Tom Hodgkinson

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of the Idler

The important business of idle loafing

In our godless, post-industrial, hyper-competitive world, rest is seen merely as recuperation: it’s when we man-machines ‘recharge our batteries’, as the cliché goes, before dashing back to the factory or work-station. It’s a negative concept. You rest for a reason, which is to avoid burnout. All you should really do to be happy is read

All work and no play is dulling our senses

Free Time is an academic journey through two-and-half millennia of leisure options. The central question put by the historian Gary Cross, is: why do we not have more free time, and when we do, why do we waste it, like Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, on ‘fencing, dancing and bear-baiting’ or their modern equivalents?

What Jacob Rees-Mogg gets wrong about the four day week

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, has attacked the good people of South Cambridgeshire District Council for introducing a four day work week following a trial. The MP for North East Somerset labelled the idea an ‘idler’s charter’. He added, somewhat slow-wittedly: ‘Councils need to remember they are providing a public service and the public

Don’t listen to Johann Hari to help your attention span

In 1887, Friedrich Nietzsche made a complaint about the modern world, writing in The Gay Science: Even now one is ashamed of resting, and prolonged reflection almost gives one a bad conscience. One thinks with a watch in one’s hand, even as one eats one’s midday meal while reading the latest news on the stock

The beauty of the ampersand and other keyboard symbols

This is such a great idea: a book with one short essay per punctuation mark or typographical symbol. Of course, our commas, ampersands and exclamation marks all come from somewhere; all were invented at some point or another and their stories are ever-changing. Computer coders, for example, have recently moved previously unsung but elegant marks

Of course Boris Johnson should take an afternoon nap

Does Boris Johnson take an afternoon nap? Yes, according to a Downing Street insider who told the Times today that a post-lunch slumber was not unusual. Boris’s press secretary took a different view: ‘The Prime Minister does not have a nap. Those reports are untrue’, she said. Well, he should. For one, Boris would be delighted

John McDonnell and the importance of being idle

Amid the headline-grabbing antics of the Prime Minister this week, some stories coming out of Labour party conference got buried. The most significant of these was shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s surprising promotion of idling. McDonnell said that a 32 hour working week should become the norm in ten years and that we should “work to

Nothing doing

There is a long and noble history of books about doing nothing. In the 5th century bc the sage Lao Tzu argued that the wise man should refrain from action, and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount also told us not to bother ourselves overmuch: ‘Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not.’ For Christ,

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura: a masterpiece of German Gothic

In the early 19th century, the Romantic movement was in full swing across Europe. You could probably date its birth from the publication in 1775 of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, the gloomy novel of unrequited love that led to a spate of suicides among young men in Germany. Coleridge and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads

Tolstoy’s favourite novel is a guide to being idle

Oblomov, first published in 1859, is the charming tale of a lazy but lovable aristocrat in 19th-century Russia. The novel’s eponymous hero cannot see the point of doing anything at all, and spends his time lying in bed or wandering around his St Petersburg flat in his beloved oriental dressing gown, bickering about the dusting