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How to be Free Hardcover – 5 Oct 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd (5 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241143217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241143216
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.1 x 18.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 252,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

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

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book for anyone who is remotely interested in not being a 'slave to the man.'

Although it did make me want to quit my job and live in a forest.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Product exactly as described and arrived sooner than expected. Thanks
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Format: Paperback
... 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 over a couple of months in quiet moments at work (don't tell anyone). In doing so, I got a frisson of anti-establishment excitement, and it made an amusing an distracting read. I'm not sure I could have tackled it in a more systematic manner, though - Tom's manifesto at times became a diatribe, and also somewhat repetitive.

The repeated theme was that if we just turned back the clock to the Middle Ages, everything would be dandy. Well, yes, maybe, if only a few of us did. If we all did as Tom suggests then things might not be so rosy. I found a delightful irony in the last appendix to the book, where Tom points out a number of internet resources that will aid your passage to bucolic delight - in the bright new world, who's going to be maintaining the telecoms cables, the power supplies, the server farms, building the computers...?
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Format: Paperback
Witty, informative and thought provoking in places, I really wanted to enjoy this book but only one star because...

"Buy a very cheap house in the middle of nowhere. You will then have a tiny mortgage". Or "buy two acres of land and build a little house for yourself" says city, public school privileged white man who owns a house in London. That's so naive and out of touch with most peoples' reality. I'm almost expecting him to suggest we count up our small change around the house, find a spare £60k and we're sorted for life. And perhaps I should buy some of the merchandise off his website?!

The book really annoyed me, it's so unrealistic and irresponsible. It's his attitude which makes life so much harder for so many others. Try buying a house in the (rural) area I'm from - prices are sky high because second homers have bought up all the twee country cottages which sit empty most of the year. Perhaps I'll squat in one of them....

I agree with the principle and he has many thought provoking and valid points about our modern living. But if you really want freedom choose to reject consumerism, work out what you really need and what you just want, spend time in nature and be grateful for what you have - the recipe for a simple, non-materialistic free and happy life. You don't need his book for that, just common sense and a moral compass.
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By KaleHawkwood TOP 100 REVIEWER on 28 Mar. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
I love this book ~ hence my generous rating ~ despite its anomalies, inconsistencies, contradictions, occasional tweenessses, and its overrating of the sonic wonders of the humble ukulele, not to mention Tom's besotted whitewashing of pre-Protestant England, and his regular exhortations for us to 'Be Merry'.
Yet I do indeed love this book, and have read the paperback and am now happily rereading it in the lovely hardcover edition. It transformed my way of thinking the first time I read it, and this time it's like visiting an old friend. However...
Although I stand by my four-star rating, there are sticking points. One is the author's constant, disingenuous adulation of Catholicism ~ albeit in its medieval manifestation ~ without once referring to the various iniquities of that branch of the Christian faith, from the Inquisition to the Crusades, and its complicity in the spread of Nazism and anti-semitism. Quite an oversight, Tom! {His wife Victoria is Catholic, though he never lets on what, if any, are his own beliefs.}
Another thing is, on the one hand his praise of craftsmanship ~ whether good writing, brewing, or wall-mending ~ while on the other, his dislike of too much 'professionalism'. To be fair to him, he tends to decry the concept of a career rather than professions themselves, but there are times when reading this fairly detailed ~ and, I must say, well-written ~ polemic when his inconsistencies become a bit hard to take.
One of the glories of the book is his choice of references, from writers and thinkers as diverse as Kropotkin, Aquinas, Boswell, Chaucer, Chesterton, medieval historian Le Goff, William Morris, Tolstoy and Cobbett, to 'lesser' luminaries such as Pete Doherty, Penny Rimbaud, John Lennon and Jerry Rubin.
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Format: Paperback
I think that Tom is right about the sickness (money-driven society) but
is wrong about the remedy.

It is a pity he presents some of his more radical solutions very early in the book,
which might offend readers before they are ready to agree with him on the
sickness.

I already found some of his remedies myself to get free
(no car, no watch, no mortgage, no debts, no money-sucking hobbies),
so I really agree with him in many ways about the problem.

But many of his solutions are not applicable in large.
How many people can collect free firewood in the woods
before the woods are out of wood - that solution "wood" simply not work ;-)

If the book would stick to the small solutions I would like to give it
away to other people.
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