial Revolution has become a clock-dictated rat-race; the Puritan work ethic; the inculcation of guilt for taking life easy, taking time off to meditate or to do "nothing", which in fact is often creative time; the importance attached to having a job, which is often selling...
Published 22 months ago by Ralph Blumenau


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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Idle bliss, July 7, 2005
By 
Roman Tsivkin (Astoria, New York City) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be Idle (Hardcover)
Okay, so this is a book that you just have to read while at work, since spending your idle time reading it would do it injustice. Celebrating the human spirit and life in general, this book will delight and inspire many a sick-day or an impromtu midday walk in the park. After reading the chapter on naps, I closed my office door, turned off the light, sprawled across two chairs, and promptly fell into a pleasant doze. The book is a wonderful compendium of quotes and craftily funny arguments to slow down, slack off, chill out, and stop taking everything--especially work--so seriously. I'm glad the author mentions one of my heros, the almost forgotten Lin Yutang, who wrote the Ur-Idleness book "The Importance of Living" way back in the 1930s. "How to be Idle" has delightfully short chapters, with whimsical themes and an attitude that is diametrically opposed to the crazy work-ethic and health-disease (the condition of being obsessed with health) on both sides of the pond.

I wish there were more books like this.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book I'll Refer To Often, July 31, 2005
By 
FLbeachbum (Ormond Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be Idle (Hardcover)
A little gem of a book, "How To Be Idle" is full of wit and wisdom from the other side of the work-obsessed fence/culture (as well as "pond"). And I don't mean cute but useless platitudes, either. Despite being an idler himself, author Tom Hodgkinson really did his homework on this one. Included are chapters on sleep, the workplace, holidays, etc. including the evolution of our present-day work habits, and how much of our current misery came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution, as well as Thomas Edison's inventions. I was truly surprised to discover Mr. Hodgkinson's relatively young age (b. 1968), as his knowledge and intelligence are extensive. The "Party Time" chapter betrays him, however; methinks I'll skip the rave parties, thanks much. Also, especially in the chapter on "Sex and Idleness", Mr. Hodgkinson seems to forget that half the population of the planet and hence potentially half his readership, is female. HEADS UP, Tom; be mindful of this and you may sell more books. I thought about severely chastising him for these faux pas, but the rest of the book is so delightful (well, there are typos; just a few), that as a true idler I will let it go. Besides, the real icing on the cake is that Mr. Hodgkinson includes an EXCELLENT section "For Further Reading" of books, periodicals, and websites. Many of the materials mentioned are by some of the great sages of history - Dr. Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, Coleridge, LOTS more.

So "How To Be Idle" offers a vast store of information, and handily merits a 5-star rating. Normally I'm content to just borrow a book from the library and return it, but this one I gladly purchased. I recommend it as a keeper to anyone wishing to enlighten themselves and/or shed the guilt sometimes associated with idleness.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom from the chains of busyness, February 6, 2006
By 
Lleu Christopher (Hudson Valley, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be Idle (Hardcover)
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening book that advocates dropping out of the modern rat race. Tom Hodgkinson, publisher of a magazine called the Idler (which I haven't seen but am going to look for) has a deceptively light and humorous tone which masks a more serious agenda. At first, I thought that this book was simply going for laughs, but as I read on I realized that Hodgkinson is very serious about his doctrine of doing less. He quotes liberally from one of my favorite authors, Lin Yutang, a Chinese-American who, even fifty or so years ago, was lamenting the hurried pace of modern life. Like Yutang before him, Hodgkinson admires the "do nothing" approach of the Taoists. How To Be Idle is divided into 24 chapters, for each hour of the day. Each hour illustrates another way to relax and decline to participate in the mostly useless and banal hustle and bustle of the workaday world. We should, for example, get up late, lie in bed for a while, have tea in the afternoon, cocktails at six, and so forth. Hodgkinson is a true contrarian; in addition to being anti-work, he champions the politically incorrect habits of smoking and drinking. He connects the pub with radical political movements and points out how the authorities instinctively distrust idlers, seeing them (probably rightly) as basic foes of the political/industrial machine.

You could criticize How To Be Idle as impractical and for not really providing a means to drop out. Hodgkinson, for example, breezily talks about staying home from work, even quitting your job, but how many people can really do this? Yet a book like this helps us to take the first step, which is asking some basic questions about our supposedly free and prosperous society. Most people today are on a never-ending treadmill, in which the bulk of their time is spent sustaining a life that is controlled by others.

