140 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking but not necessarily the right solutions
Do you feel that we live in an overly regimented, joyless, conformist, colourless, soulless and work-obsessed society? Do you yearn for a more spontaneous, exciting, and creative life? If you do then this very well may be the book for you! It is another polemic from the patron saint of idlers, the one and only Mr Tom Hodgkinson, who wrote the wonderful `How to be...
Published on 27 Sep 2007 by Allan Gordon
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg...
... in other words, good in parts.
It's clear from the book that whatever Tom Hodgkinson has to say about work, he put in his time in putting this book together with quotations from thinkers of past times. There are quite a few good ideas in here. Unfortunately they are knitted together in a rather loose and at times incoherent manner.
I read this...
Published on 11 July 2009 by A reader
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY THIS BOOK!,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)Are you at that point in your life where not much seems to make sense anymore?
Or are you sick of the consume, earn, spend cycle?
Then BUY THIS BOOK. Or borrow it.....
It will revolutionise your life, it has mine. We are living in a capitalist-driven, society which is making us into slaves and sick ones at that. Life is not about what you own or what you buy, but for millions it has become just that: an endless treadmill of working, to earn, to spend.
Life isn't for that, surely? I can't argue Tom's arguments for him, he does it brilliantly himself with a grand sense of humour and references to historical texts. Funny, thoughtful, entertaining and enlightening. Buy the book, approach with an open mind and answers to your troubles could be within grasp!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but its not Satre,
Inspiring though this book is, I do feel that maybe many people arent in such a privelleged position to be able to make the kind of broad-sweeping changes that the author is suggesting. Im sure that not everyone has the kind of job that would translate easily to a freelance/self-employed model, nor one which is mostly based at home. In this sense Tom is quite lucky to be an author and to have had a well-paid career prior to his new life. Yes, I would like to quit my job, pop down to the west country, buy a nice cottage with a few acres and live mortgage free. Yes, I would like to potter around in the garden, do the odd days work in my study and then later trot into town on my horse and meet my bohemian chums in the local village pub for a hearty sing-sing. But somehow im not sure it would be so easy for many of us. If youve ever seen River Cottage on TV and noted a mixture of idyllic simple-living with the uncomfortable undercurrent of privillege, then you may see a parallel in this book.
Nevertheless this book is packed full of ideas to get you motivated, and for me it did turn some established 'facts' on their head. I did agree with a lot of the sentiment in this book and I would recommend anyone to read it, but dont expect a robust well-honed philosophical argument. This book is to inspire only, but it does it exceptionally well.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun.,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)This book is a fun read. A bit like having a chat in a pub with an intelligent, literate mate on the topics of 'life the universe and everything' and 'how to sort the world out'.
It's topical, contemporary, will make you laugh, has some lovely quotes and references from across the ages, contains a fair few facts and figures of somewhat suspect origin, (whose statistics aren't biased?), and basically contains a manifesto for a life of wholesome chilling.
Weed out all the unnecessaries, destroy those areas which have been stressing you out...do without, live simply, wholesomely, practically, reclaim your life, be responsible, discover joy in the mundane.....it's all good stuff, and for me personally this is all close to the bone. A self-help book, perhaps, for those of us too cynical to stomach new-age attitudes, perfect smiles and away-with-the-fairies utopias.
Tom, whilst having a great heart, a fine way with words and a great sense of humour, also has a tendency to rant and rave a little in these pages, in an 'I'm right so the rest of you either copy/follow me or be damned' capacity...........however he is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, quick to point out the absurdities of taking anything too seriously, quick to admit that life is absurd and that we are nothing, and quick to disarm some of the self-importance of his soap-box opinions.
In short, a good read. A tad long, a tad preachy, laughably and lovably naive, and mostly a load of welcome, wholesome, organic advice from a young dad concerned by the crazy, alienated, uptight, capitalist, consumer mayhem which covers this fair isle in this times.
Buy it and laugh, ruminate on your own life and energy and perhaps make a few changes and pass it on to a friend. You might just make this country a better place to live in.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)In the normal scheme of things I would award a book five stars upon the merit of the content. With How To Be Free I am inclined to award five stars not entirely for the merit of the content but for merit of the thought that reading it it may provoke.
