The Idler
The Idler #42: Smash the System
EditorTom Hodgkinson
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon
WebsiteOfficial website

The Idler is a bi-monthly magazine, devoted to its ethos of 'idling'. Founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the publication's intention is to improve public perception of idling.[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 all work to be unpleasant. They feel that work is a curse, that we must suffer on this earth to earn our place in the next. The idler, on the other hand, sees no reason not to use his brain to organise a life for himself where his play is his work, and so attempt to create his own little paradise in the here and now.[2]


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

The Idler has since enjoyed a number of incarnations. In the 1990s it was published by The Guardian newspaper, then by Ebury publishing. Hodgkinson published the Idler as an annual collection of essays until 2014, then relaunched the magazine in 2016. The magazine is now published quarterly.

Spin-offs and other media

Tom Hodgkinson has written numerous books which develop this attitude to life. The first, How to Be Idle, has been published in 20 countries and has so far become a best-seller in the UK, Italy and Germany.[4] His second book How to Be Free takes an anarchic approach to the everyday barriers that come between us and our dreams. The third is an alternative parenting manual, The Idle Parent, which argues that children should be left largely to their own devices.[5] The fourth, Brave Old World considers the virtues of the self-sufficient, rural lifestyle.

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

The Crap series of humour books is a direct spin-off from an Idler column and edited by Dan Kieran:

The Idler includes archived magazine content and regular updates from the editor.[7]


The Idler Academy, founded at a festival in 2010, is the Idler's educational offshoot. It is a school which offers online and real-world courses in the classical liberal arts and practical skills. The Idler Academy teaches philosophy, astronomy, calligraphy, music, business skills, English grammar, ukulele, public speaking, singing, drawing, self-defence and other subjects.

Bad Grammar Award

From 2013 the Academy awarded a Bad Grammar Award.[8][9][10] Entries were nominated by Idler readers and Academy students and judged by a panel of experts.


2018: The NHS

2017: Transport For London

Notable past contributors

Contributors and interviewees who have been featured in the Idler include:

Current columnists and regulars

See also


  1. ^ "About The Idler". The Idler. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  2. ^ Phil Hammond (15 September 2010). Sex, Sleep or Scrabble: Seriously Funny Answers to Life's Quirkiest Queries. Black & White Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-84502-526-7.
  3. ^ "Busy doing nothing: Ten years of The Idler's interviews with outstanding bohemians - Features - Books". The Independent. 8 September 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  4. ^ Steingarten, Jeffrey (26 June 2005). "The New York Times". Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  5. ^ Ian Sansom (4 April 2009). "Review: Secret World of the Working Mother by Fiona Millar, The See-Saw by Julia Hobsbawm and The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  6. ^ Terry Kirby (25 March 2004). "Revealed: the top 100 'crap' towns in Britain". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  7. ^ "The Idler". Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Just how bad is bad grammar? - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Bad Grammar Award 2014 shortlist". The Telegraph. May 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Bad Grammar Awards 2015: Amazon win (or is that wins?)". The Idler. Retrieved 29 July 2016.