The Pleasures of Leisure

Robert Dessaix

The Pleasures of Leisure
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The Pleasures of Leisure

Robert Dessaix

In today’s crazily busy world the importance of making time for leisure is more vital than ever. Yet so many of us lack a talent for it. We are working longer hours, consuming more than ever before; technology erodes the work-life balance further; increasingly, people feel that only work gives existence meaning. In a world where time is money, what is the value of walking without purpose, socialising without networking, nesting when we could be on our laptops?

Robert Dessaix shows, in this thoughtful and witty book, how taking leisure seriously gives us back our freedom - to enjoy life, to revel in it, in fact; to deepen our sense of who we are as human beings. He explains how we can reclaim our right to ‘rest well', and to loaf, groom, nest and play, as he looks at leisure from many angles: reading, walking, travelling, learning languages, taking siestas and simply doing nothing. The result is a terrifically lively and engaging conversation that reminds us that at leisure we are at our most intensely and pleasurably human.


In The Pleasures of Leisure, Robert Dessaix extols the virtues of doing less, with compelling insight and humour. He weaves an argument that we’ve lost the capacity to enjoy idleness and leisure. That, despite advances in science and technology designed to save us time, the unintended result has been that we have very little vacant time and no idea what to do with it. The argument rings true, and Dessaix is commanding with his incisive quips: ‘How obtusely proud we are these days of being busy! Yet to be busy is actually to advertise one’s own enslavement.’

His voice is by turns cool and charming, perfunctory and punchy, intimate and witty, and the book is littered with philosophical and literary references on the subject at hand.

Not content just to explore the true meaning of leisure, Dessaix also explores nesting, grooming and play, in what transpires to be a rather personal book. Hetouches upon travel, home life, gardening and friendships, and some visceral observations of his dog at rest and at play. By no means just an idle read, this book is practical: it details manifold ways in which to revel in leisure, a series of somethings to fill your nothings, such as walking without a destination in mind, people-watching, or reading.  A revealing and funny book, it certainly asks you to examine the unfilled spaces in your life, shrug off the shackles of busy-ness and to feel a little less guilty at the prospect of ‘doing nothing’.

Anaya Latter works as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda.

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