I enjoyed the whole book, but I especially appreciated the last few chapters. Hodgkinson reveals his truly radical vision when he discusses holidays, and how the whole concept is really part of the wage-slave mentality. First of all, people are encouraged to be constantly busy on holiday, which, he points out, defeats the whole purpose. More fundamentally, we have become conditioned to having our freedom doled out to us by leaders, whether of state or corporation. So we are allowed a holiday now and then in order to make us more amenable to our captivity the rest of the time. What this book is really saying is that it is up to us to take back our time and freedom. I am in accord with Hodgkinson's desire to free us from these chains.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's OK to read this book -- just do it in bed., September 25, 2005
This review is from: How to Be Idle (Hardcover)
After reading this book, I have decided to skip the review to enjoy the extra time. Oh? I have to write it? That's "wage slavery!" according to author Tom Hodgkinson who uses that term for "jobs." He reveals his life changed for the better once he trashed his alarm clock. By the way, I'm not really a "wage slave," as I don't get paid for these reviews -- just plain "slave."

The book covers a 24-hour period with each hour represented in an essay that starts with a quote and a sketch depicting the chapter's topic. The author opens with "Waking up Is Hard to Do" at 8 a.m. and immediately attacks the quote many of us relate to when it comes to waking up — Benjamin Franklin's "Early to bed..." philosophy. Hodgkinson recalls his mother screaming at him to wake up and now he starts his mornings as an idler by "sleeping in for a few more minutes."

In the first hour, he attacks Mr. Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame with humor, and explains that the assault against oversleeping started as far back as biblical times with a quote from Proverbs chapter six. Then Hodgkinson presents proponents of sloth like G.K. Chesterston who writes in his essay _On Lying in Bed_, "The tone now commonly taken towards the practice of lying in bed is hypocritical and unhealthy; instead of being regarded as it ought to be, as a matter of personal."

The hours that follow continue with the same approach while addressing different themes from 'sleeping in' to the hangover, to the art of the conversation and holidays. Every essay includes quotes and resources from the likes of Jerome K. Jerome, Winston Churchill, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and more to rally support for the idle life. Each hour stands on its own feet, so you can take your time and read them whenever.

This author doesn't give advice on organizing your time so you can relax and take pleasure in life. Rather, think of it as the side of a debate that urges we sleep in, take naps, make time for tea, hang out at the pub, and live in our dream world. The author addresses the issues that affect the idler's life and tells the reader how to continue the merry idle way in spite of these barriers. Even some of the smartest minds in history did their best work in bed.

Stories about inventor Thomas Edison, the enemy of idleness, say he slept only three or four hours a night because he liked to work at night and do his experiments during the day. It turns out, based on several witnesses; the inventor took naps in his lab.

The book needs an index, but perhaps the author convinced his editors to take it easy, so they skipped it. With the many references to people and quotes, it would be nice to find something I read without working that hard to scan the pages.

The book is a mixture of literary criticism, tongue-in-cheek wit, and insight into our society's neglect of the idle life. Readers desiring to become more familiar with the literary authors and other sages get a touch of these folks through their writings, comments, and actions on work and laziness. Hodgkinson writes a convincing manifesto for living easy and embellishes it with a diversity of classic resources.

Take a moment to relish your life; work can wait.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Witty, well-written, wise in parts, way-out in others, May 3, 2013
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
Tom Hodgkinson is in the company of many thinkers who deplore the way our life since the Industrial Revolution has become a clock-dictated rat-race; the Puritan work ethic; the inculcation of guilt for taking life easy, taking time off to meditate or to do "nothing", which in fact is often creative time; the importance attached to having a job, which is often selling your time for unfulfilling or even stultifying activity. Many people work only because they want the money to spend on goods they don't really need. Typical of the cavalier advice which Hodgkinson scatters throughout the book is this: "Be fearless, quit your job! You have nothing to lose but your anxieties, debts and misery!" Or take a part-time job: "There is certainly a financial knock, but most find that the loss of income is easily compensated for by the extra time." Tell that to the millions of people who have to work full time to feed their families and who cannot be masters of their own time!

