on August 7, 2004
I actually read this book about six weeks ago while vacationing with friends. The fact that I still remember it clearly and am still thinking about it is one of the best recommendations I could give. I read several books a week, and most of them do a relatively quick mental disappearing act. But this one is definitely a keeper.
As one of the other readers pointed out, this is not so much a how-to guide as a cultural snapshot of some of the more absurd Western practices that have accelerated our lives to an almost ludicrous degree. (Those who have tried driving a car during lunch hour while using one hand to eat fast food and the other to return phone calls will know immediately what I'm talking about.)
I once read a review that started by listing all of the things the reader had done differently since reading the book. In that same spirit, let me tell you that since I read this book more than a month ago, I have been:
*giving myself permission to take naps and get a full night's sleep almost every night
*watching less TV and taking more walks
*making a point to cook a real dinner several nights a week, with the whole family assembled at the table
*taking breaks during the work day, which I find has actually increased my productivity
*calling old friends long-distance and reconnecting
*taken my daughter out of gymnastics to keep the family at home and unscheduled
These are not enormous changes in my life -- I was doing some of them before -- but they are important ones. What's more, they've been easy to implement. Now I need to work on not taking my laptop everywhere and telling myself it's OK not to check my work email when I've got the flu!
The chapter I most appreciated was the one on parenting. Children do not understand the need for our fast pace, and what they need more than anything is our time. This book made me realize the number of times I tell my daughter to hurry up/we're late for school/we need to go now/blah blah blah. I do not want my daughter to grow up like so many kids in our culture: overprogrammed, overscheduled, and stressed out.
So, five stars for this book. I've already recommended it to several friends, including the ones I read parts of this aloud to on vacation. (We spent the week repeating the book's mantra, "Slow is the new fast.") Ironically enough, this book on slowness is a remarkably fast read. The chapters are short and engaging; the writing is sharp and sometimes quite funny. Honore is deeply conscious of his own need to change, such as when he gets a speeding ticket on his way to one of the 4-hour Italian dinners that feature in the "slow food" chapter. :-) One thing I wish he had talked about, since the book delves into spiritual issues, is the movement back toward the observation of a weekly sabbath. That practice has changed my life and the whole rhythm of my weeks. Well, perhaps that's fodder for a sequel. This is an excellent book.
on March 3, 2005
I have been gradually embracing slowness in my life for some time, starting with saying "no" to so many after-work activities, cooking more often, walking away from my desk occasionally, and, most importantly, just taking the time to enjoy the moment instead of thinking about what I must do in the next moment. It took me more years than I care to acknowledge to realize that I am, and always have been, pretty much Slow in my ways, and to just stop trying to be otherwise.
So I was already in the "slow is beautiful" camp when I picked up this book. Carl Honore's well-researched and balanced look at slowing down merely confirmed what I already know: taking time to enjoy the moment, take care of one's self, nourish relationships, and just simply be still is the key to happiness and health, at least for me.
Honore starts by discussing the real downside of the Fast life: stress-related illnesses, sleep deprivation, feeling out of control, feeling rage. He then discusses the benefits of the Slow life: feeling more creative and satisfied with life, just for starters. Then he describes how people are slowing down in different aspects of life: cooking and eating, work, leisure time... Finally, he wraps it all up by asking us to evaluate ways we can slow down. The back of the book contains lots of resources to get us started.
I liked many things about this book, besides agreeing completely with the premise: Honore emphasizes balance -- that there are times when we should be Fast, and, for example, there is nothing wrong with working lots of hours if you really like to; his arguments are well-supported by his research and are not extreme; he acknowledges that making changes is not easy, yet gives us many practical examples of ways we can slow down; and the book was so well written and logically laid out that, much as I tried to, I couldn't read it slowly!
If you like this book, you might also check out Take Back Your Time, edited by John De Graaf; Affluenza, also by De Graaf; and Work to Live by Joe Robinson. I have read the first, a collection of essays by time experts, and have the other two on my list.
on June 15, 2004
Along the way I've picked up several religions and spiritual books of all stripes that advocate the benefits of meditation, silence, and retreats as ways to heal the body, mind, and soul.
But Honore's well researched treatise provides what I believe is the first incisive overview of an important cultural phenomenon as we immerse our lives in instant online messengers, SMS thumb tribes, skipped breakfast, limp chicken sandwiches for lunch, and a bout of 'power yoga' to punctuate that little crevice of a break in the evenings..
