Reading List: How to Be Bored

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: December 10, 2016

This deceptively modest little book is an entry in the “School of Life” series of what might be called anti-personal-development books. A writer and scholar, Eva Hoffman takes on the frantic pace of digital life, a common enough theme of contemporary self-improvement books. But she’s not interested in showing how to navigate your inbox or make more efficient use of your time.

Boredom, it turns out, is good for you. Drawing on history, literature and psychology, Hoffman extols idleness as a necessity for creativity and happiness. She suggests cultivating an appreciation for nature, a taste for literature and art, and an ear for music that’s more sophisticated than what your hear in an elevator. She also recommends keeping a journal to explore hidden thoughts and feelings. The time for these pursuits may come at the expense of productivity, but she notes overwork can be a barrier against self-awareness.

Related: TED Talks: ‘All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes’

How to Be Bored
By Eva Hoffman
January; Picador; $16


This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.


Chauncey Mabe is a freelance writer, book critic, and blogger in Miami, Fla. For 23 years he served as Book Editor and Senior Entertainment Writer at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He was Book Blogger for the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, the parent organization of Miami Book Fair International, from 2009 to 2012. He also blogs for the Betsy Hotel South Beach hotel, which sponsors literary events year round. His reviews and feature stories have appeared in publications such as the Toronto Globe & Mail, the Serving House Journal, Inspicio, the Palm Beach Arts Paper, the Baltimore Sun, the Juneau Empire, and the Chicago Tribune.