Indulging in Romantic visions of the past, Hodgkinson says that the poor were happier in the pre-industrial age, when work was not dictated by the clock, when people could multi-task and, if they wanted to, take time off to be idle. Holidays would appear to be good for idling, and Hodgkinson has an interesting chapter on their history. There are holidays of which he approves and holidays (especially organized ones) of which he disapproves. Best of all, of course, would be a life which allows so much opportunity for idling that there is really no desire for holidays at all. For those who are tied to the daily grind he has a chapter extolling skiving off work: the skiver is simply "stealing back time that has been stolen from him." "A four-hour [working] day is an eminently sensible way of operating our lives". He approves of long lie-ins, of napping, above all of long siestas. You should never stint yourself of sleep; and in dozing and in dreams some people have their most creative ideas. He advocates drinking (and don't worry too much about hangovers the next day - the best treatment for them is to go to bed), smoking and the taking of drugs like Ecstasy.

For Hodgkinson, idling is not only good in itself, but is also implicitly a rebellion against a society that demands unrelenting, soulless and exploited work from us. When the rebellion becomes explicit, as it does in strikes (the idea of using a refusal to work as a weapon was surely invented by "an idler of genius") or even in riots, he is sympathetic to such protests. But he is not a socialist: socialists interfere too much in the lives of individuals. "The answer, perhaps, is in anarchism."

What would be the ideal idler's sex-life? "Sex for idlers should be messy, drunken, bawdy, lazy. It should be wicked, wanton and lewd, dirty to the point where it is embarrassing to look at one another in the morning." "But, as one of the great idle pleasures, sex appears to be surrounded by an awful lot of problems and anxieties". So there is something to be said for pornography: "endless fantasy and no one to please except yourself."

Hodgkinson has read widely and has been far from idle in finding quotations from a host of writers from many countries and many periods, in prose and in poetry, who share his opinions: his bibliography runs to eight pages. In addition to references in the main text, there are 37 pages in which he gives us eight longer extracts from his reading. His own book is very well written and eloquent.

His analysis of the ills of our unhealthy rat-race society is astute. Some of his prescriptions about how to live in it are quite workable; but others are wholly unrealistic for people less fortunately placed than he is, even if these agreed with his analysis and would like to rebel in the ways he advocates.

There are many flashes of wisdom in the book, but he also includes in his defence of idleness some aspects and attitudes which did not appeal to me at all.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does Nothing Less Than Strike An Authentic Blow For Human Freedom, July 9, 2009
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
Tom Hodgkinson is a journalist and the founder and editor of "The Idler" - a bi-annual UK magazine which is devoted to the art, theory and practice of doing as little as possible - and frankly he thinks our obsession with peripatetic lifestyles, which force us to make appointments in a personal electronic slave-driver (named after a type of berry) in order to just 'make the time' to smell the roses, is not only misguided but also hazardous to our health, sanity and environment and, in this brilliantly written, scrupulously researched and pithily humourous book, he explains exactly why.

And I have to say, I can't disagree with him.

Idlers (and the practice of idling) have gotten a very bad name over the last three hundred years or so but, as Hodgkinson points out with numerous factually verified historical sources, it was not always thus and in fact the majority of the most creative and intelligent people throughout history have all been devoted to wilful indolence or the "vita contemplativa": Albert Einstein; Simone De Beauvoir; Colette; Oscar Wilde; Nikola Tesla; John Lennon; Walt Whitman; Dr Samuel Johnson; John Keats; Henry Miller; Aristotle; Lin Yutang; Rene Descartes; Mark Twain; Toulouse Lautrec and even Jesus and Buddha (if you believe in that sort of thing) were apparently all consummate loafers. The list goes on but, as an idler myself, I am frankly too lazy to type out any more names - principally in order to spare myself the hard work, but mostly to spare you the boredom of having to read them.

Paradoxically, Hodgkinson makes a similarly persuasive case that the most irritating, annoying, misguided, oppressive, murderous and just-plain-evil people have all been devoted to lifestyles which are characterised by ceaseless activity: Hitler, Stalin; Osama Bin Laden Pol Pot; Margaret Thatcher; The Puritans and Henry VIII, to name a few, were all adepts and advocates of the hyperkinetic lifestyle and were all, unfortunately, dedicated to spreading their own particular brand of misery across their respective dominions.

