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The Importance Of Living Paperback – September 16, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Is it really a philosophy book if it has a section entitled "The Importance of Loafing"? Harvard scholar, Taoist, and modernist Lin Yutang wrote The Importance of Living to express his highly subjective, personal feelings after years of studying ancient Chinese texts, and created a wonderfully slow-going yet radiantly clear guide to the simple life. Taking walks, drinking tea, long talks with friends are all important to Lin, whose stories and retellings of Taoist classics meander away from his points, find new ones, and remind us to enjoy the life that's all around us without needless worry.

Lin's prose is gentle, like the conversation of a favorite lazy uncle who is more at home sipping lemonade on the back porch than gulping lattes between meetings. The sincerity of his humility is surprising to a reader used to postmodern writers who seem to pride themselves on their self-abasement. Though Lin deliberately avoided fame and notoriety, correctly observing that it only leads to troubles, one can only hope that his wisdom, timelier than ever, finds a wider audience among today's too-busy-to-breathe global culture. His philosophy, more practical and enjoyable than the usual Western writings on the subject, reminds us all of the vital importance of simply living. --Rob Lightner

From Library Journal

Published in 1937, this was one of the original "don't worry, be happy" books. The Chinese philosopher here expounds on the mindset people need to develop in order to have a more successful and peaceful life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 16, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688163521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688163525
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Feral Puma on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
First off, allow me to say that I'm shocked this book hasn't had more reviews. This book was a major turning point in my Life. After working the "American Dream" i.e. 50 hour work weeks and having zilch to show for it in 3 years, I had a nervous breakdown. Luckily I survived and made it through. Afterwards, I searched the bookstore for a genuine book and found this diamond in the ruff. Wow, was I not dissappointed! This book is totally refreshing for the stressed out individual. Like the heading I wrote proclaims, welcome BACK to your childhood and to the Mystery thereof. After reading this book, I realized that unless one enjoys Life, it is simply not even worth living! Sounds harsh but it's true, you know it. Lin Yutang boldly stands for the human condition. This book relearned me on the fun of my childhood. How could we have gone so far astray? I've dove head first into various religions which did do some good but really only left me full of dogmatic doctrines and repetitive rituals. The Bible says that we should be as children. What good is that advice without a proper manual for the return to this innocense? This book is the manual leading one back to the joys of those not so distant memories. I recommend it to everybody I meet. Take back that precious gift which was stolen from you, the Mystery of Life. Just because you are breathing and active does not mean that you are truly Living, never forget the importance of it! Stand with us and don't look back upon, otherwise babblonn!!! And thank you!!!
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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful By M. Skousen on March 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Lin Yutang is endlessly fascinating, and his book of personal philosophy, "The Importance of Living," is a classic, especially his listing of the three American vices (gee, I thought they were virtues!), his unique perspective on loafing, smoking, vacationing, and women in conversation. I've read it several times and have spoken on Lin, and have even appeared as Lin Yutang one time.

But the Little, Brown "reprint" edition is a travesty of cheapness....a white cover and no running heads. Why do American publishers cut corners? It's an insult to the author and the reader. I recommend you avoid the Little Brown edition and buy the original 1937 edition, published by John Day Co., or if you want a new alternative edition in quality paperback, buy the recently published edition in Singapore by Cultured Lotus, available from [...] The original and the Singapore copies have beautiful Chinese paintings on the cover and delightful running heads.

Remember, "The busy man is never wise, and the wise man is never busy." -- Lin Yutang
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Mcintyre on July 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought a copy of this book (the original 1937 edition) in a secondhand book store in the 1970s for the princely sum of $1.00. Through countless moves since then I have somehow managed to retain this book, which is surprising since I have lost or given away so many books, almost all of which cost me much more money than this one did. I can honestly say it was the most profitable dollar I ever spent. This is a wonderful book -- rambling at times, it is true -- but it contains many gems. Yutang is a superb writer and his quote of Chuangtse (as he spells the name of the famous Chinese philosopher) is classic: "Spit forth intelligence." This, along with William Strunk's famous dictum "Omit needless words," is a phrase every writer should live by.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Hakuyu on September 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Lin-Yutang (1895-1976) a Chinese humanist and humourist, was

steeped in the ancient wisdom of his motherland. Lin-yutang was also a cosmopolitan. Educated at Saint Johns University in Shanghai, he went on to take his Master's degree at Harvard, then his doctorate at the University of Leipzig. His two most well known writings 'My Country and My People' (1935) and 'The Importance of Living' (1937) brought him international fame, the latter a perennial classic and best seller for decades. A decent reprint of this remarkable book has long been overdue. Happily, the Singapore based publisher, Cultured Lotus, has made a new edition available. The positive reviews were gratifying to see.

This isn't a book to read in a hurry. As the cover-blurb puts it: "offered as a remedy to modern day living, is the classic distillation of Chinese wisdom, revere inaction as much as action , observe the place of humour to ensure healthy living, and simply celebrate existence. Gaily serious, cynicaly kind, shot through with a sense of comedy and backed by sages of many centuries, it brings forth the salt and tang of life.

Lin Yutang observes: " a man who loves life intensely must be always jealous of the few exquisite moments of leisure that he has. And he must retain the dignity and pride of the vagabond. His hours of fishing must be as sacred as his hours of business, erected into a kind of religion as the English have done with sport. "

Superficially, one might see such a philosophy as a refusal to take life seriously - but, Lin Yutang's perspective here is summed up by the quotation from Chang chao:

"Only those who take leisurely what the people of

the world are busy about can be busy about what

the people of the world take leisurely.
Read more ›
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