Honore's writing style may occasionally wear a "Manifesto" dress and many of his suggestions to live a slow life may have a fairly non-trivial opportunity cost depending on where you live, but it is a very timely and wonderfully thought-provoking read nonetheless.
on November 5, 2005
The idea of feeling hurried in our everyday lives is something most people are familiar with, and everyday more people wonder if there isn't some way for them to get a better handle on time. The so-called "Slow" movement, the subject of this book, isn't about stopping your life and moving to a commune in northern California, what it is about is finding the balance that makes your life feel fulfilling. Over the course of In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honoré, details some of the new outlooks people are developing on everyday activities. Concepts such as balancing work and home life, developing better communities that emphasize people over cars, medical treatment that focuses on patients instead of profits, and others are explored by comparing how they are now with what Slow thinks it should be.
The concepts discussed in this book are definitely intended for mature readers and parents should think about the appropriateness of this book for younger readers. If you aren't interested in reducing the stress in your life this book probably won't interest you much, I know I was reluctant to buy it. However, it was interesting to read about some of the ways that people are trying to change the pace of their lives. Honoré's writing style is a little hit-and-miss and some parts of the book drag on much longer than they should. Nothing in this book is ground breaking and it certainly isn't a how-to manual since most of the chapters lack enough detail to make change effective. This book is a decent overview of the "Slow" movement but if you're looking for instruction look somewhere else.
on May 24, 2004
With "In Praise of Slowness," Carl Honore offers a gift that is simultaneously outrageous and practical --- what a great combination. It is outrageous in that our culture has become so addicted to speed (the pace, not the drug) that for many of us, the idea of slowing down and making more conscious choices about how our time is spent is perceived as nearly impossible. It is practical in that there is nothing impossible about what Honore describes and recommends in this useful and enlightening book.
As a psychotherapist, speaker and author (Embracing Fear & Finding the Courage to Live Your Life) who teaches the advantages of living life by decision rather than default, I appreciate Honore's emphasis on responsibility of choice. He is not recommending that we exchange one end of the continuum (speed) for the opposite end (slowness). Instead this book is about developing the full range of choices --- as in, "I want to be ready and able to move as quickly in life as the situation calls for, but I also want to be capable and willing to slow down and not approach every task and every errand as if is a matter of life or death."
"In Praise of Slowness" takes us on a very interesting tour of places where slowness is already becoming more valued (and practiced). He gives examples ranging from individuals to medical professionals (that's not about the long, slow wait to see the doctor), to even city planners who are designing communities that are conducive to slowing it all down. Much of this is about a return to bottom-line human values --- caring more about the quality of our lives than the quantity of items we check off our list at the end of each day.
Most of all, this is a book about the importance of being in charge of our own lives. This is an informative, enlightening and entertaining read, and I recommend that you make time to read it.
And get an extra copy to leave on the desk of the busiest, most rushed person you know.
- Thom Rutledge, author of Embracing Fear & Finding the Courage to Live Your Life
on June 23, 2008
This book started out strong, but then as the chapters on specific aspects of slowness progressed, I couldn't help but think that the author was devoid of any real ideas on the subject and was just using cheap anecdotes about modern fads. I really did want to like this book. The concept is great, the execution is lazy. Maybe the author should have slowed down and taken the time to think more deeply on his subject. I suppose my search goes on for a meaningful book about this topic.
on December 7, 2004
I've long had the opinion that people run themselves ragged chasing a carrot that doesn't actually benefit their lives but allow them to pursue this compulsion for a better life.
Certainly in this day and age, we have been socialized that consumer goods will fill this need. It will not, this is a profound freedom that exists within.
It's all about knowing what truly matters and living to enjoy it.
Those who may not have realized this will really have their eyes opened by reading this book.
Those who have realized this will have some beleifs reaffirmed and realize that there are many others with the same outlook.
Honore does a good job at scratching the surface with slowing down in many of the most gratifying parts of life. He centers on these topics in easily digestible chapters on Food, Urban Design & Cars, Lovemaking, Work, Leisure Activities, Raising your Children, etc.
I know many people who would benefit from this book, those working extra jobs for toys and someone to raise their kids while they work, have no time for sex, work hard to pay for cars and gym memberships when a bike would do. There are so many examples--if you know someone who doesn't get it. Buy them this book, you'll save them from madness, medicating and burning themselves out.
