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How to Be Idle Hardcover – May 10, 2005

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When your alarm clock jolts you awake in the morning, do you wish you could just lie in bed, read a book, sip a cup of tea and be idle all day? Hodgkinson, founder of the Idler magazine, does. And in this book he presents 24 essays defending life's idle pleasures, which are, he says, vilified by our modern society. He meditates on sleeping in, fishing, smoking and drinking, and even waxes poetic about the hangover. The whole book is soaked with nostalgia for the turn-of-the-century English gentleman's lifestyle; Hodgkinson defends his arguments by quoting Jerome K. Jerome, G.K. Chesterton and, of course, that icon of British foppery, Oscar Wilde. Although billed as tongue-in-cheek witticisms about the idle life, the book fails to maintain the comic tone. In his chapter on the evils of the 9-to-5 job ("wage slavery," as the author calls it), Hodgkinson cites Heinrich Himmler as a spokesperson for the defense of work [...] The book gives tantalizing anthropological insights into society's views on those lazy habits that the author so enjoys, but the viewpoint is so antiquated and condescending toward the poor slobs who must actually go to work every day that readers will often find themselves staring aghast at the page. B&w line illus.
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“In these stress-filled times . . . we should all give ourselves the gift of reading this debut.” (Library Journal)

“A true literary gem... irresistable” (USA Today)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060779683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060779689
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Writer and editor Tom Hodgkinson cofounded the Idler in 1993. He is the author of two books based on this attitude to life: How to Be Idle, published in 20 countries, and How to Be Free, which takes an anarchic approach to the everyday barriers that come between us and our dreams. He lives in Devon, United Kingdom.

The Idler team created the best-selling and widely imitated Crap Towns I and II.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Roman Tsivkin on July 7, 2005
Format: 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 By FLbeachbum on July 31, 2005
Format: 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 By Lleu Christopher on February 6, 2006
Format: 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.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Meryl K. Evans on September 25, 2005
Format: 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.
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