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How to be Idle [Hardcover]

Tom Hodgkinson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Aug 2004
As Oscar Wilde said, doing nothing is hard work. The Protestant work ethic has most of us in its thrall, and the idlers of this world have the odds stacked against them. But here, at last, is a book that can help. From Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler, comes How To Be Idle, an antidote to the work-obsessed culture which puts so many obstacles between ourselves and our dreams. Hodgkinson presents us with a laid-back argument for a new contract between routine and chaos, an argument for experiencing life to the full and living in the moment. Ranging across a host of issues that may affect the modern idler sleep, the world of work, pleasure and hedonism, relationships, bohemian living, revolution he draws on the writings of such well-known apologists for idleness as Dr Johnson, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson and Nietzsche. His message is clear: take control of your life and reclaim your right to be idle.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; First Edition edition (26 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241142512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241142516
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Hodgkinson was born in 1968 and is the author of How To Be Idle and How To Be Free. He is editor and co-founder of the Idler and contributes to the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday. He also imported absinthe for a while. He lives in Devon with his family.

Product Description


"A true literary gem... irresistable"--USA Today --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Tom Hodgkinson was born in 1968. Since founding the Idler in 1993, he has been a frequent contributor to many newspapers and magazines and appears regularly on TV and radio to discuss idler' issues. This is his first book.

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First Sentence
I wonder if that hard-working American rationalist and agent of industry Benjamin Franklin knew how much misery he would cause in the world when, back in 1757, high on puritanical zeal, he popularized and promoted the trite and patently untrue aphorism "early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise"? Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lose the guilt, gain a life 16 Jan 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book. At heart it shares the ethos of books like 'In Praise Of Slow' that champion a rejection of high pressure high speed modern lifestyles in favour of a calmer more contemplative approach. However, Hodgkinson's tack is more radical and polemic, suggesting that a lot of the things that people naturally do and society labels as idle or lazy are exactly the things we should be doing to take life more slowly and paradoxically become more alive. Things like staying in bed, taking long lunches, drinking plenty of alcohol, going for a walk. As has been mentioned, the idea that smoking or rioting should be part of this lifestyle are, for me, taking things too far, but in a way these chapters simply help amplify his thesis without corrupting it. The book has made me more determined than ever to pursue a freelance lifestyle, working when I want to and devoting more time to life affirming pursuits like playing music, reading and spending time with freinds and family. By the way, reviews such as 'I only read two chapters then I 'got it' and couldn't be bothered with the rest' and 'buy it if you can be arsed' have totally missed the point - idle and lazy are not the same thing, the book it about reclaiming your right to do what you want. Spending a long time savouring a good book to it's finish is exactly what the book is about, and I recommend you do just that.
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91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sit back and enjoy 6 Oct 2004
A very reassuring read for anyone who, like this reviewer, often has difficulty getting up in the morning and feels unnecessarily guilty about it. Hodgkinson fires a broadside at the dreadful work-hard-play-hard attitude begun by such apparent luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill which has done nothing but reduce us to mentally unstable, guilt-ridden wrecks. A severe example of the "anti-idler's" puritanical onslaught is in his criticism of Lemsip, previously a soothing drink to be enjoyed while recuperating at home in bed, now using the horrendously authoritarian slogan "stop snivelling and get back to work!" to attack our insecurities. By exposing their hypocrisy (e.g. Edison's claiming he only needed 3-4 hours sleep per night, where in reality he had at least two 3-hour naps during the day) and displaying some hilarious, down-to-earth and touching excerpts from the works of far more sensible and contemplative characters such as Dr. Johnson, William Blake and Robert Burns, the book encourages us to reclaim our time for thoughts, dreams and appreciation of the present rather than analysis of the past or plans for a better future. A refreshing antidote to the deluge of dreadful "self-improvement" literature that shouts "Oi! Stop lazing around!" from so many bookshelves. Kick back and enjoy....
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the guilt-stricken idler 16 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant little book which I found comforting to read, as a fellow idler. However, don't take it too seriously. Mr Hodgkinson is a writer, and therefore has the perfect idler's occupation. A Cambridge education, his own business and writing freelance for the Guardian have most likely ensured his financial security, unlike so many of us who couldn't dream of leaving a job because we literally can't afford to, despite how much he protests. He says his salary quartered when he quit the Guardian and moved to Devon, however the fact is if most of our salaries quartered we would be living in the gutter, or on benefits. This book did change my perspective a little, however the fact is I'm still going to pursue my career to better my life until I think of something more entrepreneurial (if ever), but I will certainly take delight in being idle as I have always done.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fantastic guide to taking things slow 4 Nov 2006
When my mother-in-law saw me with a copy of this she turned up her nose and said "I don't agree with that". This kind of response to a philosophy which counsels "doing less" is a kind of reflex in those infected with various work ethic viruses. As this beautifully written volume argues, doing less is not being lazy - it is time spent in fullsome and deep contemplation, not squandered in shallow, meaningless activity. This is Tom's point - and he provides a chapter for every hour of the day, describing how this time can be used creatively to bring forth joy! Read It!
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Antidote to guilt. 22 Feb 2005
By Mr. F. Ledwidge VINE VOICE
If you are one of those folk, like me , who is inclined to feel somewhat less of a person for having,say, spent the morning on amazon instead of writing reports, this is the book for you. It is one of those books best read over a long period of time to digest its ample wisdom and profound thought, not only from Hodgkinson himself but also some of history's greatest people.
Although I would take isue with riot as an idlers pastime and echo other criticisms about smoking, what caught me was the exposure of the myth of those, such as Edison who claimed to do with very little sleep.
Enjoy the 24 fine chapters in this, have a doze and live.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 1 Oct 2004
This is an excellent book. There is a rash of books at the moment advocating better, slower lifestyles. Tom Hodgkinson, however, is no Johnny-come-lately, having been editor of The Idler for ten years. He points out how the five hours sleep a night, always busy lifestyle leads to a life that really achieves nothing. The so-called 'idler' is far more creative as well as being a real human being rather than some sort of automaton. Examples abound in his book. Einstein was an Idler. Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, wasn't. R. L. Stevenson was. Billy Butlin wasn't, and so on. Hodgkinson's cultural references are wide ranging through such as Samuel Johnson (another man who was amazingly productive while still spending vast amounts of time either in bed or in the pub) and the Clash - though personally, I would have thought the real idler would prefer to seriously get into five hours of Wagner rather than put up with the three or four minutes frenetic bursts of popular music.
There are a couple of criticisms I would make. Hodgkinsdon seems very keen on smoking and anarchy. Being an ex-smoker I cam emphasize with everything Hodgkinson says. However, being such an addictive substance I can't help thinking that it puts you in thrall to some rather dodgy big business. And, surely anarchy is another name for exploitation of the workers by big business. It is always the CBI who complains about restrictive 'red-tape' or in other words being stopped from killing their workers or making them work 100 hour weeks.
Hodgkinson sensibly and correctly criticises the soul-destroying evangelical brand of Christianity that promotes a Protestant work ethic while pointing out that such as the Song of Songs in the Bible is all about an idle sort of eroticism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVE THIS BOOK!
It's a long time since I read a book that cheered me up so much and made such an impact on me that I just had to tell everyone how good it is. Read more
Published 2 months ago by CLEMMIE
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this guy
Well rec to everyone and I mean everyone