This book is an easy read, scratches the surface on reorganizing soem prorities in life and ficusing on setting a more sustainable pace.
A good read, I dug it.
on January 16, 2005
As a bibliophile and "adjunct" professor (Columbia U), I have put together a wonderful collection of books on leisure, and will add this one. Two not mentioned in Honore's book is "This Beats Working for a Living: The Dark Secrets of a College Professor" by Professor X, and "The Importance of Living," by Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang.
I'm surprised that Honore has apparently not read Lin Yutang, who is probably the most famous Chinese philosopher advocating "letting go." Once I wrote this refrain from Lin on the board before a class of MBA students at Columbia: "The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy." A third of the B students dropped my class immediately. They could see no value in "letting go."
In academia, we're so busy writing our own stuff we don't have time to read anyone else's work. There's too much supply and not enough demand. It's a big problem.
Lin also says that Americans suffer from three vices: punctuality, efficiency, and goal-setting! Gee, I thought these were virtues....Lin would be disappointed to learn that today, seventy years after Lin wrote his classic book, the Chinese and Asians are now imitating the West by arriving on time, becoming efficient, setting goals, and using cellphones.
If you want to adopt a slowness philosophy, you must get rid of your cellphone!
Honore blames capitalism and the industrial economy for busy-ness...Afterall, business is a shortened version of "busy-ness," is it not? But I think it's more cultural. As Josef Pieper states in "Leisure, the Basis of Culture," capitalism in fact creates an incredible amount of leisure time, but we seem to think that we must fill this leisure time with more work. Most Americans (and the world) have lost the art of meditation and slowing down and letting go....Lin Yutang's book is a classic on this subject, up to date even though written in 1937, and it will be around a hundred years from now. Ironically, though, Lin wrote two dozen books in his lifetime!
Twenty years ago my wife and I got tired of the rat race in Death Star (Doug Casey's term for our nation's capital) and moved our family of four children to the Bahamas. We left behind our TV and other material goods....It was a life-changing experience, life in living color. We got involved in the local theatre, our kids became voracious readers, and we developed many new friends at school and church. It was liberating. (If you are interested in reading the whole story, go to "Easy Living: My Two Years in the Bahamas" at [...]) Now we live in New York, a different kind of experience, but I often have a hankering to go back to that Island of Eternal June.....
I try to be an "adjunct" at everything I do. Adjunct professor, adjunct financial writer, adjunct church goer, adjunct traveller, adjunct reader, etc.....the key to living a slowdown life is to never have a "full time" position in anything.
--Idle thoughts of an idle fellow
on November 28, 2005
Over the last couple of years I have been making more of an effort to slow down and "smell the roses" more often than I used to. Carl Honore's book "In Praise of Slowness" perfectly encapsulates what I have been thinking and illustrates wonderful examples where society's obsession with efficiency has led to "time sicknes" and that our fervent efforts to make the most use out of every waking minute of our day leads to an ultimately unhealthy and not very fulfilling lifestyle.
Using a very simple and concise style, Carl Honore examines a wide variety of items through the slow movement lens: food, cities, work, leisure time, and even sex. He recounts how historically, following the Industrial Revolution, society adopted an accelerated lifestyle. In each chapter he offers a contemporary example of how people attempt to "decelerate" or "downshift" to a more palatable pace of life.
I had no idea that this Slow Movement has had the reach that it does. None of this appears in the press, which, not surpisingly, opts to report only the violent and the fast. After reading this book I learned about the various "downshifters" such as the Generation Fureeta in Japan and the Tempo Giusto musical movement. The information that Honore provides is eye-opening and timely.
This book is an easy and pleasant read. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Carl Honore does a great job of highlighting the alternatives to the fast-paced, American lifestyle that promises to kill us all. In this book, he examines the backlash that has arisen to the current "Faster is Better," mentality and provides the reader with ideas and options that can be emulated, bit by bit. This isn't a book about throwing away your PDA or cellphone, but rather it is about gaining a sense of balance and perspective. Slow working, slow eating, slow sex...It's all covered here, with useful tips and resources for further study. While this book could be life-changing, I approached it from the perspective of simply slowing things down in a couple of areas and it has helped immensely. This is a terrific book!