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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

About the Author

LIN YUTANG was born in 1895 to a mission family and became one of the best-known Chinese scholars and writers.

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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 (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 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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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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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gallagher on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first became aware of this great book when I found an old copy in my Father's library, when I was around age 14. Though it was not exactly an "exciting" read for a boy of 14, I found some of the headings intriguing..."On Having a Stomach; On Having Strong Muscles; On Playful Curiosity; Celibacy A Freak of Civilization ( of course as a 14 year boy old I HAD to read that one!), Inhumanity of Western Dress... and many others.

Perhaps it was partly in response to this book, that I developed an interest in Chinese culture which has now spanned over 40 years.

This book gets the reader back to the very basics of human life--food, friendship, tea, smoking (a bit controversial nowadays), growing old. It is all about CHERISHING EACH PASSING MOMENT and learning to instill each moment of life with quality and to live it artfully.

I was so happy to find this book reprinted. It is not necessarily the kind of book one must read all at once, but a book to pick up on a rainy day, and just savor a few pages--while drinking a fine cup of tea and awaiting a visit from a special friend.

It's one of thoe rare books that may well become a part of you and of each moment of your life.
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