Modern life is absurd. Most people live and view life too up close and personal, too self absorbed, to realise just how absurd modern life is. There are a great many robust and pertinent observations within the covers of this moderately entertaining read that make it worth the effort of reading it; it could provoke thought and catalyse an individual embroiled in a life dominated by the materialistic and consumerist to question if the spoils of such an existence truly contribute to a rich and happy life. I could identify with many of the observations that Tom makes but was able to identify less with the path he lead me to reach them. The references to the medieval and to historical literature exist in a world beyond my usual familiarity and that lack of familiarity perhaps detracted from my ability to identify with it. But, in philosophical and idler tradition I might also marvel that reading something that ranged into the unfamiliar is a life enriching aspect the benefit of which may not be immediately apparent to me.
I mean, so much of what we often regard as being an important feature of our lives actually counts for zip are we have a significant capacity to be too absorbed and pre-possessed to realise. Sometimes thought requires provocation and this volume could be as good a start as any. What's the point of living a life if it fails to deliver contentment? Perhaps there are those that never pause long enough to ask the question of themselves. How To Be Free might provoke some thought and give some direction to those who do ask the question of themselves.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a waste of money,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)I was recommended this book by some friends, who apparently found it life changing. I was therefore disappointed to find out that it wasn't very good. The premise of the book is that we are all wasting our time by working too much and ignoring the finer things in life. So far so obvious. It falls down on offering anything like a set of plausible solutions to the problem. We are told to play the ukelele - which is fine, but isn't going to improve your life one iota. I know that, because I play the ukelele already. You are told to be like the actor Keith Allen, who does whatever he likes, all the time, and damn the consequences. Hm, I'm not sure that would be a very good idea. I mean, if everyone did it. If everyone was like Keith Allen, you wouldn't have people who weren't like Keith Allen. I think that there is probably a tipping point in societies where the number of Keith Allens running around doing what they please starts to work to the detriment of people's quality of life. Look at Somalia. The author doesn't talk about quotas of Keith Allens in this book, he just thinks everyone should be like Keith Allen. You are also told on no account, ever, to go to the gym. Now, I know that people who avoid exercise think that going to the gym is a narcissistic exercise in trying to change your body to be like that of projected media images, but this point of view is about as sound as saying that reading books is getting 'above yourself'. In other words, it's just not true. What people who hate exercise say about exercise has as much validity as what people who can't read say about books. Lots of people go to the gym because they like keeping fit, and enjoy the way it makes them feel afterwards. It also helps you stay active longer, thus improving quality of life, just what this book is supposed to be about. I bet Keith Allen goes to the gym. All actors do. Other bits of advice from the liberated author include never, ever, riding the tube, and moving out of the city in general. Okay, the tube is pretty horrible. But try catching a bus from the east end to Notting Hill, and you'll quickly understand why the tube was built in the first place: to make life easier for people. Just don't ride it every day. As for the city, the author has moved out of London and rents out a house there, whilst he lives in the home counties, creaming off rent which allows him to live in the style to which he's become accustomed. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but if you choose to invest your money in property so that you can take advantage of the high rent in London so that you can live comfortably somewhere else, you're cheating a bit. How to be Free...the more you read this book, the faster you go, because you start missing out huge chunks in which the author repeats himself and isn't really saying anything useful. I went through the last 100 pages in 20 minutes, it was like reading the Da Vinci Code again. In summary: the central message of How to be Free is sound, but the ideas are about as half baked as they come. Don't waste your money.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, uplifting and life-changing,
This book is full of obvious observations, but I found myself re-reading certain paragraphs, nodding and even screaming out loud, 'You're right, you're so bloody right!' How can we be so closed to the truth? Tom Hodgkinson is in fact, the Dalai Lama in his philosophy. Tom takes his pallet of colours, humour, music and merriment and paints a way of life each one of us would benefit from following. He shows the way clearly to leading a life with purpose, meaning and vibrancy. I'm not going to become a hippy and go to live in the woods, but I am going to embrace everything in this book in some shape or form.
