Book Reviews

Putting Family First

Bill Doherty and Barbara Carlson

We recommend this book on the impacts of over-scheduling on American families and what to do about it by William Doherty, professor of family studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Take Back Your Time board, and Barbara Carlson, co-founder of the organization Putting Family First in Wayzata, Minnesota. Bill and Barbara have also written a chapter on this subject for the Take Back Your Time handbook, but for the full story, give their excellent book a read.

Married to the Job

Llene Philipson

For an in-depth psychological study on the over-attachment that Americans have to work and its roots, pick up this insightful book. With case studies and data, Philipson shows clearly the ways in which we use work to try to meet unfulfilled emotional and relationship needs, throw ourselves deeply into our jobs, and often end up feeling betrayed when we are laid off or treated badly in the workplace. Philipson, a therapist and former UC Berkeley professor, presents a thought-provoking and disturbing picture of our obsession with work and the ways in which market values have invaded all aspects of our lives.

Work to Live

Joe Robinson

If you think other countries get a lot more time off than we do, you’re not mistaken. Find out just how much more in Joe Robinson’s groundbreaking book.  Robinson is the founder of the Work to Live Campaign in Santa Monica, California, and campaigns for national legislation that would bring America closer to the standards in the rest of the industrial world. Robinson’s book combines good data with great stories and lots of humor.

What Kids Really Want That Money Can't Buy

Betsy Taylor

Using artwork and stories from children who were asked what they really want, Taylor demonstrates that despite children’s pleas for material goods, what they actually desire are time, love and attention. After laying out the problem, a billion-dollar-a-year marketing industry targeting children and parents who are busier than ever, Taylor offers practical advice on negotiating children’s pleas for “things,” helping children become astute and responsible consumers, and cultivating family time that doesn’t involve spending money. One chapter encourages families to take back the holidays from rampant consumerism and presents creative and unconventional gift ideas, including gifts of time and experience. 

A Sideways Look at Time

Jay Griffiths

This is a wonderful cross-cultural and historical look at approaches to time by a young British writer living in Wales. Griffiths writes with unusual skill and humor, dissecting our attitudes about time and exploring how we got into the time-urgent shape we’re now in. She challenges accepted axioms about growth, power and progress and asks us to look with humility at what older, slower cultures may have to teach us. Incredible research across multiple disciplines went into writing this text, but the result is readable and clearly presented. A tremendously thought-provoking book — if you have the time.

A Minute of Margin: Restoring Balance to Busy Lives

Richard Swenson, MD

Here’s the (seemingly) opposite of Griffiths’ book — 180 excellent short essays designed to be read separately, one a day, for those with little time. Dr. Swenson’s easy-to-read homilies come squarely from the western, Christian perspective. Nonetheless, his message is much the same as Griffiths’: our society is out of balance, going too fast, and too awash in material things for our health and a decent future for our children. As a doctor, Swenson has seen what overwork, over-scheduling and time urgency do to our health, and understands that time is a family value. These essays are short, but deep, and full of value. You’ll want to ponder them and then act on your thoughts.

Putting Work in Its Place: A Quiet Revolution

Peter Meiksens and Peter Whalley

This is an excellent look at alternatives to overwork and time poverty. Meiksens and Whalley look at how dozens of Americans have won different, more flexible, alternative work arrangements and are shaping changes in the workplace toward more customized work schedules and greater acceptance of part-time work. The case studies presented offer hope that change is possible, and that all of us may have more power in the workplace than we think.

Time Off! The Unemployed Guide to San Francisco

Dean LaTourrette and Kristine Enea

This book is a wonderful guide to how to spend your leisure time in San Francisco, and so is very useful for tourists. But its real purpose is to show San Franciscans that unemployment isn’t necessarily a disaster, and that leisure has value. This book is a mix of very specific tips about living well on less in San Francisco, as well as broader philosophical points about the value of leisure time — including tips on “leisurely job hunts,” “working smart instead of long” and “getting political” — one of the suggestions being to join the Take Back Your Time movement! The book is beautifully designed and eye-catching. Every city needs one!

The Paradox of Choice

Barry Schwartz

This book promises much, then disappoints, but is still worth reading. The problem of over-choice as a time sink is a huge one for our movement. Psychologist Schwartz demonstrates that despite a doubling of material possessions, the average American is actually less happy today than in the 1950s. He pins much of the blame vast choices among consumer goods and services. Schwartz makes the case using powerful research examples, and shows how we are disempowered by too much choice and kept from paying attention to the more important things in life — especially relationships. Schwartz fails to look at the areas of life where Americans have very little choice — working hours, for example — which would have strengthened his case.