lEveryone could benefit from this book, Do yourself a favour and buy it

Have bought for many people
Published 6 months ago by Ms. REA Mcdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars funny and easy read
student in my third year, haven't got time for anything too heavy. bought this book after finding it in the library, easy and funny read
Published 8 months ago by abi
2.0 out of 5 stars quite boring
I first read his other book "how to be free"and really liked it as it was refreshing but this one i did find very boring!
Published 11 months ago by peumeke
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... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
1.0 out of 5 stars Not idle, just boring
Any book which has more quotes from others than original text is effectively plagiarism. I get the joke, that the author of a book called "how to be idle" is too idle to... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Marc Thatcher
4.0 out of 5 stars sound advice, though a bit over the top
Having been a wage slave for over thirty years, working an average of seventy hours per week, and now a spiritual director who tells people to relax, this book comes as a useful... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
4.0 out of 5 stars Not life-changing, but definitely worth reading
It's not going to change my life, but I did enjoy reading this book. I don't agree with everything that Tom says (eg I actually enjoy getting up early in the morning; also I prefer... Read more
Published on 17 Mar 2012 by S. FREEMAN
3.0 out of 5 stars Agreeable, just
Hodgkinson overstates his case, wilfully I suspect, and lulls the reader into a pleasant fantasy. But his basic thesis is agreeable; we are all miserably materialistic and we... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2011 by oldschoolstoryhunter.calm
5.0 out of 5 stars A manifesto for change.
I loved this book. A manifesto for change, individually and culturally. The title says it all.

This is so applicable to business, and to life in general. Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2011 by Pete Burden
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