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on 31 March 2017
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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on 25 April 2017
Product exactly as described and arrived sooner than expected. Thanks
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on 11 July 2009
... 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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on 31 March 2017
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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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. The bibliography at the back is a superbly rich resource, and I am grateful for it.
Hodgkinson's previous How To Be Idle was a refreshing antidote to the mad world most of us live in, but this follow-up is something else again, and reads more like his manifesto ~ matters he's been needing to get off his chest for years, no doubt.
There are other ways to live, even though they can seem impossible to put into practice, as he himself admits. {He and his wife and kids have had to move back to London from their Devon idyll for practical reasons.}
This wise, humorous, radical, openly subversive, slightly daft, big-hearted, pre-Reformation-besotted book is far better ~ and far better-written ~ than any of the hundreds of self-absorbed New Age self~help guides available. It beats 99% of them if only due to its range of inspirations and presiding geniuses. After all, it's hardly fashionable these days to quote Chesterton {who, by the way, was a xenophobic anti-semite, but we'll let that pass, as he conveniently does} and where else would Prince Kropotkin and D.H. Lawrence rub shoulders with Aristotle and Boswell?
This is one of those books that everyone should read. Many would loathe or despise it, others toss it aside in disgust or despair ~ but a few might find it changes their lives for the better.

Despite some very real quibbles, hugely recommended.
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on 28 August 2007
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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on 18 May 2013
Hodgkinson has a very readable style and is quite amusing, and I agree with his basic premise, but this book is, as some reviewers have pointed out, rather naive and repetitive in its championing of the Middle Ages, which was probably not that great if you were one of the lower orders. Also, I know that this will sound churlish but it is quite easy to feel free if, like Hodgkinson, you have a house in London that you can rent out in order to go and rent another house in Devon with a big garden. Also, some professions are very useful, as another reviewer has pointed out: where would we be without doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers etc. It is hard to do these sorts of jobs from home. We can't all be writers and artists - and I am speaking as a writer who does work from home much of the time. I am very thankful there are people around who are prepared to do useful, sensible jobs that I don't want to do because I want to indulge my creativity. But, overall, quite an entertaining, thought-provoking read so long as you don't take it too seriously.
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on 14 August 2015
Bought this book at the same time as Felix Dennis's How To Get Rich. Read both books at the same time then got rid of one of them. You can guess which one. (I'm still poor by the way). But at least I'm working on becoming free!! This book talks a lot of sense. It's not just about being lazier or adopting a more laissez faire attitude to life and bank managers in general; it's about really living the life you have, mindfully making the most of it, avoiding the various coshes along the way that prevent you from doing this. That sort of thing. And, I say, here's to that sort of thing!!!
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on 28 June 2011
As a fresh faced and idealistic 20 year old, it has been difficult for me not to set this book down on a table and surround it with tea lights and incense. For a while now i have struggled with facing the future, a future in which it seems the 'glory days' are well and truly over, and it is my generation i am told which will have to bear the brunt of cuts and cuts and cuts, as well as tax hikes, university fee hikes.. it seemed that my future would be a series of painful cuts and slow, slogging hikes (sounds more like a verse of Dante's inferno than anything doesn't it?) I wanted to find an alternative way of life, outside of all the doom and gloom, and this book served to ease the knot in my stomach and rise a hope in my lungs.

Set into chapters such as 'Banish Anxiety; Be Carefree' and 'Submit no more to the machine, use your hands', 'How to be free' does act as rather an instruction and advice manual covering a great sweep of life's aspects. As well as opinion and idea based conversation, Hodgkinson provides historical context in which the 'Merry Medievals' are revered and the 'Party pooping Puritans' are booed and hissed at like a pantomime villain. It is useful and interesting to read about how we got into this almighty mess historically, and fascinating to look into a completely different mindset, to whom our usurious and competitive culture (one which we believe to be so normal we have forgotten to feel hard done by) would be utterly sinful.

On occasion, Mr Hodgkinson's voice comes through as rather 'Jamie Oliver country' and it is hard to abandon the idea that this advice is coming from a seat of considerable choice. I imagine it is much easier to figure out and work your way towards a more 'free' style of living such as is described in this book, by having options open to you which may not be to the working class man. However, i know this is prejudiced and try not to think this way as it is not right to judge in either direction, a freedom seeker is a freedom seeker and anarchists gotta' stick together.

While i share some of the concerns about the huge idealism in Mr. Hodgkinson's writing, i do not believe that it was his intent, nor is our duty as a reader, to take his advice and ideas ad infinitum. Of course we cannot ALL be Keith Allens, of course we cannot ALL quit work and live in the country, but what he says is not so finite. 'You are also told on no account, ever, to go to the gym.' I believe this may be missing the point; it is a comment on payment for other wise free activities and direct debits, more than it is about the so called 'vanity' of the gym goer. (I go to the gym for its physical benefits yes but mainly for its mental ones and i would on no account give it up) The bits i like i like, the bits i think are rubbish i ignore, it makes no reflection on the book as a whole.

If you were to read 'How to be free' with a pinch of salt and a martini in your hand it would greatly improve the experience. We are all adult here, we can choose to ignore the various parts of nonsense in this book (as well as some less than subtle misogynist writing which made me cringe somewhat; 'did you know that when women complain, THEY ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION? ..wow)

Instead, glean from it its wiser bits, its emphasis on shopping locally, building community, trading favors, being polite and gracious and simply ignoring to the greatest extent you can, the news, the advertisers and the powers that be, living cheaply and investing in books and bikes, rather than Ipads and Chelsea tractors. Idealistic or no, it is written in the very best spirits of freedom.
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on 31 May 2010
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!
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