However, Schwartz’s analysis is mostly on target. Let’s hope our movement can make common cause with him to get Americans thinking harder about what’s most important in life.

Haymarket, A Novel

Martin Duberman

This compelling page-turner is the real story of the first great battle for shorter work hours in the United States. Duberman’s novel follows the lives of Alfred and Lucy Parsons as they migrate from Texas to Chicago in the 1870s. They get involved in the great labor movement that brought 500,000 American workers into the streets on May Day, 1886, in demonstrations for the eight-hour day. Haymarket brings to life the brutality of the time and the courage of those who helped win what we now take for granted and, in some cases, are losing. Framed for a bombing they didn’t commit, Alfred Parsons and three other labor leaders were sent to the gallows in 1887, the first martyrs for shorter work-time in America.

Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down

Reverend Kirk Byron Jones

Consider “relishing” instead of rushing. Consider “savoring pace” instead of rat race. Addicted to Hurry is a short but packed primer about the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of a hurried life. With exercises at the end of each chapter, it is also a guide for how to stop “living our lives as though we are being chased.” Through the use of scripture, poetry and his own life experiences, Jones deconstructs our culture of speed: “Chronic hurry is a serious malady of mind, heart, and soul putting at risk our relationship with God, each other, and ourselves.” 

Turn It Off

Gil Gordon

This book is a great resource for taking back your time. As we know, technologies such as laptops and smart phones have blurred the lines between work and leisure/family time. Gordon’s Turn it Off contains a wealth of practical tips to reestablish these boundaries. Using charts and questionnaires, Gordon breaks down the week to illustrate how you may be using your time, and shows how “turning it off,” can provide more time for your real life. The book also offers sensible advice on talking to your boss, clients and co-workers about decisions you have made regarding your time away from the job. I highly recommend Turn it Off to anyone who feels like a slave to today’s work-saving devices. 

Simplicity

Bill Jensen

Simplicity is more than a movement toward the life of an ascetic. For today’s manager, over-complexity and decision over-stimulation can be a thief of time. If our work life could become more efficient and productive, we could enable ourselves to devote more time to the other important aspects of our lives. This can be achieved by keeping an organization’s goals clear and simple. These are the messages of Bill Jensen’s Simplicity. This engaging book offers solutions to today’s hectic workplace with humor, insight and common sense.

Work 2.0

Bill Jensen

Your time is valuable, even in a troubled economy. Bill Jensen understands. He knows today’s workers want nothing more than to have their time valued by their employers. “Don’t waste my time and don’t waste my talents” is the cry of the modern worker. As in Simplicity, Jensen’s writing is a clear, humorous and wise. I really enjoyed this book; it’s a great asset to help take control of your time at work. 

A Journey of Work-Life Renewal: The Power to Recharge & Rekindle Passion In Your Life

Bonnie Michaels and Michael Seef

Are you burning out burning the candle at both ends? Not ready to retire? Don’t want to drop out? Consider the option chosen by work-life consultant Bonnie Michaels: renewal. She and here husband embarked on a globetrotting journey of enlightenment and revitalization. The couple didn’t spend all their time lounging on the beach – instead they volunteered and live liked the locals. This practical guide takes you on the journey with them and provides insight into their joys, trials and tribulations. Upon their return they found themselves refreshed, changed and ready to take on their lives. The book provides a wealth of how-to and resource information. 

Books by John de Graaf

Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty In America

John de Graaf

The typical American worker puts in nine weeks more on the job than his or her European counterpart. The costs of this overwork are enormous, both personally and societally. This bracing collection of essays is both a wide-ranging analysis of the phenomenon and a blueprint for change. With contributions by such notable individuals as Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life and David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World, this book shows what ordinary citizens can do to restore balance to their lives and their communities. Take Back Your Time is the official handbook for Take Back Your Time Day, a national event rallying support for reclaiming a proper work-life balance. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.

Affluenza: How Overconsumption Is Killing Us - And How To Fight Back

John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H Naylor and David Horsey

NEW EDITION, REVISED AND UPDATED

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

We tried to warn you! The 2008 economic collapse proved how resilient and dangerous affluenza can be. Now in its third edition, this book can safely be called prophetic in showing how problems ranging from loneliness, endless working hours, and family conflict to rising debt, environmental pollution, and rampant commercialism are all symptoms of this global plague.