In a very capitalist kind of way, copies of this book are winging their way to friends and family all over the world this Christmas. Thank you Tom for changing my life.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big ideas....fuzzy at the edges.,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)Firstly I loved this book for its vigour and energy. Mr Hodgkinson makes many valid points about what clogs up your life, what is unnecessary and what detracts us from ourselves and gets in the way of a life fully engaged and lived. The latter he defines as an integrated and organic affair. So far so good- and lots of little cues and ideas about how to practice self sufficency etc.... Hodgekinson states at the beginning of the book, the psychological need for an arcadia: an ideal internal landscape and ideal which we can flee to in times of stress and which act as a guiding light- something to aspire to. His is a firmly anti-Protestant, pro-monachical, idyll and the little disclaimer at the beginning is soon forgotten as Hodgkinson waxes lyrical on how much better things were with good old fashioned kings and bishops in charge. Many of his comments on mediaeval society and culture is at times down-right wrong: it certainly was not all feasting and singing, and lords did not sit around all day holding festivals for all and sundry. Similarly mediaeval city republics as well as the guilds were hotbeds of ambition and exploitation who often underlined their ascendency with firm statutes and force if necessary and not always the joyful and reciprocal communes he imagines- thjese were rather a romantic product of later imaginations. He quotes the motto of the peasant's revolt but doesn't wonder why they might be revolting in the first place.I rather suspect Hodgkinson loves the drama of the label of Anarchist, but his message does carry as rather conservative at times. I think also that he tends not to realise the full gamut of human nature. That said when he sticks to the practicalities of taking control and seeing beyond the next paycheque, he's very impreesive and it is perhaps besides the point to get too pulled into shredding his Arcadia. A provoking and very inspiring book!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Idling - but not as you know it,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)Tom Hodkinson's view of life is probably well known by now. Through his magazine "The Idler", he encourages people to throw off the shackles of consumerism, to want less and to live more.
All this is commendable, though his world view is somewhat eccentric. For a start, he romanticises the "Merrie England" of medieval times, before jolly Roman Catholicism (good) was overturned by puritanical Protestantism (bad); a religion invented by Henry VIII so he could have it away with Ann Boleyn.
Protestantism, he feels, encouraged us all to become driven workaholics; I would argue that as it evolved, the dissenting stream of Protestanism encouraged people (among them our Tom) to think for themselves, something not encouraged by Catholicism, or indeed Judaism or Islam.
Where the puritanism of the Victorian era (in particular), came from is anyone's guess; probably something to do with thousands of people cramming into evolving cities and the need to create some order.
Surely to be free, you should cast off all religion, live in tune with the rhythms of this wonderful planet and think for yourself?
Allowing that Tom's arguments have a shaky basis, working a little bit here and a little bit there creates a happy and creative life; I do it myself. But it is not for everyone. Becoming self-sufficiant and growing your own is also an admirable goal but it is far from an idle life, as anyone who has a daily battle with slugs and snails knows. In this case, buying my veggies makes more sense.
As for politics and politicians, Tom has never voted and feels that if want change we must do it ourselves and start with our own lives. He liberally quotes the Situationists and other anarchist thinkers, as well as heavy hitters like JP Sartre. He's right - we are ruled by rich oligarchs and corrupt leaders in a frighteningly survival-of-the-fittest world. But can we survive the collapse of democracy?
Everyone should read this book and I am amazed that no-one so far has even bothered to review it. That's idling for you!
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Promised so much, delivered so little,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)It's hard to say all the ways this books disappointed me, because there are so many.
It started off well, pointing out flaws with our modern way of life, but then failed to offer any useful ways to counter this that I wasn't doing already. Sure, it's easy to quit your job and work from home if you're an author, but not everyone can do this. How about selling crafts? His description of people effectively living in a work-shy commune is fine, but they still need to either buy the house, or pay rent. How do they do that if they haven't got any money? It feels like it was written by a 16-year-old that wants to ignore all responsibility.
My biggest annoyance though was his looking back at the middle ages as some kind of great example of how life should be lived. Mr Wilkinson seems to think that the middle ages were one big party as he never once mentions all the bad that were around at the time. Wilkinson wouldn't last very long in his beloved middle ages, because instead of bailiffs chasing him for unpaid services he gladly took on, his propensity not to work would mean no food for the winter and certain death.
You don't need this book. All you need to know is to simplify your life. Buy less, take on as few services as you can, and do things you enjoy in your spare time. That's all there is to it.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy people make bad consumers. Be happy anyway.,
Tom Hodgkinson writes with grace, style and humour and with unerring aim at the heart of the matter: achieving true personal freedom from government and corporation-endorsed low-level persistent anxiety - a state these institutions count upon to serve their construct of economic growth.
Liberty is a state granted by someone else. Freedom is a gift you give to yourself. Give yourself the gift of this book.
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How To Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson (Paperback - 7 Jun 2007)