Book Review: The History of Ho Hum

BOREDOM (Yale University Press) by Peter Toohey

| November-December 2011

  • Boredom-sm.jpg

  • Boredom-sm.jpg

Even in our age of infinite distraction, life can be oppressively dull. Many scholars argue that boredom is an invention of 18th-century intellectuals who found themselves with overabundant leisure time. A surprising amount of subsequent art, philosophy, and theological writing channels their feelings of existential melancholy. Toohey, however, demonstrates that boredom’s roots are primal—a visceral and useful adaptation that steers us from toxic social situations. So let yourself get bored. It’s good for you.

168-cover-thumb.jpgHave something to say? Send a letter to This article first appeared in the November-December 2011 issue of Utne Reader.

Kathy Skerritt
12/2/2011 9:25:12 PM

Equating boredom with existential melancholy suggests an error in understanding. The first is concerned with satisfaction of the ego's desire to be fulfilled; the latter with the intuition of what is beyond ego and also with deeply feeling the transient nature of life.

Jennifer Gigya
10/20/2011 6:36:23 PM

this is great

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