The new edition traces the role overconsumption played in the Great Recession, discusses new ways to measure social health and success (such as the Gross Domestic Happiness index), and offers policy recommendations to make our society more simplicity-friendly. The underlying message isn’t to stop buying—it’s to remember, always, that the best things in life aren’t things. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.

What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth And Start Pursuing Happiness

David Batker and John de Graaf

In this funny, readable, and thought-provoking book, activists John de Graaf (coauthor of the bestselling Affluenza) and David Batker tackle 13 economic issues, challenging the reader to consider the goal of our economy. Emphasizing powerful American ideals including teamwork, pragmatism, and equality, de Graaf and Batker set forth a simple goal for any economic system: the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run. Drawing from history and current enterprises, they show how “the good life” is achieved when people and markets work together with an active government to create a more perfect economy – one that works for everyone. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.

Suggested Reading

7 Simple Steps to Unclutter Your Life

Donna Smullin

Find balance in an unbalanced world. Taking control of the clutter that creates stress in our lives helps us to clearly see what is important to each of us. With seven easy-to-follow steps performed over a three-week period, Donna promises to help transform your life.

Choosing Simplicity

Linda Breen Pierce

Pierce spent three years talking to people who have simplified their lives. Over 200 Americans discuss the ups and downs, the rewards, and the solutions while charting a new course.

Graceful Simplicity

Jerome M. Segal

Explaining the politics of consumerism, this book gives an intellectual and compassionate impetus to scaling back and adding more love to life.

Kellogg's Six-Hour Day

Benjamin K. Hunnicutt

To understand why we place work before family and rest, Hunnicutt takes us on a well-written intimate journey through the history of the Kellogg’s cereal company experiment to release workers to enjoy life. You’ll learn why the

40-hour workweek became the only conversation rather than why the workplace owns our lives.

Our Own Time

David R. Roediger and Phillip S. Foner

An exhaustive history of American labor, this book sheds light on the movers and shakers during the rise of labor unions, as well as the politicians, mercantilists and corporations who shaped the lives of the working class. If you’ve ever said “TGIF,” learn why you have a weekend free of toil, and the prospects of keeping it that way.

Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet: Work Time, Consumption & Ecology

Anders Hayden

Examining work-reduction policies around the world, Hayden draws a new vision for ecology and human life to prosper while consuming less.

The Circle of Simplicity

Cecile Andrews

One of the most popular guides to giving up the “consumption lifestyle” and loving simple things that create spiritual wealth.

The Overworked American

Juliet Schor

The book that seems to have started it all! By the early 90’s, people reported time famine, yet research showed people were working the same way as ever. Schor reexamined “common knowledge” to discover that we really were working longer days and weeks, taking less time off, and were pressured to do more in less time.

The Right To Be Lazy

Paul Lafargue

Lafargue wrote his long essay at the dawn of the 20th century to discuss the reasons why the rising obsession with work rather than living life for intelligence and compassion was becoming the goal of modernity. The more things change….

The Time Bind

Arlie Russell Hochschild

Professor Hochschild’s research documents the time famine that families experience now that the majority of parents work full-time. She also examines the role of “good” companies that try to meet workers’ needs, and how too much of a good thing can be a trap that places children’s needs at the bottom of the “to-do” list.

Time Wars

Jeremy Rifkin

If you wonder why you wear a watch, and why someone else is in charge of your time, Rifkin explains all. The genius of Rifkin is that he is far ahead of the curve on social issues and sets the debate. Reading any of his books will increase your IQ.

Work Without End

Benjamin K. Hunnicutt

The debate over the workweek hours began to change, and relevant legislation was passed during the early 20th century. This is a detailed historical account of why 40 hours became the standard, instead of a shorter work week, and why work and buying became an American obsession.

Working Harder Isn't Working

Bruce O’Hara

Canadian O’Hara examines the price we pay for the seemingly unending cycle of job growth and unemployment. Pleading for a redistribution of work and regaining leisure, O’Hara challenges assumptions of the working life.

Your Money Or Your Life

Joseph R. Dominquez, Vicki Robin and Monique Tilford

If your high income isn’t bringing you the happiness you thought it would, it’s likely that money has power over you, instead of the other way around. In a detailed plan, this book will help you rearrange your priorities.