The Idler (1993)

The Idler is a quarterly British magazine devoted to its ethos of ‘idling’. Founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney , the publication’s intention is to return to the art of loafing, to make it easier. [1]

The magazine combines the aesthetics of 1990s slacker culture and pre- industrial revolution idealism. The title comes from a series of essays by Samuel Johnson , published in 1758-59.


On the practice of idling, Tom Hodgkinson writes:

A characteristic of the idler’s work is that it looks suspiciously like play. This, again, makes the non-idler feel uncomfortable. Victims of the Protestant work ethic would like to be unpleasant. They feel that work is a curse, that we must take care of our place in the next. The idler, on the other hand, sees no reason in his life to organize a life for himself or her, and so attempt to create his own little paradise in the here and now. [2]


The Idler was launched in 1993 when his editor, Tom Hodgkinson, was 25. The title came from a series of essays by Samuel Johnson . In it, Johnson wrote one Such subjects as sleepand sloth and said: “Every man is, or hopes to be, an idler.” The new Idler took this 18th-century sensibility and combined it with the radical philosophies of the 1990s. Issue One featured a profile of Johnson and an interview with psychonaut Terence McKenna . [3]

The Idler began as a quarterly magazine. It will become a biannual publication under Ebury Press and eventually a small press annual collection of essays from 2009. [4]

2010 saw the opening of the Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment: a school , coffee house and bookshop . In 2016 the Academy closed and the Idler returned to its quarterly release schedule. [5]

Spin-offs and other media

Tom Hodgkinson has written four books which develop this attitude to life. The first, How to Be Idle , has been published in 20 countries and has become a bestseller in the UK, Italy and Germany. [6] His second book How to Beanarchic approach to the everyday life of our dreams The third is an alternative parenting manual, The Idle Parent , which argues that children should be left largely to their own devices. [7] The fourth, Brave Old World considers the virtues of self-sufficient , rural lifestyle.

title year Pages Author
How to be Idle 2007 286 Tom Hodgkinson
How to be Free 2008 352 Tom Hodgkinson
The Book of Idle Pleasures 2008 224 Tom Hodgkinson and Dan Kieran
The Idle Parent 2009 260 Tom Hodgkinson
Brave Old World 2011 275 Tom Hodgkinson

The Crap series of humor is a direct spin-off from an Idler Column and edited by Dan Kieran:

  • Crap Jobs is a series of books chronicling the worst of Idler -readers’ forays into employment.
  • Crap Towns exhibits some of the worst places to live in Great Britain. Crap Towns caught the public imagination and drew local and local media in those areas concerned. [8]
  • Crap Holidays is an exploration of Samuel Johnson’s travels to disenchanting rentals.

The Idler website includes archived magazine content and regular updates from the editor. [9]


In 2010, Tom Hodgkinson and Victoria Hull started The Idler Academy in London : a school and bookshop It was founded on the idea that it is refined through cultivation and upon William Cobbett’s stance that “Competence is the foundation of happiness.” It closed in 2016.

Bad Grammar Award

From 2013 the Academy awarded a Bad Grammar Award. [10] [11] [12] Entries were nominated by Idler readers and Academy students and judged by a panel of experts.


Contributors and interviewees featured in The Idler include:

  • Dan Kieran , Deputy Editor – author
  • Adam Buxton , Comedian and Writer
  • Jonathan Ross – TV presenter
  • Louis Theroux – TV presenter
  • Damien Hirst – artist
  • Fiona Russell Powell – ABC band member
  • Tony Barrell – Journalist who also writes for The Sunday Times (UK)
  • Joanna Blythman – food activist
  • Raoul Vaneigem – Situationist theorist
  • Chris Donald – Viz comic founder
  • Jay Griffiths – author
  • Penny Rimbaud – train Crass drummer and spokesperson
  • Chris Yates – Angler and Tea enthusiast
  • Graham Burnett – Permaculture Teacher and Idler “Gardening Match”
  • Pete Doherty – member of The Libertines and Babyshambles
  • Bill Oddie – comedian and wildlife expert
  • Nicholas Blincoe – British novelist
  • Alex James – of Blur
  • Patrick Moore – astronomer
  • Mark Manning – Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
  • Bill Drummond – of The KLF
  • Ben Moor – writer and actor
  • Tony White – writer and Idler literary editor
  • Alain de Botton – philosophy writer
  • Adam and Joe – comedy performers
  • Matt Bullen – writer and polyamory advocate
  • Ian Bone – Founder of Class War newspaper

See also

  • loafer


  1. Jump up^ “About” . The Idler. 17 June 2009 . Retrieved 7 January 2012 .
  2. Jump up^ Phil Hammond (15 September 2010). Sex, Sleep or Scrabble: Seriously Funny Answers to Life’s Quirkiest Queries . Black & White Publishing. pp. 18-. ISBN  978-1-84502-526-7 .
  3. Jump up^ “Busy doing nothing: Ten years of The Idler’s interviews with outstanding bohemians – Features – Books” . The Independent. September 8, 2013 . Retrieved 15 February 2014 .
  4. Jump up^ “Issue 42: Smash the System” . 17 June 2009 . Retrieved 15 February 2014 .
  5. Jump up^ “About” . Retrieved 9 August 2016 .
  6. Jump up^ “The New York Times” . . Retrieved 29 July 2016 .
  7. Jump up^ Ian Sansom. “Review: Fiona Millar’s Secret World of the Working Mother, Julia Hobsbawm’s The See-Saw and Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent . The Guardian . Retrieved 15 February 2014 .
  8. Jump up^ Terry Kirby (25 March 2004). “Revealed: the top 100” crap ‘towns in Britain – This Britain – UK’ . The Independent . Retrieved 15 February2014 .
  9. Jump up^ “The Idler” . . Retrieved 29 July 2016 .
  10. Jump up^ “Just how bad is bad grammar? – BBC News” . . Retrieved 29 July 2016 .
  11. Jump up^ “Bad Grammar Award 2014 Shortlist – Telegraph” . . Retrieved 29 July 2016 .
  12. Jump up^ “The Idler | Bad Grammar Awards 2015: Amazon win (or is that wins?)” . . Retrieved 29 July 2016 .

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