That said, whilst the modern world has inculcated us with the idea that idleness is counterproductive to progress, Hodgkinson argues that quite the reverse is true. To quote Robert Louis Stevenson's 1881 essay, 'An Apology For Idlers', "Idleness does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling classes". Historically, at least in the UK and throughout much of Europe, the ruling classes, contrary to what we've been led to believe, would appear to have shown a lot more leniency in regard to the work ethic, freedoms and time-keeping of their serfs and peasants than most office workers experience in the corporate environment today. Hodgkinson puts the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of a variety of self-important busy-bodies (who he christens "botherers") that range from the likes of the puritans, through to the architects of the industrial revolution (who were responsible for the 'land enclosures act' of 1760 - possibly the single most oppressive piece of legislation ever inflicted on the British Isles - although Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have given it a run for it's money in recent years), the Nazis and even the likes of Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin (not all they've cracked up to be, folks. Overbearing, self-important arses, by all accounts) who, to a man, all decided that allowing the proles too much time to think for themselves could only be a bad thing and who consequently embarked on a variety of campaigns designed to occupy and invade every aspect of their lives with ceaseless toil. An idea that has proved to be depressingly popular with all aspects of modern government and commerce.

If the ceaseless activity forced upon us by corporations, government and media is an act of oppression, then, Hodgkinson argues, idleness is nothing short of a revolutionary act and in this book - fashioned after the day in the life of an idler, with each chapter devoted to an hour spent in an activity enjoyed by idlers (smoking; skiving for pleasure and profit; sleeping in; sex; napping; the pub; fishing) - he will explain to you how you can embrace your inner revolutionary by canceling your gym membership and buggering off down the pub instead.

Will you enjoy this book?

If you've ever wondered why you bother getting up in the morning to go to work - Yes!

If you've ever thought that most commuters look like lab mice caught in a maze - Yes!

If you could relate to any of the characters, bar Lumbergh, in Office Space - Special Edition with Flair (Widescreen Edition) - Yes!

If you've ever spent an unhealthy amount of time plotting just how you would have escaped from Colditz while at work - Yes!

You need to embrace your inner loafer and you've already taken the first step by reading to the end of this review (because it has been long and pointless and hopefully enjoyable - something that the botherers of this world despise), and if you're reading this at work, then you've also taken the second step because, as Jerome K Jerome observed, "idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen".

Now take the next step, read this book and remember that people who skive off of work to lay in bed and watch cartoons in the morning are statistically unlikely to detonate a weapon of mass destruction in the afternoon.

Make Tea not war.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't get me wrong, April 24, 2011
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
Don't get me wrong.I think it is a great idea, take some time away from the hussle bussle of the day to day workplace. Take time for yourself, live and enjoy life. But this book takes it to extremes. Who says that going throuhg daily chores, as much as it sucks has to be the end all be all. The books takes idling to new heights such as quitting your job and smoking and drinking. Don't get me wrong, but what does this have to do with relaxing? I feel like the author took his own personal views on drinking and smoking which apparently he does in large amounts and qith a little bit of quoted literature turned it into his own philosophy. I was with him for while until the readers responses, where from oner person who wrote him asking how an idle person with kids can be idle, he said (NOT JOKING) that an kids love getting things for their parents, and that one of his friends has trained his three year old to get him cigarettes, beer and an ash tray while he is lying on the couch...um...?? Anyone?
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On the right track, but..., September 15, 2008
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
I very much appreciate the effort of Hodgkinson to swim against the tide and remind his readers of the long and venerable tradition of shirking or avoiding unnecessary labor as well as servile labor. And if the book succeeds in recommending to its readers other writers concerned with living a human life (rather than the life of a slave or a machine), then the book is a success.

But I fear that the book is much too journalistic (which means playful in a dissipating sense rather than an edifying one--the play of children is edifying, that of the escapist is dissipating).

If I were to recommend a book that deals with a similar topic, but does so in a much more substantive and satisfying way, I would recommend Thoreau's Walden--a book with which Hodgkinson seems to have passing acquaintance, but one he would be well-served to attend to more closely.

For those interested in a philosophical treatment of a related topic, I recommend Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Given the Catholic tendencies of Hodgkinson, I expected to see some influence of Pieper's thought in this book. It would have been a better book with such influence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A relaxing stroll with an erudite pal who knows everyone..., June 20, 2008
By 
Sean Hoade (Las Vegas, Nevada USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
This is quite a fun and relaxing read, but the very best part is that Hodgkinson brings in quotes and thoughts by everyone from Seneca to Wilde to Hemingway. Even though you're reading about slacking and dreaming about idling, all the while you're actually taking in the Great Thoughts by the Great Thinkers. I read it in one day, comfortably perched in my favorite chair. A must-read for all Anglophiles as well as anyone who revels in thumbing his or her nose at the workaday world out there.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living not just existing, October 1, 2007
By 
Wyvernfriend (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto (Paperback)
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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How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto
How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson (Paperback - April 24, 2007)
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